52 Hike Challenge 2021

Ok ok – its already 12 days into the year, and I’m seriously slacking on getting these posts scheduled, but I’m still in a mindset of creating the content as it flows out of my fingertips onto this keyboard, and not forcing it when I don’t feel like its the quality of work I want to produce. The beginning of the year was a bit chaotic for me, and things are settling down back into my “normal” life – we’ll see how long that lasts! 

On to the good stuff!

I completed this challenge in 2018, and it changed my life in so many ways! I wanted to get through it this year as well, but with quarantine and taking precautions I didn’t feel completely comfortable. I’m a little disappointed I didn’t get there, but I’m also ok with it! There have been a lot of changes in the last few months, and I’m spending A LOT of time learning how to go with the flow. Like, a lot. 

There’s a lot of info to sift through on the website, and while all of it is important and there for a reason, I’m going to go over some of the basics here to get your FAQs answered, and get you out on the trails!

Really, you can get out there on the trails and get started before going over all of this. There’s nothing keeping you from making your way to the very end of this post before deciding to commit 😉 Just saying!

The first thing to understand is that you don’t have to be an experienced hiker to take part in this challenge. There’s no rules as to what a hike is, but there is the idea that you’re challenging yourself to do more things and new things. The overall idea is that you’re spending more time outside, and you’re moving your body and getting in better shape. The farther along you get hopefully you’ll challenge yourself to do harder trails and/or longer miles. When I started hiking I had very little idea of what I was doing, but with each hike I learned what gear I needed. Overtime I built up my gear, and there is still a lot I could (and probably should) add to my inventory, but I’m still poor and can’t afford all the things on my list. 

There are a few series to choose from for the challenge. 

The Original Series is the one geared towards first-timers to the challenge. This is the basic challenge – hike 52 times in 52 weeks. They can be as long or short as you want, but again, its meant to be a challenge! For this series you’re still expected to track your miles, submit your log at the end, and show off your finisher medal when you’re done! 

The next series (the one I’m doing) is called the Adventure Series! It has the basic challenge of 52 hikes with a few things sprinkled into it. In the adventure series you’re also guided to fulfill a few things:

  • Hike to 5 waterfalls (whether there’s water or not)
  • Hike in 1 forest
  • Hike in 1 National Park
  • Hike to 2 bodies of water
  • At least 1 stewardship hike (cleaning up trash along the way) 
  • 1 group hike
  • 1 hike introducing someone to hiking
  • 1 sunrise-sunset hike
  • 1 hike from your bucket list
  • At least 3 reflection hikes (journal before, during, and after)

This seems pretty awesome! I’m currently one hike in, and have already completed the group hike. Last weekend I went out to Chubb Trail/Lone Elk Park with Denny, his friend Mike, and Mike’s brother Sean. We got through about 7 miles, and it was BEAUTIFUL! In some parts of the year it could be pretty normal looking, but on this morning there was snow at the higher elevations, and all the trees were iced over! It felt like I was in Frozen, and I wanted so badly to burst into song the whole time. 

There are other series, like the Explorer Series, which is meant for the third time around, and you’re meant to explore 52 trails you haven’t hiked before! I’m looking forward to this one next time, but in the St. Louis area that could be pretty hard to accomplish LOL! I could probably manage it, but would have to do some serious planning, and getting even more out of my comfort zone. There are also series geared towards hiking with kids, and with pets! Although if I had a fur-buddy they’d be on the trails with me no matter which series I was hiking through 🙂 

A bit ago I mentioned tracking. There are a few ways to do it, but you can track your hikes however you like! There is a pdf on the website you can download here, but it isn’t completely necessary. I drew out a log in my Passion Planner to track my hikes with the dates, trail name, who I was with, length, elevation, and the time it took. I also have check boxes for the added hikes to complete (waterfall, group, sunrise, etc.). I’m also tracking my hikes in TWO other places! I know I’m going a little crazy with this, but its so easy! I use Instagram. I’m big on taking pictures and little video clips along the hike, and at the end I’ll post on Instagram using the hashtags #52hikechallenge2021 and #hike(whichever number) while also tagging their Instagram account in my photo. They’re tracking these hashtags too! So they’ll see your posts, your commitment, and all the feels you feel on these hikes 🙂 The last place I track my hikes is on the app AllTrails. I have the pro version, and am able to build lists and download maps for offline guidance. I had the free version for a long time, and a few months ago made the leap to the paid version, and so far I’m not mad about it! Each time I hike I record it through the app (which also saves the activity in the activity app on my Apple Watch woot!), and when I complete the hike I name it “hike 1/52” etc, and have a list in the app just for the trails I complete. At the end of the challenge I’ll have a great list of hikes completed with all my activity tracked, and am aiming to leave a review for each trail I hike. I find the reviews valuable, and want to provide my experience as well! 

Here are ten of the most common questions I’ve been asked about the challenge, and how I answer them! If you have a question not mentioned here, please let me know and I’ll add it! 

  1. What if I can’t hike every week?

– That’s ok! Life happens, and sometimes a hike just doesn’t. This has happened to me, and while I look forward to my time outside each week, I don’t beat myself up for it, and will plan to get to more than one trail another week. 

2. What do you consider a hike?

– Personally, I consider a good hike to be at last 4-5 miles. While I do need to hike to get my soul amongst the trees, I do consider these hikes a form of working out. I want my body to get the same workout that my mind gets while on the trail!

3. Its not the beginning of the year – does that matter?

– It most definitely does NOT matter! The challenge starts when you decide to commit, and ends 52 weeks after that. I like starting out the challenge at the beginning of the calendar year as an easier way to track the time it’s taking to get through the hikes. 

4. If I hike more than one trail in a day, does that count as one hike?

– That is completely up to you! If I were to complete two trails in a day (whether they’re connected or I get in my car and drive from one to the other), it would depend on miles hiked. If each trail is at least 3 or 4 miles I will consider them two hikes, but if one is only a mile or so I’d probably just count it as one. 

5. I’m a beginner hiker, will I be able to do these hikes?

– Yes! You know why? Because YOU decide what a hike is! I would think realistically, and even talk with your doctor before getting started if you feel its needed, but you can 100% do these hikes! If you’ve never hiked before I can tell you that in the past I’ve counted the 5 mile paved walk around my local park as a hike! Put on those tennis shoes and get out there! As you feel more comfortable you can get out onto the trails – do your research, and go for some of the easier trails first. As you gain confidence and experience. (And boots, first aid kit, etc) 

6. What should I bring on a hike?

– This is a post I’m working on! There are a few things you should most definitely have on each hike! What I consider the most important things are layers, food, water, light, and first aid. Depending on where you are in the world your’e hiking there will be additional things like bear spray, but in the Greater St. Louis area there are no bears. Only ticks, and in the summer I ALWAYS have tick spray, but even that doesn’t always do the trick….. 

7. What about hiking alone? 

– The majority of my hiking has been done solo. In the beginning it was my time away from my routine and life, and where I really discovered my love and need to be on the trails. I do crave solo hikes, but I am also to a point where I’m enjoying sharing these experiences! I am not an expert or a survivalist, and when hiking alone I go to trails I’m familiar with, or trails that are likely to have cell service in case I get lost or need help. If I’m hiking with others I’m a little more adventurous. Better to be safe than sorry! 

Like I said – long post! There’s a lot of info, but it feels easy to soak in. I may add a page to the blog for tracking my hikes so you can see what my experience is! I am extremely passionate about hiking, and about challenging myself, and this has been the perfect combination for me! And it has been SO AMAZING to hear that some of you are signing up for it as well! I’m hoping before the year is over we can hit the trails together! 

Also, there are so many people out there joining in! I’m a part of a Facebook group for the Missouri chapter of the hiking challenge, and I’ve already made new virtual friends, am learning about new trails, and seeing how other people experience trails I’ve done before! Its also a great place for asking questions, reading reviews, and getting advice and support from hikers of all experience levels. 

It would make me a very happy Maggie if you decide to participate in this challenge, but it will also make me a very happy Maggie if you don’t participate and still get out on the trails! 

Use the hashtag #roamingwithpurpose and tag me @maggierwp on Instagram when you post your hiking pics! 

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