Have you ever prepared for a hike, mentally singing the song, “Everybody’s Got Somebody But Me?” Finding hiking buddies is not always easy, but it is rewarding in so many ways.
Not only is hiking with others safer, but it also is more fun and allows for new possibilities in your trail time. There are two ways to gain hiking friends: one is to make new friends who are already hikers, and the other is to bring some of your friends into the wonderful world of hiking. Both take tact and thought to make sure that you keep strong relationships and enjoy making lifelong memories together on the trail.
Here’s the ultimate guide to helping your friends hit their first trails… and maybe even making some new friends, too.
I’ll be honest. Taking people hiking who don’t usually go is one of my favorite activities. It is so fun to share something that I love with people close to me and to enjoy the experience of changing my normal rhythms with others. Even if none of your friends end up hiking every trail with you, I can almost guarantee a bonding experience and awesome memories.
Getting your closest buds out on the trail will first take planning. Before you give the invitation, have some options ready. One of the most classic errors in taking someone hiking for the first time is overdoing it. Though it can be difficult to remember back to your first hikes, try to think back to your first times on the trail. Were you nervous? Were you prepared? What do you wish someone had told you?
Keep these considerations in mind to add thoughtful touches to your process. Ready to gain some hiking pals? Here’s the step-by-step walkthrough on planning your friends’ introductory outing:
While you have hiking expertise, it is crucial to remember that this should not be about showing off your fitness level or skill set. Choosing a trail to prove something to your friends will not end well. Pick a few beautiful, easy trails that you think are realistic for everyone going.
Try to find a trail that is clearly marked, so that your friends can begin to navigate on their own. Look for trails with gorgeous views, lower elevations, and fairly beginner terrain. This guide to choosing a trail will help you to think through and discover the trails where your friends fall in love with hiking.
With some trails in mind well suited for your company, its time to invite your friends!
Emphasize that this is for fun and for you to do it together. Sometimes people feel pressure to perform at a certain level or to act a particular way with fitness and outdoor recreation. Not only does that suck the wonder out of experiences, but it also can add a layer of distance in your relationship that is both completely unnecessary and completely avoidable. Show them that this is something you think you all can enjoy together, free of pressure, and something that you have already put thought and planning into.
It can also be beneficial to add something that you alone would usually not do, but that your friends will appreciate. Maybe that’s taking a full-on picnic on the trail with you, planning a photoshoot at the most scenic point, allowing them to take goofy videos through the whole hike for their social media, or deciding on a favorite spot for post-hike drinks or treats, but whatever it is, it will help the whole hike be a memorable adventure.
Tell them a little bit about the trails you were thinking of, and get their feedback. Getting them involved in the final choices will help them to feel that they have some control in the process, and will also help them to get excited about the hike! Pick a time that is convenient and palatable to them, keeping safety concerns in mind. Sketch out the day, including any pre-hike or post-hike activities, together.
Here is the moment to make sure that your friends are prepared to have a safe and enjoyable time, no matter what circumstances come up.
Regardless of how short or easy the hike you decided on is, you are responsible for modeling good hiking habits. It can be fun, and it will help your friends to feel comfortable and prepared for anything.
Begin with this beginner’s guide to the ten essentials, and check in to make sure that they have proper gear, from water bottles to layers. If you can lend anything to fill in the gaps, be ready to help out or carry a few extra things just in case. Getting ready for the hike can be an additional layer of time and activity together, as well as showing your friends the full picture of any hike.
Once you are on the trail, the most important element is to keep a positive and encouraging attitude. Show them the things that you love about hiking, and also be ready to hike in a new way. You likely will be moving slower, but lean into this as an introductory experience for yourself as well as your friends.
Take the time to snap extra pictures, or to stand in awe at the view you’ve seen 20 times before. If they are feeling winded or worried, here is your chance to shine, just being a good friend. You won’t need a how-to guide for that… but just be there to support them, laugh with them, and take as many water breaks as needed! Some of my absolute favorite memories from trails have been on easy hikes with friends new to hiking. Enjoy seeing from a new perspective, and offering those close to you a little bit of yours!
Maybe you’ve tried to take your friends out on the trail, but nothing really stuck. Of course, not everyone will love hiking, and that is fine. Where should you look, then, since it is important to have people to go with you on the trail? Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get out without going alone, and to make some new friends along the way! Check out some of these options in your area.
Check-in on any hiking or outdoor groups on Meetup, and read through the group description to see when the group typically meets and what type of trails they hike. Don’t see any in your area? You can be the person who starts a hiking meetup in your area! Keep in mind that some groups are more strict than others, or have a specific audience. Check-in on who the group is primarily targeting, as well as if any application or fees might apply.
Similar to Meetup, many start groups on Facebook to connect hikers in a given area. Of course, exercise common sense when deciding who you can go hiking with, and enjoy meeting a variety of new people on the trail. To get started, try searching “hiking meetup” or “hiking group” with your city or area’s name.
Check-in on paid group adventures
Some outdoor retailers, the most notable being REI, have open demos, classes and assorted adventures for anyone to join! Check-in at a retailer close to you if they have any similar events, and if not, if they can connect you with a local group that does.
Whether you are taking some of your friends out on a new adventure or striking out to find some new trail buddies, there are a few general rules to follow. Check through these to make sure that you are safe and ready to have a blast on your next hike.
Do be prepared with everything you need to hike alone, no matter how easy the hike is or how many others are joining you.
Don’t expect to find a group exactly at your level or with all of the same goals as you. Be flexible!
Do be an encouraging, positive voice in a group, for everyone involved.
Don’t participate in conversations or actions that make new hikers feel pressured or incapable.
Do follow and model good hiking habits in safety, preparation, care and LNT principles.
Don’t forget to enjoy the new perspectives and experiences!
Enjoy getting friends out hiking, and making some new friends along the way.
From Colorado's peaks to international destinations, Erin writes about outdoor adventures, travel, and exceptional coffee. If she is not exploring, Erin is most likely daydreaming about her imaginary, future labradoodle, Evie. Check out her website at www.conspirewriting.com, and follow her on Instagram!
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