17 Reasons Women Over 50 Should Hike
These women’s stories will inspire you to get out on your next hike - regardless of age.
We polled women from our #Over50Outside group to see what keeps getting them outdoors week after week. The group is a supportive community dedicated to motivating and empowering each other. (They're in the midst of a 52-hike challenge right now, aiming to hike every week for a year!)
The hikers' answers to our question were honest, raw, exploratory and inspiring. Find out what they have to say about hiking over the age of 50.
1. Hiking is a positive way to explore grief.
The trail is more than a place to get your boots dirty and have a fine adventure. It is a no nonsense companion, a patient guide, a never ending story waiting to be written. It demands focus and strips away complication as our senses connect with the sights, sounds, and smells of nature, challenging our bodies and nurturing our spirits. We slow down and wrap ourselves in a simpler life when we’re hiking, gaining the gifts of reflection, insight, and clarity. The trail shows you who you are.
I started hiking seriously when both of my parents died within a few years of each other. The trail called me into the wilderness and backpacking became my bliss. Hiking surprised me by giving me a positive way to explore grief. Standing alone in the Sierra Nevada, I truly said goodbye and thank you to my mom and dad. I said goodbye with a joyous wave and hiked into the rest of my life.
Each visit to the trail is unique and infuses a little magic in me. I believe the trail sends me home a better person every time. I want more women to feel that way, to venture out with confidence and gather the gifts that await them on the trail. Hiking over 50? It is definitely a powerful experience for women! —Deborah Peel
2. Hiking gives you compassion for your body.
Wow, where do I start? For me, it feels like a very personal journey, but I think many other women over 50 can relate. As I passed my 50s, the big M (menopause...) arrived and I could hear Stevie Nicks' words echoing in my head, "Can I handle the seasons of my life?" Can I? Can I do this gracefully, with compassion for my body as it ages? Can I push myself over "that hill" while appreciating the views, fresh air, welcome solitude that comes with it? The challenge and benefits go hand in hand, pretty much like this amazing group of 150 women and their sponsors: hand in hand, determined to do this together. And although we are together, our experiences are so varied. Every day I am inspired by their posts on social media. So many different trails and journeys!! Because even if we walk the same path, our journeys will never be the same, and that is the beauty of it! The outdoors welcomes everyone, and we can all get exactly what we need from it, at our own pace. I know that is where I will find I CAN do this! —Gisele BGG
3. Hiking motivates you to break out of your daily routine.
People and more so for women (because of menopause and/or raising children while juggling jobs) tend to slow down in their 50s, spending little time outside. However, the health benefits of walking, hiking and being outside are very clear. This group - over 50 outside - has the ability to motivate women to break out of their daily routine of sitting...and get outside for a hike, at least once per week. And, that's powerful and potentially lifesaving both mentally and physically. —Melinda Mingus
4. Hiking lets you write your own story.
Hiking is my jam. Hiking goes beyond the obvious physical benefits (strength, heart health, etc.) and into the spiritual, emotional benefits. We end up on the trails for a reason: to hide, to heal, to celebrate, to reflect, to revel in the ability to get out. If we're lucky, we get some of all of that and it allows us, in the end, to connect - with ourselves, with the natural world, with each other- and that feeds our souls. Hiking over 50 has given me confidence and peace in myself in a way that counters whatever narrative anyone wants to give me. I'm writing my own story: a 50+ badass lady hiker with purple hair and a tattoo of a mountain, doing things I never would have believed myself capable of doing. —Carrie Thompson
5. Hiking takes back our wildness.
Women once lived outdoors in nature alongside men, strong and active as necessary for our survival. Slowly, but methodically, we were relegated to the indoor duties of the industrialized world. We’ve arrived at this time in our lives having taken care of others whether raising families or working in serving professions, and it’s OUR time to take back our wildness with curiosity and daring. —Suzi Reagan-Harlow
6. Hiking is returning home.
For me it is about returning home. Returning home to me. Hiking and the outdoors have meant many different things at different moments throughout my life. It has always been my sanctuary, my grounding, and at times my escape. But right now, in this moment, I am experiencing a return and healing of my childhood self. Returning to the east coast after living in AZ for 32 years has brought me to places in my soul I had thought I had lost or had forgotten about. I am right where I need to be at the exact right time. —Bonnie Van Hine
7. Hiking is visibility.
I think it's so important to remind ourselves that no matter what stories we're fed, or how under represented we may be, especially in marketing, we - women over 50 - are not invisible. We have all lived and loved and lost and persevered and we have the physical and emotional scars to show for it. But here we stand. Here we hike, climb, run, bike, adventure. We put not just our bodies, but our whole selves, to the test, every time we lace up our boots and hit the trails. And to be given the opportunity to help other women see that getting outdoors, challenging your body to do things you may not have thought were possible anymore, is a gift I treasure and will not squander. —Janet Decker
8. Hiking is self-discovery.
I love to feel strong on the trail. The trail has been a place for self-discovery for me. A place where I am not just a mother, or a wife, or a worker, I am a hiker! It is where I can be me. I can rely on my legs to take me many miles up a mountain, I can rely on my senses and skills to keep to me safe all while breathing fresh air and enjoying the beautiful scenery. I could never even think of giving this up. I will continue to seek out the mountains because that is where I feel most alive; my heart beats and my soul soars. And that feeling, that action, is the Fountain of Youth for me. On the mountain, I am ageless, I am free and I think every woman needs to experience that feeling at least once in her life. —Denise LaDoux
9. Hiking is social therapy.
The desire for adventure and challenge does not diminish as as you get older. In fact, for me, its been just the opposite! It's empowering at any age, but especially at my age, to do a 20 miler in Tahoe, or to face your fear of heights by doing the Half Dome cables or to hike solo to the top of Yosemite Falls. I also hike to catch up with friends in a positive, healthy environment. I've developed so many deep friendships on the trail, talking about life and matters of the heart. All those hours, hiking side by side, bring out the most amazing conversation. Trail therapy! Sometimes I hike just because I love to see beautiful places, changes in the seasons, fields of wildflowers. Humans are part of nature and it can feed our souls like nothing else, at any age. —Barbara Pollock Hoversten
10. Hiking is a place of healing.
Women 50 and over should seek the healing sabbath of hiking because we are often “all things to all people” and our body, mind, and spirit need the rest the outdoors bring. Hiking is sabbath seeking for me. I hope for all women to find such a place of healing. —Kelley Wehmeyer Shin
11. Hiking is an opportunity to try new things.
Why? Why not!
It is as simple as that. 50 was my turning point. I ran my first marathon. I learned flying trapeze. I decided that Mt. Whitney and the JMT were calling me.
The best part of my craziness is the women who have decided to join me. Each challenge has meant that there were others who were “in” my challenge. It is wonderful knowing that you are inspiring others to do things they would have never done. My daughter made me a t-shirt that says. “That sounds like a horrible idea. What time do we start.” Pretty much says it all. —Denise Ellison
12. Hiking proves there’s no such thing as “too old.”
Many fall victim to the age hex. Societal messages typically promote the theme of “too old” to do this or that. Additionally, as one ages and experiences aches, pains or injuries, the concept of being “too old” is reinforced. The result. The curse of the age hex snowballs. Lack of activity then leads to more barriers attributed to being “too old”. The spell of the age hex is cast.
It is my hope that women can break free from societal messages about aging. Age is just a number! The fountain of youth is found in nature! No one is too old to experience the healing medicine of a nature. —Junelle Lawry
13. Hiking is self-appreciation.
Hiking gives me time to connect not just with nature but appreciate my body for what it CAN do instead stewing in a place of what I am not able to do physically. Even a small 2 to 3 mile low elevation hike/walk is better than none and going on hikes allows me to be outside, love my body and find community with my friends who also enjoy it. It gives so much more than it takes away. —Archana Bhat
14. Hiking challenges your mind, too.
Hiking challenges not only my physical abilities but my mental abilities too. Yesterday I completed a 14 mile hike in rough terrain. I plotted the route, researched the route, prepared with the ten essentials (and then some) for the route, and then I went and completed the route. I felt very refreshed, renewed and empowered by the time I walked off that trail. I proved to myself that I am still capable of accomplishing my goals. I think that is what hiking does for us. Whether you hike one mile down the road or fourteen miles through the wilderness, the feeling of accomplishment and the renewal of your spirit is addictive. —Meg Pelley
15. Hiking is a healthy escape.
I’m 56 years old. What I find to be true when I enter the forest to hike is that it transports me to a whole new place, where the craziness of the world, my world, goes away temporarily . The forest envelops me in peace and tranquility. It gives me the space to think and reflect. It brings joy and happiness because I’m outside doing something healthy for me. Nature lives only in the present moment, so it encourages me to do the same while I’m immersed in it. Somehow, I feel nurtured just being surrounded by nature. And then there’s the hike within the hike. Me against the mountain but more accurately, me against me. I always finish a hike being incredibly proud of something I did not know I was capable of doing until doing it was my only choice. Rarely do I know what the hike looks like until I’m on it, and that’s probably a very good thing. We are all capable of way more than we think or believe—hiking proves that! —Beth Fitzgerald
16. Hiking is physiologically good for you.
To say that i have an new found appreciation for the joy of being outside and being one with nature is an understatement! I feel as though I am finally ready to allow myself to appreciate the natural process of the ebbs and flows of life. I am a registered nurse and i educate patient regularly about the benefits of being outside. I’ve also realized about the importance of regular human connection and how the hormones react and provide a nice feel good vibe especially when you are getting up to start the day. I love photography and I am definitely enjoy taking pictures of the views and sites that Mother Nature provides. To me the 52 Hike Challenge is efficient in that it checks a lot of boxes for me… hobby, exercise, mental health, friendship, personal growth, confidence, adventures, exploration. —Lori Tavares
17. Hiking invites all people.
The outdoors has always beckoned to me. I can still remember my first hike at age 14 when my mom took us to Copper Falls State Park in Wisconsin. I was instantly addicted! As I grew in age and independence, I started cycling and staying overnight on supervised trips, then joined the Outing Club in college where we had adventures hiking, backpacking, canoeing and cycling. Once I started working and developed some health issues it was more difficult to get out, but I found like-minded friends and walked or hiked outside as much as possible, even when living in the heat of an Oklahoma summer. Eventually my love of the outdoors and hiking inspired me to train for and become a leader for the Colorado Mountain Club so I can share my enthusiasm with others of all ages and abilities.
I think it is important for people of ALL ages to get outside! During my episodes of debilitating symptoms, I can go for a short walk outside and I no longer feel sorry for myself, even if I know I’m heading right back to bed. Nature is also very distracting in her beauty, and my thoughts wander from my health issues to the beauty that is in front of me. When feeling good, there is a rewarding feeling of accomplishment when I reach my hiking destination! There is nothing else that can make me feel as good as when I am outside. —Candace Winkle