5 Ways To Make Your Non-Outdoorsy Friends Like Hiking

Try geocaching, break out the games, or add a food reward to keep things interesting.

For many, hiking offers beautiful scenery, therapeutic vibes, and a chance to get some exercise, but we’ve all had those friends that recoil at the thought of going on a forced march through the woods. However, with spending time outdoors being one of the safer ways you can socialize these days (while wearing masks and keeping at least 6 feet of distance, of course), it may be time to try to convince your pal to reconsider. Whether they’re into scavenger hunts, searching out great food, or practicing their photography skills, here are some ideas for making a day hike into an adventure that no one can turn down. 


Try a treasure hunt, geocache-style

For that take-charge member of your crew, a scavenger hunt is a great excuse to spend some time trekking through nature. There are millions of geocaches around the world, which means there’s a good chance there are some located at nearby hiking spots. To play with your pals, have someone download the app to see a map of geocaches around you, then split up into teams to make things competitive, or band together to locate one nearby. Geocaches come in all shapes and sizes but typically are plastic, metal, or wood to last through all types of weather conditions, and they can be disguised as anything -- a mint case, a birdhouse, a flashlight. Inside you may find items like toys, treats, or even rain gear (feel free to take an item and leave something of your own). Don’t forget to bring a pen to record your name in the cache’s log book and put it back, hidden as well (or better) than you found it.

Include an outdoor dining stop in your itinerary

Sure, you could pack a sack of sandwiches to fuel your hiking trip, but what’s a cold cut compared to a fancy brunch after backpacking? For your foodie friend who just has to try the salad at every spot, an outdoor dining pitstop can offer the necessary motivation to embark on (or finish out) a long hike. In almost every state, there are trails worth trekking with good eats along the path. Thinking of hitting a trail near New York City? Reward yourself with a stop at the outdoor patio of Peekskill’s Taco Dive Bar after taking on a portion of the 12-mile Briarcliff-Peekskill Trailway at Blue Mountain Reservation. In Illinois, you could visit Shawnee National Forest, where the stand-out section is the sandstone rock formations at Garden of the Gods. As you near the western part of the forest in Alto Pass, head over to the outdoor seating at Peach Barn Winery & Cafe for authentic Swedish meatballs and estate-grown wines including a Swedish Glögg. Out West, the red rocks in Sedona, Arizona, are not only great for hiking but provide a stunning backdrop for a post-hike meal of seasonal American fare at The Hudson’s patio. You get the idea.

Coordinate clothes with your crew

For your fashionista friend or that pal hashtagging their way through life, stepping out in a synchronized style could make the experience of hiking more fun -- not to mention make for some great group pics. Tell everyone to dress in the same color, rock their best fall flannel, or go all-out with a costume theme like the ’80s. Even your masks can match the vibe. Whichever attire style you choose, be sure to plan for the weather and the length of your hike -- a moisture-wicking base layer, a long-sleeved shirt for extra warmth, socks that won’t give you blisters, and a rain jacket are all good items to have on standby. 

Play a game to keep up the pace

Even for outdoorsy folks, hours of hiking can get monotonous, so mixing in some group activities can help keep everyone engaged. Many classic road-trip and party games can translate to the trail, such as 20 Questions, I Spy, or Would You Rather. Or, cater to your music-lover friends with a little game we’re calling Nature’s Playlist. The rules are simple: Every time you stop to take a breather or take in the views, write down the first song that comes to mind. (It could be anything, including the one you sang for your 8th-grade graduation.) By the time you hit the car ride home, you won’t only have the memories of the day, but a list of songs that’ll remind you of being in nature.

Chase the best photo ops

Whether your friend recently acquired a vintage film camera or is just always looking for their next Instagram post, it’s hard to argue with the fact that hiking trips are basically one big photo op. (Plus, your “Can you comment on my pic?” friend won’t have to beg anyone to like these photos.) The US is full of picturesque hiking options, from beautiful tree-lined trails near Memphis, waterfall hikes in LA, trekking to the Eternal Flame in upstate New York, or elsewhere in the country. Pose by a ponderosa pine, surround yourself with breathtaking views you can’t Google, and snap away -- you just may convince your friend they’re an outdoors person yet.