John Muir once said, “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” Becoming nature deficient is easy in a world increasingly dependent on technology and convenience. However, taking time to bask in nature by hiking is an important and fun way we can get outdoors, with or without our troops. Aside from just being a fun Girl Scout activity, hiking has a plethora of positive benefits to offer. From physical and mental health benefits to earning some Girl Scout nature badges, here are our many reasons why hiking is good for you and your troop! 

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Physical Health 

As we know, getting outdoors and hiking both have many positive effects on our physical health. Balancing green time and screen time has become increasingly vital as technology becomes more prevalent in our daily lives, and so much of our day is spent inside. Getting outside does not have to mean committing to a full-day backpacking trek. This can mean a 15-minute walk around your local park. Micro hikes are a great way of getting outdoors and do not require extensive planning. 

Mental Health  

Hiking can allow girls to connect with themselves and nature. Being surrounded by beautiful outdoor landscape and breathing in fresh air can be a nice mental break from their usual routine and the stressors of life. Making time to deliberately spend time hiking in outdoor spaces has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety. Americans on average spend a staggering 93% of their time indoors. Providing girls with opportunities to get out in nature is important to offset this average. Additionally, hiking has been shown to boost creativity and allow for greater productivity. With mental space to create and brainstorm solutions to current problems, this sets girls up to become stewards of their own communities and outdoor spaces. 

Learn about Outdoor Ethics 

Experiential learning is a crucial component of outdoor experiences. When a girl is hiking and camping, they take ownership of their experience and take on the responsibility of leaving no trace. Understanding “leave no trace” principles enables girls to recognize the value of protecting animals, their environment, and preserving this experience for others. An easy way to practice leave no trace is to leave an area cleaner than we found it. This may look like collecting trash along the hiking trail (or neighborhood block) or snapping pictures of wildflowers instead of picking them. This will instill in Girl Scouts to take pride in their public spaces and to ensure the positive experience for others.  

Respect, Empathy, and Inclusion 

Teaching young people values such as respect, empathy, and inclusion for one another can be a complex endeavor. But getting girls outdoors can provide them with a unique opportunity of learning and practicing these values while observing wildlife. When going on hikes, it’s a time for observation, discovery, and exploration. Animals all look different just like we do, and those differences should be celebrated! It’s important that we don’t disrupt their routine, just like we wouldn’t want them to disrupt ours. While we are in the outdoors, we are in their home, so it’s important that we are being respectful of them. When we educate our groups to honor and celebrate differences among animal species, from creepy crawlies to adorable mammals, they will grow an appreciation for wildlife and become more compassionate individuals. If young people are learning to be empathetic towards animals, naturally, they will tend to also be empathetic towards other humans.  

Get Out, Girl Scout! 

A great place to start getting outdoors is your local county or regional park. There are many great resources on local county and regional park websites about hikes, activities, and interpretive materials. You can find local maps and hiking trails here. Ensure that the trail or park is open prior to visiting because a Girl Scout is always prepared! 

As we all know, a Girl Scout is always prepared! In order to be prepared for a trail adventure, be sure to look into appropriate supplies to pack, such as water, a snack, sunscreen, and more. Depending on the length of time you are planning to be out, this list may change, so do your research anytime you hike a new trail. 

Badges 

If your troop is interested in getting outdoors and hiking, be sure to check out some of our outdoor hiking and trail badges. All badges can be purchased online through our GSNorCal retail store. Together, we can build girls of outdoor confidence, competence, interest, and environmental stewardship. 

 

All hiking and trail badges include opportunities to: 

  • Choose an outdoor adventure/hike 
  • Plan and collect needed gear for adventure 
  • Setting your plan into motion by going outdoors! 

What To Do Next 

  • Check out ways to Get Outdoors on our website. 
  • Shop the GS NorCal retail store for any outdoor gear. You and your Girl Scout can stay hydrated with our hydration pack or water bottle selections
  • Check out the GSNorCal Girl Scouts at Home page to see how to get outdoors locally. 
  • Encourage girls to use their knowledge and leadership skills to plan a younger girl outdoor hike or overnight trip. 
  • Explore our other outdoor activities and ideas for Girl Scouts on the Trailhead

Arri DeJesus—Arri is the STEM & Adventure Manager for Girl Scouts of Northern California, where she manages the development, implementation, and evaluation of innovative camp and adventure events and STEM program. Prior to working at the NorCal council, she worked at camp through Girl Scouts San Diego. When she is not working out of the Alameda office, she enjoys being outdoors biking, hiking, and taking photos.