As hikers, we tend to value solitude. But when it comes to keeping with New Year’s resolutions, that same isolation can be a roadblock to accomplishing goals. Everyone knows it’s easier to stick with a resolution with a community holding you accountable. The 52 Hike Challenge provides just that.
The idea is simple enough: one hike every week for a year.
“Taking the time to disconnect and recharge can help us all to be better human beings. We need nature, and setting a weekly date to do so can insure our well-being,” said Karla Amador, co-founder of the challenge.
In 2013, Amador was struggling with the aftermath of a divorce when she met Phillip Stinis (co-founder of the 52 Hike Challenge), who introduced her to hiking.
“Phillip took me on hikes where I felt hope for the first time in a long time. After that, I decided to set a new year’s resolution to hike once a week for a year in 2014. The journey was life-changing! After completing the challenge, I knew we had to share this idea with the world.”
Since 2015, over 41,000 hikers have participated—not including hikers who have signed on for 2021.
Stacia “Tink” Bennett has taken on the challenge every year since 2016 and has completed it four times (an estimated 1,800 miles of hiking). After breaking her foot halfway through an Appalachian Trail thru-hike attempt in 2015, Bennett found herself in need of a goal to motivate her to get outside. The 52 Hike Challenge proved to be just what she needed.
“It has morphed into a ritual of sorts; I hike once a week, every week, rain or shine, whatever the weather, wherever I’m at,” she said. “That is my time to reflect, to think, to meditate, to listen to the forest or a podcast or a new record, to de-stress.”
Beyond the physical and mental benefits of hiking weekly, it’s proven a source of connection for Bennett and others.
“My mom had a traumatic brain injury in November 2017 that derailed my hiking plans for the remainder of the year,” she said. Bennett fell short of her goal by ten hikes as her mom underwent two brain surgeries and spent six weeks in the hospital. “On January 1st, 2018, I started the 52 Hike Challenge again with my mom by my side on a short 2 mile hike, the first time she’d left the house since her second brain surgery. It was so wonderful to see her outside, to be outside with her, alive and fully cognitive after such a grueling ordeal.”
Since the challenge is personalized and customizable, it’s great for hikers of all ability levels. One hike a week sound too easy? The website provides frameworks for integrating additional objectives into the challenge, like visiting a new trail each week, hiking to five waterfalls, or engaging in stewardship practices. Last year, Bennett doubled the challenge to complete 104 hikes.
Official participants (it’s free to sign up) gain access to hiking logs, Facebook groups, and other resources to help stay the course. In 2021, what better way to redeem last year’s cancelled hikes and add some excitement to local exploration?
“We all need the outdoors, whether we know it or not, and a global pandemic and shutdown proved that to us,” said Bennett.
It’s not too late to join the challenge for 2021.