More women-only hiking groups have started in San Antonio, attracting women of all skill levels looking to get outdoors without men’s judgment – San Antonio Express-News

Emily Johnson had heard the stories from her other plus-size friends who’d gone hiking with co-ed groups. Stories about having trouble keeping up with the men, about feeling out of place, about the looks and unspoken criticism they received.

So when she decided to join a hiking group a year or so ago, she chose an all-women group instead.

“I was a true beginner, and it was during the pre-vaccine COVID times, so I was struggling with my mental and physical health,” said Johnson, a librarian who is now a member of the San Antonio Plus Sized Women’s Hiking Group. “But this group feels more like a welcoming sisterhood. We’ve all had similar lived experiences.”

Johnson is one of thousands of women who’ve joined one of the many all-women hiking groups that have popped up in recent years. Lured by the desire to get outdoors during a pandemic, they’re also often attracted by the opportunity to spend time participating in an activity with — and for — other women.

Shari Beesley stops to take a photo on her weekly hike with the all-women Hikerbabes group. Such groups provide a safe space for women who may feel marginalized by their weight, their fitness level or their physical abilities.

Jessica Phelps /Staff photographer

The statewide group Girls Who Hike TX, for example, has grown from about 3,000 members before COVID-19 to just under 30,000 members today, with about 3,200 in San Antonio, according to Karina Miller, 43, one of the group’s leaders who describes herself as a volunteer who is retired from paid work.

Monique Redmon from Bend, Ore., started the Hikerbabes community in 2017. Today there are 196 chapters with 94,000 members worldwide, more than double since 2020. About 800 are members San Antonio/South Texas chapter.

Hikerbabe member Sylvia Liendo said that with four children and as a stay-at-home mom, hiking outdoors is a good way for her to improve both her mental and physical health.

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