52 Hike Challenge: The Rules, the Routes, and the Rewards

Are you interested in taking the 52 Hike Challenge this year?

The 52 hike challenge is an excellent way to spend more time with your family and disconnect in nature. But some people, especially those with small children, can find it challenging to get outside consistently. As such, they may be reluctant to try the challenge out.

This is why we’re going to try to convince you otherwise!

In this post, we’re going to cover:

  • what is the 52 hike challenge,
  • how you can start, and
  • give you a downloadable template to track your family’s yearly hike.

We’ll also share a few of our favourite hikes.

Now, let’s get clear on the 52 hike challenge and the advantages of taking part.

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52hike challenge
Walking around Lake Louise in Banff National Park

What Is the 52 Hike Challenge?

52hike challenge

The 52 hike challenge was started by hikers Karla and Phillip to encourage people to spend more time outdoors. At the time, Karla was going through a painful divorce when she met her (now) partner, Phillip.

At one point, Phillip was 80 pounds overweight and had difficulty running small distances without stopping. To turn things around, he made an ambitious goal: climb Mount Whitney.

After making it to the top, he became addicted to the great outdoors. And Karla, inspired by his story, decided to follow suit. The couple aimed to do at least one hike a week; thus, the 52 hike challenge was born!

Since they started in 2015, the 52 hike challenge has become an unusual movement that’s inspired people worldwide to do more hiking. In fact, it got us hooked, and we’ll be trying to complete the 52 hike challenge with our kids this year for the third time. We joined for the first time to complete the 52 hike challenge 2021.

Yes, even in Canada, where half the year has sub-zero temperatures, the 52 hike challenge shows no mercy and makes no exceptions.

Why Take a Hike Challenge? The Advantages

If you’re not 100% sold on this (or, more likely, your partner isn’t sold on it) just yet, hear us out.

No matter where you live, you can participate in the 52 hike challenge. And if you have kids, you have all the more reason to do so! Here are a few of the advantages of doing the 52 hike challenge.

  1. Disconnect from the Screens for an Afternoon: With all the changes that the last few years have brought, let’s be honest: we’re all spending a little too much time in front of the computer, our phones, and our TVs. Hell, even some cars are run by LED screens. It can be nice to take a break to clear your mind and get a little quiet back in your life.
  2. Set a Good Example for Your Kids: Raising kids is one of the most challenging things a person can do. At least, that’s how it feels for us at times. But one thing is sure: kids learn most from examples. By getting outside, you’ll be creating lifelong healthy habits that expose your kids to habits that don’t involve the latest episode of Paw Patrol.
  3. Get Healthier: Another advantage is the obvious one: get yourself healthier. Whether you have kids or not, going out for a hike once a week can improve your physical health, bring you more energy, and keep you from going stir-crazy as you’re locked in your home.
  4. Discover New Areas: Most people don’t realize how much nature they have sitting in their backyard. Even people living in the hustle and bustle of Manhattan can find great hikes just a stone’s throw away from the city. And by searching for new walks, you’ll discover new places in your area that are worth exploring.

Read more  7 Best Trails for Snowshoeing and Winter Hiking in Washington State

These are just a few advantages of taking part in the 52 hike challenge, but the list is far from exhausting. For us, here’s what everything came down to:

We’re sick of being stuck inside. We’re sick of wasting away time on the couch. And we’re terrified that our kids will grow up thinking life is all about screens, apps, and websites. So by taking this challenge, we’re guaranteed to schedule a half-day a week that combines exercise, conversation, quality time, and nature.

It’s why we are also taking part in the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge.

52hike challenge
Great Family Hike at Lake Pink – Parc de la Gatineau

If you’re in a similar boat, then keep reading. Because I’ll explain how the 52 hike challenge, how you can get started, and give you a free template that you can use to track your hikes this year.

The 52 Hike Challenge Rules

The cool thing about this hike challenge is that there are few rules.

The main 52 Hike Challenge rule is the complete 52 hikes in a year.

The initial idea was to complete one hike a year in a calendar year, but:

  • You can skip weeks and do multiple hikes in another week
  • You can start at any time during the year. The challenge will last 52 weeks.

Then, there are no specific hiking rules. The term “hike” can be used loosely for most of the challenges. This includes a hike in your local park, an urban hike, a snowshoe hike on flat land, a trail run, a climb in the mountains, etc. The only requirement is, ideally, a minimum hiking length of 1 mile each hike.

  • You can redo the same hikes (except if you’re doing the Explorer and/or the National Park Series)

Read more  20 Bucket List Hikes in Upstate New York for Every Skill Level

The idea of the Explorer Challenge is to explore 52 unique trails. As for the National Park Serie, the goal is to visit and hike at 52 different nationally designed spaces. But you can do the same hikes for all other challenges multiple times.

How to Take Part in the 52 Hike Challenge: 2 Methods

There are 2 ways you can do the 52-week hiking challenge:

  • Go through the official program
  • Track your hikes throughout the year
  1. Signing Up for the Official Program

The best way to participate in the 52 hike challenge is to go all-in. That would mean signing up for the 52 hike challenge on their official website. They have tons of options for you to begin, including.

52 Hike Challenge List

  • Original series: The original series’s main goal is to get outside and hike once a week for an entire year.
  • 52 Hike Challange Adventure Series: It’s similar to the original one, but there are some added adventure objectives, such as finding 5 waterfall hikes, hiking at least once in a national park, and doing a sunrise or sunset hike. Here is the complete list.
  • Explorer series: The goal of the Explore Series is to make one NEW trail each week for the entire year.
  • 52 Hike Challange Kids Series: The kid series aims to complete 52 outdoor activities with your kids in a year, including during the wintertime.
  • National Park Series: The National Park Series is slightly different since it’s a lifetime goal of visiting and hiking in 52 nationally designated parks.

Each of these options has different programs that you can choose from. They come with badges for a successful year (when you complete the challenge), a hiking journal, and other goodies depending on your chosen program.

There’s also a large community of other hikers who help you stay motivated. You can also share places you’ve been, and discover new hikes in areas near you from other members of the challenge.

The great thing is that anyone can join the challenge for free. But you may consider signing up for one of the paid packages.

Prices for the paid challenges start at just $20 for the year, leading to the following question: why would anyone pay to go hiking (a free activity)?

It’s an interesting question that I struggled with for marathons and triathlons in the past. It seems silly to pay money to do something that should be a free activity.

52hike challenge
Walking along the path at Lake Louise

But paying the small fee might be worth it, and here are a couple of reasons why:

  • Paying a membership fee gives you access to a large community of hikers who can help you stay committed
  • Going all-in means you’ll get a hiking journal (journals can cost up to $15 by themselves) which gives you more incentive to take it seriously
  • Paying the small fee also makes you feel more committed, and there’s a lot to be said about that
  • The money you invest in the challenge is used to support 52’s mission

Read more  6 Stunning Sunrise Hikes in Acadia National Park

That last point is particularly important. When something is free, we tend to undervalue it. That’s why many people who commit to “at-home workouts” on January 1st usually belly-flop by January 8th. When there’s no financial incentive, getting yourself motivated is harder.

When you KNOW that you’ve paid the money and other members are waiting to hear about your weekend hike, you’ll be more motivated to follow through.

Want an easy way to save up $20 for the membership? Stop buying coffee from cafés for 1 month, and you’ll have your annual 52 hike challenge membership paid in one month.

Ready to get started? Click below to find the right program that works for you:

Or, you can check out our other method for taking the 52 hike challenge.

2) Tracking Your Own Hikes for Free

Another way you can participate in this challenge is to do it informally. That means tracking your own hikes in a Google Spreadsheet or a home notebook. You can do this; frankly, it’s better than doing nothing.

But you won’t have access to the community, the badges, or the hiking journal. Plus, you may lose motivation halfway through the year because there isn’t anything holding you accountable.

As I said above, it’s a basic part of consumer behaviour to value “free” things less. As a result, those free challenges have thousands of people falling by the wayside before the year ends.

With that in mind, some people are hurting financially OR aren’t as big on the sense of community. And we believe those people would still benefit from getting out 1x per week.

52hike challenge
Family Winter Hike at Grotto Canyon

That’s why we made this downloadable 52 Hike Challenge Tracker that you can use to fill in your hikes.

How to Use the 52 Hike Challenge Tracker

  • Click the link above to access the template
  • Click File and then click Make a Copy (this step is really important for you to fill the sheet)
  • Change the name of the file so you can find it later
  • Fill in the rows after each hike

We included a section for “time spend outside” so you can easily track hours if you’re also taking part in the 1000 hours outside challenge.

Final Thoughts: What is the 52 Hike Challenge

This hike challenge will help you :

  • gain physical fitness,
  • with mental well-being,
  • make new friends,
  • explore new places, and
  • connect with family and friends …

We hope you found this information on the 52 hike challenge helpful and that you are ready to join us on the challenge.

Related Articles

You might also want to check out the following resources:

  • Marble Canyon: the Perfect Hike for Travelers With Kids
  • What To Wear In The Winter: Hiking Gear For The Family
  • Best Hiking Kid Carriers Broken Down By Age (0 – 5)
  • Hiking With Toddlers: 17 Tips For A Happy Family-Friendly Hike

These articles will have even more information about different hikes or ways to get more active with your family.


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About the Author: Tung Chi