By Roger Dubin
What if you live in New York City and want to get into hiking and nature? How do you start? Where do you go? How do you get there?
Or maybe you’re already a seasoned hiker and want to go deeper and experience more. What if you don’t want to go it alone?
Here are some helpful organizations and resources that make hiking particularly accessible, right here in NYC.
First and most obvious are the local chapters of regional groups, such as Appalachian Mountain Club (Outdoors.org); Adirondack Mountain Club (adk.org); and, if you have kids, Boy Scouts of America (Scouting.org). REI (rei.com) offers various local classes and trips too. The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference (nynjtc.org) provides courses, suggestions and training, and it is a resource for information on the 2,100 miles of trails that it maintains, including trails within many parks in the city.
Then there are the groups whose members are seeking commonality besides just an interest in hiking and nature. Some examples of these are Dyke Hikes, Outdoor Afro and Sundance Outdoor Adventure, an LGBT group.
Man with a Mission
I was able to speak with the founders of a few particularly interesting organizations.
When I found Destination Backcountry Adventures online, I couldn’t believe my luck. It offers everything I would want from a hiking company, and its website (DestinationBackcountyAdventures.com) is comprehensive and a pleasure to navigate.
For example, under “adventures” you can sort by type, destination or duration. Under “type” you can pick from hiking, backpacking or canoe and kayak. Options range from slow hikes that end at a brewery to multi-night wilderness outings where you sleep under the stars. The company also offers training in everything from simple navigation to wilderness survival. You name it, they have it. They will even create custom hikes for individuals or special-occasion group outings, or organize corporate challenge adventures.
When I spoke with David DiCerbo, Destination’s founder, his passion for nature and his company’s mission touched me deep inside—like when I see a rainbow. He told me the mission is not just about hiking. It’s about providing “wilderness ambassadors to connect people with a sacred place.” That’s the most important thing, he explained: having guides with the training, passion and expertise to equip participants to maximize their own experience.
Membership with Destination allows you to book a group hike at a very affordable price. Hikes include guides certified in wilderness first aid; transportation to the destination from Brooklyn or Manhattan; and breakfast, snacks and lunch, with vegan options.
More Outdoor Entrepreneurs
I discovered Brooke Mellen, founder of Cultured Forest, after she liked one of my posts on Instagram. When I saw what she was doing—Shinrin-Yoku, the Japanese art of forest bathing—I had to learn more. Inspired in part by her desire to heal herself through exposure to nature, she is now sharing that experience with New Yorkers with free group walks and hikes, many of which she leads right here in the city, in Central Park. If you’re interested, visit CulturedForest.com or find Brooke on Facebook and Instagram @CulturedForest.
Finally, I could not do an article on hiking in the New York metro area without mentioning my friends at ProactiveHW.com. Joe Proscia started Proactive when he and his buddies couldn’t find what they craved in a group hiking experience. Proactive offers free group hikes, primarily in the Hudson Valley and northern New Jersey. If you are a seasoned hiker looking for a great bunch of people to hike and have fun with, check them out. You’ll have an experience you won’t soon forget.
Roger Dubin is the marketing director for Natural Awakenings and a volunteer trail supervisor for the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, managing trails in southeastern Harriman State Park. Contact him at MrNaturalNYC@gmail.com or on Instagram @MrNaturalNYC.