As we start to finally leave our homes after months inside, there’s one place Americans are increasingly turning to: the great outdoors. It makes sense. Vast, beautiful, and ripe for exploring, the country’s trails, coastline, and national parks make for a perfect combination of adventure, fresh air, and social distancing. But for many of us, the outdoors space seems far from accessible, with everything from hiking and climbing to surfing and cycling often feeling exclusionary to anyone who isn’t white, male, cisgender, or able-bodied.
Thankfully, there are plenty of women out there who are working tirelessly to change that impression. And while it is far from all-encompassing, we've put together this list to spotlight 10 of those women, all of whom are creating communities and leading the organizations and initiatives we need to make the outdoors a place that welcomes every type of adventurer. We hope it encourages you to get out there, too—whatever your version of out there might be.
Danielle Williams, Melanin Basecamp and Diversify Outdoors
Danielle Williams is not what you would call “risk averse.” Following in the footsteps of most of her extended family, she joined the Army in 2006, and subsequently spent time parachuting out of military planes. It’s what first got her into adventure sports—specifically skydiving—even if it was simply part of her job. “People are active in the outdoors in all kinds of ways,” she says. “In the military, we do a lot of ruck marching [fast, rough terrain marches with 45-pound backpacks]—we don't call it hiking. I didn't know people did that for fun until I got out of the military and immersed myself in this community.”
Since discovering the outdoor community, Williams has become a defining member, launching three organizations that have opened up access and created networking opportunities for adventurers often ignored by the industry. Her first, Team Blackstar, founded in 2014, brings together more than 200 African American skydivers from 70 countries on online forums and for annual jumps. “I wanted to create a space where we could talk about gear and we could talk about our experiences, like the fact that we're commonly mistaken for first-time customers, even after hundreds of jumps,” she says.