Some people like to hike alone, whether for solitude or convenience. Others prefer to go with a hiking buddy or a hiking group, either for safety or comradery.
It’s easy to hike alone. Just get up and go. But if you don’t know any outdoor-loving hikers, how do you find a local trail buddy or hiking group?
Some local outfitters, like Marion Outdoors, organize group hikes. State parks also organize ranger led-hikes that are good for any fitness level or skill level.
Thanks to the Internet, however, it’s easier than ever to find like-minded hiking companions and hiking groups. Just be sure to be smart and safe.
How to Find a Hiking Buddy
If you’re eager to find new hiking buddies or just eager to not hike alone, I’ve got you covered. You’ll be on your way to hiking the trails with outdoorsy friends.
Honestly, you could ask friends, family, colleagues or fellow church-goers, but if you really want to cut to the chase, get on Facebook.
No, don’t just post to your profile that you are looking to hike with someone. You’ll want to identify local hiking groups and post your interests in the group.
Facebook Hiking Groups
Share your photo, as well as where you live (e.g., Richmond, not your street address), where you like to hike, and your general availability (e.g., weekends).
There are lots of fantastic groups with lots of fantastic fellow hikers. They’re all free to join, too. Here are a few you may want to check out:
Girls Who Hike VA: This private group counts more than 19,000 women as members. This is a group for females looking for female hiking partners.
Scrambled Legs & Kegs Hiking Group: This fun-loving group of men and women is based in Loudoun County. They post lots of hiking events. Sign up and go.
Northern Virginia Hiking Club: This Facebook group has nearly 3,000 members. It’s a great outdoor group for finding hiking friends and hiking trails.
You typically do not need to live in the area represented by the hiking group. For example, I’m in Hiking SWVA, but I do not live in this part of the state.
I like to travel around Virginia to hike different trails. Groups outside of my local area provide a wealth of ideas and information on incredible hiking trails.
Some of these online communities are more like social groups, organizing hikes, as well as outdoor activities, like rock climbing, bonfires, archery and ski trips.
With regard to safety, if someone unexpectedly reaches out to you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, report this interaction to a group admin.
These hiking groups are meant to be safe spaces. Many group admins have a one-strike-you’re-out policy with regard to online creeps and personal safety.
Meetup Hiking Groups
Meetup is a platform for finding and joining local groups with common interests, from hiking to knitting to novel writing to language learning.
Many groups are free to join. Some groups may charge a nominal fee, like $5 or $10 a year, to be a member of the interest group.
Even though you can search for groups by location and by category (e.g., social activities, sports & fitness), it’s not super-easy to find relevant groups.
I don’t know why this is, but it’s fairly frustrating. So, I’ll share with you some hiking groups on Meetup that I’ve joined that host regular hiking events.
Hiking Just for Fun: This group hosts monthly hikes at Shenandoah National Park and in Central Virginia. The organizers are very, well, organized. I love this group.
Hike Like a Girl #HikeLAG: This group hosts several day hikes a month, mostly in the Shenandoah Valley. They organize weekend and weekday hikes.
When you join a group, you may be asked a few questions, often to verify you are who you say you are. You know, a person, not a spam bot.
Once you’re approved, you’ll begin to receive events in your email inbox. If the event is of interest and works with your schedule, click “Attend.”
If the event is full, and you are still interested, go ahead and click “Join Waitlist.” If a space opens up, you’ll be added to the list of attending hikers.
When you sign up for a hike, especially the first time, you may be asked for your experience level. This is common with group hikes on more advanced trails.
I’ve attended a half-dozen Meetup hikes, and every time I’ve been on a waitlist, a spot has opened up before the day of the hike.
All have been fantastic experiences, but I’ve most valued the inclusive and knowledgeable trail leaders who know where to go and are friendly to all.
In addition to hikes, some Meetup groups in Virginia also host backpacking trips. I participated in a half-dozen backpacking Meetup events this year.
Especially for those who are new backpackers, these events are a fantastic way to up your comfort level with more experienced backpackers.
One Meetup group to check out is Virginia Backpacking, Hiking and Camping. This group hosts an easy winter backpacking trip in January.
The backpacking trip is at Belle Isle State Park. I did this at the start of this year. It was my very first backpacking trip and it was awesome.
If you’re eager to get started with backpacking, I highly recommended checking into Meetup groups for upcoming backpacking overnight trips.
Sometimes, you see the same people on backpacking trips, which makes these Meetup outdoor adventures a great way to find like-minded camping buddies.
Always take care when meeting up with potential hiking partners that you have met online. Research them ahead of time and always trust your instincts.
Review online profiles for legitimacy and take time to search Google for more on possible trail buddies or hike organizers with hiking clubs.
When meeting someone new, hike in familiar areas. Also, opt for outdoor hiking trails with a strong cell signal for the duration of the hike, if possible.
Travel on your own to meet a new hiking buddy. At least for the first meeting, do not carpool and use your own transportation to meet in a public place.
Importantly, tell a partner or roommate where you are going and when you expect to return. Have fun and gear up for a fantastic hike.