Hike Clerb Is On a Mission to Reclaim the Outdoors for BIPOC

Founder Evelynn Escobar believes recreation can be an act of resistance, and she's equipping BIPOC womxn with the tools, education, and resources to make it happen.

Photo: Franco Andrade @francothehuman

When exploring national trails and parks, the unspoken goodwill commandments include "leave no trace" — leave the land as clutter-free as you found it — and "do no harm" — don't disturb the wildlife or natural environment. If there was a third crafted with Hike Clerb in mind, it would be "take up space" — feel and be free to enjoy nature.

Founded in 2017 by Evelynn Escobar, now 29, Hike Clerb is an L.A.-based intersectional womxn's hike club re-imagining the future of the great outdoors; it's a club that leans on inclusivity, community, and healing. To put it simply, the organization's team of three — Escobar alongside two others — wants to break down the barriers keeping Black, Indigenous, and people of color from connecting with nature — and, in doing so, help diversify the long-standing, overwhelmingly white space that is the outdoors. (

Although people of color account for about 40 percent of the U.S. population, close to 70 percent of those who visit national forests, national wildlife refuges, and national parks are white, according to the National Health Foundation. Meanwhile, Hispanics and Asian Americans make up less than 5 percent of national parker-goers and African Americans make up less than 2 percent, according to a 2018 report published in The George Wright Forum.

As for why there's such a lack of diversity? A variety of reasons can be traced all the way back when Columbus "discovered" America and began removing Indigenous people from their own land. And need not forget about the country's long history of racial oppression, which has played an undeniably large part in the near-erasure of Black folks in the outdoors and contributed to a contradictory relationship between Blacks and "wilderness landscapes," according to a research paper published in Environmental Ethics. Simply put: The outdoors went from being a refuge from work and life on plantations to a setting of danger and fear of lynchings.

Even years later, the outdoors still remains a place rooted in racism, trauma, and exclusivity for many minorities. But Escobar and Hike Clerb are on a mission to change that, one nature walk at a time. (See also: These Benefits of Hiking Will Make You Want to Hit the Trails)

The idea for Hike Clerb was born out of Escobar's personal experiences, particularly those during her first visit to a national park. A recent L.A. transplant in her early-20s at the time, the activist traveled east to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. There she was met with more than the breathtaking views but also unwelcoming stares as if asking "where are you from?; what exactly are you doing here?" from white visitors.

These confrontations weren't unfamiliar. Growing up as a Black Latina of Indigenous descent in Virginia, Escobar was accustomed to feeling uncomfortable. Here's the thing, though: "It is not who we, as people of color, are that makes us feel uncomfortable," she says. "It is the oppression; it is the white privilege; it is the racismthat is what is uncomfortable." And this is no different in the outdoors, where this implication that BIPOC don't belong in some way is "a clear byproduct of these systemic structures."

evelynn escobar

"When it comes to nature, it's super essential that we, people of color, go out there just as our fully realized selves and do not conform to what society believes an outdoorsy person looks like or behaves like."

— evelynn escobar

"The entitlement that white people feel in the outdoors and the way that leads to gatekeeping, looking at people of color with curious stares like, 'what are you doing out here?' or microaggressions on the trails, literally like 'oh is this an urban group?' that is what is uncomfortable," shares Escobar.

To ensure others didn't experience the same lack of inclusivity in the outdoors, a womxn-of-color-centered community was forged to ensure BIPOC can experience and exist in the powers of nature, comfortably and safely. "When it comes to nature, it's super essential that we, people of color, go out there just as our fully realized selves and do not conform to what society believes an outdoorsy person looks like or behaves like," says Escobar."We deserve to go out there and show that we belong here and take up all the space that we need." (

For Hike Clerb, countering the lack of representation is all about boosting accessibility to ensure nature's wonders are open to all. They do this by offering opportunities for those who haven't spent a lot of time in the outdoors to give it a go with a group (vs. alone). The club's offerings are just as much for BIPOC folks who are already "out there," but might not feel like they belong, she explains.

All you have to do is RSVP to one of the organization's events listed on the brand's website and show up. Hike Clerb provides a range of tools, resources, and education needed to safely go outside and reap the benefits, whether they're physical — i.e. strengthening muscles, scoring some cardio — and/or mental — i.e. reducing stress, boosting your mood. The goal? To empower and equip BIPOC womxn to ultimately explore the outdoors without thinking twice about taking up space. After all, "we inherently belong out here," says Escobar. "And it's the people who operate from these places [of oppression] who are a barrier of entry for some people of color to go into the outdoors."

On the typical once-a-month excursion, you can count on what Escobar describes as "a little intention-setting moment" to make sure Clerb-ers are present and stay mindful throughout the journey. "[This] kind of supercharges what we're doing from a collective healing standpoint," she explains. You can also expect to acknowledge the land you're on and review some ground rules to ensure everyone respects and cares for it. And while on the two three-mile guided adventure (accomplishable even without technical hiking shoes or previous experience), you'll also experience a strengthened sense of belonging as part of a community (as the hikes average +/- 50 womxn). (See also: What It's Like to Hike 2,000+ Miles with Your Best Friend)

In an ideal post-COVID world, Hike Clerb would expand beyond L.A. and start offering different types of guided programming (i.e. week-long adventures) in addition to the current day hikes, says Escobar. Meeting this national interest would continue to combat low and historically marginalized park attendance as geography is also a hindrance to participating in the great outdoors. In fact, "the largest and best-known park units are in the Interior West, [which includes states such as Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming], while many minority populations are concentrated in the east or west coast," according to an article published in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers.

Despite the fluctuations of 2020, Hike Clerb's small but mighty team pivoted to meet the demands of COVID-safe nature escapism with inclusivity, sustainability, and creativity in mind. Although physical gatherings have been limited (up to 20 socially distanced, mask-wearing participants), they've also been able to meet their club members where they are, physically and emotionally. Throughout the pandemic, the organization has still managed to stay connected to their community and nature in a variety of ways. They've served social reminders that nature's healing powers can be accessed even in the comfort of your neighborhood and established a program to give away three annual National Park passes to BIPOC each month from October 2020 to March 2021. And as restrictions lesson in the L.A. area, hikes are continuing to ramp back up again while still following COVID-safety guidelines.

In Escobar's words, "hiking is just a glorified walk in an outdoor environment." You don't have to solely visit a national park or a nearby forest to forge a relationship with nature — beginning can be as accessible and safe as "walking to a park in your city, taking your shoes off in your backyard and sticking your feet in the dirt to ground yourself, and filling your physical space with greenery to bring the nature inside to you," she says.

As far as the continued work to make the outdoors inclusive for all people, Escobar suggests that brands invest in groups that are doing community-based work as well as individual hikers to "make all feel welcome." After all, the great outdoors truly is vast enough for everyone to be able to take up space, comfortably.

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