Hiking a diverse trail: The great outdoors is finally drawing more people of color

With the Olympic Mountains on its western fringe and the Cascade Range to the east, the Seattle area is at the center of some of the most eye-popping landscape in the United States. Several million acres of wilderness lie within an easy drive, and in recent years, the increasingly crowded trails there have also begun to reflect a growing diversity.

A new wave of affinity groups and meetups for people of color have drawn growing numbers of trekkers, backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts. Facebook and Instagram posts feature photos of Asian women scaling the rocky crags of Little Si in the central Cascades or black hikers celebrating at the summit of Mount St. Helens. Such images spur more interest while challenging the myth that only white people seek the great outdoors.

And in response to the nation’s shifting demographics, major outdoor advocacy organizations and government agencies such as the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service are forging partnerships with schools, youth groups and these same affinity groups. Together, they aim to reach communities that have been long ignored or underserved.

The issues involved have broad implications. The most diverse generation in history will help determine the future of this country’s open lands. Yet people who have not used them — who have never seen the vastness of the Grand Canyon, for example, or the towering dunes of Cape Cod’s national seashore — may feel little connection and lend little support.

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