Duluth’s new city initiative ventures toward women’s hiking program

 Women hiking for Women Hike Duluth’s event in Lincoln Park on July 17, 2018. This program is for any woman with any hiking ability. Photo courtesy of Jessica Schoonover

Women hiking for Women Hike Duluth’s event in Lincoln Park on July 17, 2018. This program is for any woman with any hiking ability. Photo courtesy of Jessica Schoonover

On Tuesday Dec. 18, a free guided night hike, just for women, will be held along the new Antenna Farm trail from 6-7 p.m. This hike is called Women Hike Duluth: Night Lights.

“It’s for any women with any [hiking] ability,” Sandi Larson, the woman who runs and started Women Hike Duluth, said. “A lot of this is about lowering barriers so women can get out to hike.”

The hike will be no longer than a mile with parking available along 8th Ave. west and the 9th Street lot. According to Jessica Schoonover, administrative clerical specialist for Duluth Parks and Recreation, this night hike is all about seeing the Bentleyville lights.

However, this is not the only guided hike intended for women. It is one of many in a series of hikes hosted by Hike Duluth and Duluth Parks and Recreation aimed to get women on the trails and feeling comfortable.

“It’s got a bit of a twist,” Schoonover said. “The focus of all of these hikes is to get women to feel comfortable and excited about hiking.”

According to Schoonover, the first of these treks began in July 2018 and was so successful that 125 women showed up.

“It was awesome,” Schoonover said.

 A group of women and some of their children hiking at Hartley Nature Center on Aug. 21, 2018. Women Hike Duluth encourages women to bring their kids to get them involved with the outdoors too. Photo courtesy of Jessica Schoonover

A group of women and some of their children hiking at Hartley Nature Center on Aug. 21, 2018. Women Hike Duluth encourages women to bring their kids to get them involved with the outdoors too. Photo courtesy of Jessica Schoonover

According to Larson, Schoonover has been partnering with her since the summer of 2018 when the city of Duluth reached out to Larson to get more women on the trails.

“I started Hike Duluth back in 2012,” Larson said. “Fast Forward to this year. REI Co-op [an outdoors store] contacted the city of Duluth and wanted to create an event to encourage women to get outdoors.”

Duluth was excited to do this, according to Larson. One of the people who were in charge of running this event was aware of Larson’s Hike Duluth Facebook page and contacted her to get involved, and Larson jumped on the chance to do it.

Both Schoonover and Larson will be the two guiding the hike on Dec. 18 with Larson leading the pack and Schoonover keeping track of everyone at the back of the pack, according to Schoonover.

“It’s really fun to see all these women get out and I can share my knowledge and love of the trails,” Larson said. “It’s been really satisfying.”

People have responded well to Larson’s events with the largest turn out being 125 and the smallest being 40. Women are not the only people allowed to these events either. They are welcome to bring their children along for the adventure. Past hiking spots have included Chester Park and Hartley Nature Center.

The hikes are only one to one and a half mile long, and they even had well-known Duluth residents hike with them.

“Mayor Emily Larson has attended the event in the past,” Schoonover said.

According to Alicia Watts, assistant manager for Duluth Parks and Recreation, Duluth has been working on implementing new programs and this series of women’s hikes fits in with that goal.

“Part of the city’s new initiative is adding new programs and this women’s hike aligns really well with that,” Watts said. “It’s new. The first hike was new. We’re going to support it as long as [Larson] wants to keep it going.”

More information on the hike and future events can be found Duluth Parks and Recreation’s Facebook and website or by calling them at 218-730-4325.