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By Diane Spicer
If you're a social animal, you're instinctively drawn to hiking groups.
You're a social hiker if:
Any or all of these reasons make finding a group to hike with a great idea for you!
Before you jump into a social hiking situation, consider your answers to these questions:
*How much structure can I tolerate before, during, and after a hike?
*How flexible am I with my available hiking time?
*Do I want a mixed gender group? A mixed age group?
*How far am I willing to drive to meet up with my hiking group?
*How much input do I want into hiking destinations, types of trails, and other decisions?
*Are there fees for joining the hiking group? If so, what are the fees used for?
Once you know exactly what type of group hiking arrangement you're looking for, it's time to find the perfect set of hikers for your hiking style.
As you read through these descriptions, try to picture yourself hiking with these folks. Would they make ideal hiking companions for you?
The attributes of this type of social group include:
Serious hikers only in this hiking group!
This type usually springs up organically from a cluster of hiking friends/families.
You may be invited by knowing a member of the group, or a friend of a friend.
Expect this type of hiking:
These tend to be loose collections of hikers of all different skill and interest levels. Hikes are arranged at various times of the year, and whomever shows up is "the" group that day.
Membership "rules" are very relaxed.
Hikers who self identify in various ways often get together to day hike or plan backpacking trips.
If you don't buy into the theme of the group, you'll be an outsider either overtly, or in subtle ways.
So be sure the group you are considering is a good fit for your background and interests.
Ask questions about the types of hikes they plan, too. You want a good fit for your trail style and preferences before you commit to the group.
If you get a chance to take a professional level class on a hiking or camping topic, or a specialized backpacking class, you'll have a ready made pool of avid folks as potential hiking partners.
And maybe the instructor(s) will have the name of potential hiking partners or groups, if you take time to ask them.
REI Co-op runs amazing outdoor classes, taught by experts and attended by folks in your region.
Check out my thoughts on this approach to finding a trail buddy here.
Many hikers love the benefits of hiking in a group, for these reasons:
If you yearn to take off for a social hiking adventure but don't want to spend a lot of your precious time and energy planning it, why not consider a group hiking trip for your next vacation?
Being a member of a hiking group might not be for you due to:
The perfect group is not going to fall into your lap.
In fact, you're going to have to do a bit of leg work (which should prepare you for some tough hikes) to find them.
Here are ways to do just that.
One option is to look for MeetUp groups in your area, using key words such as "hiking" and "outdoors".
Keep your eyes open for local websites and forums that publish trail
Social media groups with "hiking" in their names are a no brainer, but be careful to consider the tone and photos which are posted to ensure a good fit.
WomenWhoHike on Facebook might be the right approach for you, if the whole FB vibe & philosophy don't offend you. Find a group in your state here.
Or create a profile on an app for platonic friends.
I've had luck with posting my quest for trail buddies on bulletin boards in local book stores and coffee shops.
Take a class at a gear store: REI classes receive rave reviews and are a great place to find other hikers.
Community colleges sometimes offer free or cheap classes related to the type of hiking you like best. There are bound to be other hikers looking for trail buddies in those classes.
Go on a few low risk solo hikes and chat with any solo hikers you meet on the trail.
Spread the word that you're on the lookout for a hiking group when you attend meetings & classes.
Volunteer on a trail crew or for projects sponsored by a nature or environmental group. Like minded folks, right?
Not the fastest, but maybe the easiest way, is to let other people do the leg work.
In other words, tap your current in person and virtual social networks for potential hiking buddies.
Make it a point to chat up all the folks there with hiking as a topic of conversation.
Think really outside the box, like a dentist appointment or a pedicure.
Maybe they don't hike, but they may have a family member or friend who loves hiking.
Because you already know these folks, the trust level is a bit higher.
After all, you'll be seeing them on a regular basis, and may already have a feel for how reliable and friendly they are.
Don' give up your quest for the perfect hiking partner.
You'll have to pull yourself out of your comfort zone, no doubt, but if you want to join the perfect (for you) hiking groups, it's worth it.
Best Hiking Groups And How To Find Them