I began hiking this year and it’s been nothing short of wonderful. My friends joined me on a great western adventure this summer where we hit several national parks in Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. We saw colors that I didn’t know existed and skies that looked like paintings. I experienced true uphill hiking for the first time in my life and thought I was going to die. I felt exhilarated and accomplished when I reached the peak.

Although hiking has become an amazing hobby for me, it does come with certain nuances when you happen to be black while partaking in the activity. Hikers are generally less endowed with melanin and seem to stare at yours a little longer. They act as though hiking paths are a fro-free zone. There’s an atmosphere that screams “you don’t belong here,” as if nature is allotted for a certain category of people and people of color conveniently don’t fit in that category. Unfortunately, I can’t say this atmosphere was limited to one trail. I’ve experienced this on every trail and park I have visited thus far.


Looking over Horseshoe Bend in Page, AZ
Looking over Horseshoe Bend in Page, AZ

Most hikers have a look of terror when black people show up on a mountain, like somehow we have infiltrated this sacred place they thought only a select few knew about. They might be mad at the internet for telling me that Bryce Canyon National Park exists and that it’s freaking awesome. Maybe they’re upset that they’ve been out hiking for three hours trying to get a tan and I showed up with one. Maybe we’re supposed to have basketball/football/track and leave hiking alone.

But maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps I’m the one causing hurt feelings because I like to play music while hiking and absorbing the beauty of nature. (If that is the case, #sorrynotsorry; Emeli Sandé and Beyoncé are two of my favorite hiking buddies and they aren’t going anywhere.)

The majestic Mount Rainer Park near Seattle, WA
The majestic Mount Rainer Park near Seattle, WA

Hiking is one of the easiest sports on this here green planet, and it should be equal opportunity. The benefits of hiking far outweigh the awkward stares and attempts to make it uncomfortable.

Here are some reasons black people should get out on a mountain:


It’s ridiculously cheap

The only supplies you need are water, shoes and legs. There might be a park entrance fee, but it’s usually under $25 per car for U.S. National Parks. Parks on Native American Reservations can be even cheaper, with some being $2 or $5 per person. You don’t need a passport to get to some of the best hiking trails in the world — they’re in your backyard.


You can Explore A different side of Yourself

The atmosphere while hiking can be highly awkward, but it can be even more educational. I love that I can use hiking to show people that I am black, I have sense, and I do things other than what the media says young black people do. If I can change one person’s stereotype of me even for just a few hours, I’m a happy hiker.

The #glowup is so real

Have you ever seen black skin against a bright blue sky, red mountains or a plush rainforest? It’s perfect. Every time, every background, every shade. We look amazing in nature. Check out @hikingwhileblack and @blackadventuristas for a few examples.


You can open up your horizons

One of the best things about hiking is that I get to step out of my comfort zone and open up my horizons. Hiking has allowed me to travel to cities and states that never would have been on my radar otherwise. Seeing the desert from 6,000 feet in the air gives you an entirely new perspective on life that can’t be reproduced anywhere else.


Opportunity to connect to nature

Hiking brings me closer to my Creator. No one can tell me there’s not a higher power when I see canyons and mountains forming a landscape that man cannot dream of, let alone create. There are few experiences that can humble me and help me remember the vastness of our world like hiking can.


Instant gratification

With hiking you know exactly when you were successful because you reached the peak. There is something to be said about working for a goal and achieving it within a couple of hours. It’s easy to create your own success!

Where are your favorite places to hike? Share in the comments below!

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