Editor’s note on April 9, 2019: Our commitment to create unique experiences for women, by women is steadfast. We will not be announcing 2019 Outessa dates. We hope the expanded local and REI Adventures trips will allow us to continue to come together as women, growing and learning from each other in the outdoors for years to come. Learn more about other experiences designed for women from REI.
Outdoor adventures to connect, learn, and explore
These five organizations cater their experiences to women. Whether you want to plan a weekend adventure, day trip, or a serious summit, there’s a women’s clinic that fits the bill.
For women seeking skills and empowerment
“Our specialty is helping girls and women become their strongest, best selves while providing solid instruction in wilderness travel and outdoor skills.” How’s that for a motto? And, they live up to it. Women’s Wilderness has helped around 5,000 women and girls to date, and, thanks to available aid, they have yet to turn away someone for financial reasons.
Their courses cover wilderness living, outdoor skills, and backcountry safety—with a focus on inclusion and empowerment. All of them fit into four core programs: Girl’s Wilderness Adventure, the Women’s Program, Queer Nature Program, and the Nature Awareness Program.
Courses vary from climbing to backpacking trips. Their Adventure Camp takes girls on a six-day backpacking trip, pitching tents along the way. Journaling, cooking, and playing games throughout the trip, attendees gain confidence, build friendships, and learn outdoor skills.
Arizona Outdoor Women
Promoting outdoor ethics, Arizona Outdoor Women focuses on exploring the state’s six national forests and the Grand Canyon, including Havasu Falls. Their all-women's programs include archery, mountain biking, camping, and more.
Arizona Outdoor Women’s hiking-specific clinics (There’s one coming up in June!) are designed to help women gain the skills necessary to embark on their own adventures. “Our June adventure will be a level 1 hike, covering topics like equipment, trip planning, first aid, backcountry safety, outdoor cooking, natural history, and minimum-impact camping,” says Arizona Outdoor Women coordinator Kathy Green.
The weekend course will be a combination of discussion and practical application—so you’ll put that knowledge to use out on the trail.
Adirondack Mountain Club
For the experienced day hiker
Although not strictly a women’s organization, Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) is dedicated to conservation and responsible land use. Most of their programs—like the Naturalist Series and Backcountry Water Monitors—are open to all. But, ADK also offers guided hikes just for women.
Designed to expand the limits of outdoor women, AKD’s Women’s Day Hikes are strenuous and best suited for women who already have some experience on the trail. The instructors will help the group tackle higher peaks and complete hikes that range from 6 to 11 miles.
For those who want to try something new
Outessa retreats (brought to you by our parent company, REI) allow women to gather for three days of adventure, whether that be hiking, yoga, mountain biking, or any one of the hundreds of activities you can pick from.
Led by professional guides, the hikes will explore some of the most beautiful parts of the U.S. Set up in an a-la-carte nature, you can mix and match the activities you take part in—so, if you choose, you can hike in the morning and finish the day with a yoga session. Plus, equipment and meals are provided for you, so you can get the most out of your adventure.
For a deeper dive into what Outessa is all about, check out the public Facebook group, where you'll find tips and suggestions from past participants and connect with women who are planning their own adventures.
Washington Women Outdoors
For hiking leaders-to-be
Washington Women Outdoors (WWO) brings women together for a variety of outdoor activities: hiking, biking, rock climbing, caving, cross country skiing, horseback riding, and more.
All of the hiking trip routes are scouted by the hike leaders. That way, before the hike starts, leaders can send out information about the level of difficulty, any necessary equipment, and appropriate attire. Each hike has two leaders: one at the front of the group and the second at the back. “Our rule is that we never leave someone to figure things out on her own—one of the leaders will always be in the sweep position to help anyone who gets confused or has equipment issues,” says Paula Cotter, Vice President of WWO.
Along with their overarching goal to get women outside and comfortable with their abilities, WWO hopes to impart leadership skills. “Our mission is to help women develop leadership. Part of what we build into our activities is the chance for participants to improve their actual hiking skills with an eye to leading others,” says Cotter.