A jaunt in the Great Outdoors is the perfect way to de-stress, get your body moving, and reconnect with yourself—things almost every woman could use a little more of in her life. There are plenty of outdoor events and recreation groups out there, but only recently has there been a move to provide more female-centric options. Some women are drawn to women-only activities because they enjoy the supportive, empowering environment, aren’t interested in competition, or simply want to meet women with interests similar to their own.
For beginners and women who are interested in finding a community of outdoor enthusiasts, Salt Lake Women in Action is a great jumping-off point. The club is founded on the idea that every woman should be able to enjoy outdoor recreation regardless of her sexual orientation and identity, skill level or age. The group holds an activity every month designed to allow LGBT women and allies of any skill level to enjoy the outdoors in an inclusive, noncompetitive environment. Outings include hiking, snowshoeing, biking and rock climbing.
Group members keep connected via Facebook to organize additional activities. “We try to make our activities welcoming for women of all abilities,” says SLWA organizer Elaina Timm. “It can encourage hopefully more women to challenge themselves and be little less self-conscious and a little more daring.”
If you’re a female cyclist, there are several women-only rides held every year in Utah, including Spokes for Hope in St. George, the Wonder Woman Run in Payson and the Wildflower Pedalfest in Mountain Green.
“When I ride my bike, I feel like I’m free from all obligations,” says Wildflower Pedalfest organizer Erika Beckstrom.
The ride includes four different courses so cyclists can opt for a shorter ride (20 or 35 miles) or a serious challenge (50 or 75 miles). Unlike co-ed races that can be intimidating for some women, Beckstrom says, Wildflower Pedalfest is very much about camaraderie among the cyclists. “Women help each other,” she says. “Women are empowering to one another.”
Women who want to protect Mother Earth while enjoying her beauty should look no further than Great Old Broads for Wilderness. In 1989, Senator Orrin Hatch tried to justify his opposition to the designation of wilderness areas by claiming that it would prevent the construction of roads, thereby inhibiting the elderly from enjoying public lands. A group of women of a certain age decided to prove him wrong by completing a five-day backpacking expedition in southern Utah.
To this day, the Broads remain active both physically and politically and have expanded to include chapters in 16 states. Every year, they hold at least two “Broadwalks” to draw attention to wilderness areas that are under threat.
“Broadwalks center on getting people there and hiking into the areas so that we can become advocates, so in that sense hiking or traveling by river is integral to our activism, and just to our souls,” says local Broads leader Ronni Egan. In addition, the various chapters, called “Broadbands,” get outside by adopting local areas and engaging in monitoring and service projects. Sometimes, they go out just for fun. “Activism is fueled by our experience in nature,” Egan says.
Daring women who’d like to lead a group of friends into the wild might find it daunting to organize their friends’ varying interests, abilities, budgets and schedules. Elaina Timm suggests starting small and trying out one of the already established groups to get some ideas and meet people who may join your group and motivate you and your friends to go on other outings.
Timm suggests that when hiking with people of varying fitness levels, someone should lead from the back as well as the front. That way, everyone can go at her own pace without getting left behind or feeling held back.
And exploring the outdoors is “still doable” for women who don’t have a lot of money or time to spend, Timm says. She points to nearby destinations that require minimal time, money and gear, such as Tanner Park and Millcreek Canyon. “It’s not Mount Everest, but it’s a place to be outside.”