The Great Black Outdoors: How one hiker is changing the narrative with Destination Hike, LLC

Smart takes pride in being the catalyst to motivate other Black and brown people to put one foot in front of the other and explore the world around them

When hiker Natalie Smart reflects on her childhood in Las Vegas, she doesn’t see bright lights and celebrity dinner shows. It’s the Red Rock Valley beaming in the background that lives at the forefront of her mind. 

“So a lot of people misinterpret what Vegas has to offer,” the non-profit founder explains. “One only focuses on the Strip, but it is surrounded by mountains. And so growing up, I didn’t even consider it hiking. It was just my backyard.”

In an interview with theGrio, Smart tells us her love for hiking continued when she relocated to the Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia area (DMV). At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, she started posting more of her solo hikes on social media, and people took notice. 

Founder, Natalie Smart. Courtesy: Destination Hike, LLC.

“I would hike by myself just trying to stay in shape, going cold and everything would shut down,” Smart says. “And so I would just post all my different excursions and people were like, ‘You’ve got to plan something. Tell me when you’re going out again!’ I moved from just me doing it by myself to people being like, ‘Well can I come with you? Can you create a group chat?’ Then I said ‘OK, I can do that.”

And just like that, Destination Hike, LLC was born. 

“The destination part of it came from my love of doing local hikes. But I also remembered how much I loved hiking in Vegas, right? There are all different types of terrain. I want to be able to travel. I want people to go see these things,” Smart continues.

Courtesy: Destination Hike, LLC.

The entrepreneur plans excursions for all hikers, from beginners to advanced. She hosts dozens of trips across the country, where participants can tackle trails and engage in other activities, ranging from camping, to yoga, kayaking, even skeet shooting. Individuals who are interested in these types of activities should be physically and mentally prepared and they may also need to invest in a few outdoor accessories.

“This recent thing I’ve created is camp hike and shoot. I’m like, well, where are we going to trap and skeet shooting? They have a campground and trails, so let’s just combine all of this together … it’s just been like any way I can get people to get outside. I’m trying to see how I can make it an event.” 

Destination Hike aims to create a safe space for all people to get outdoors. Smart especially takes pride in being the catalyst to motivate other Black and Brown people to put one foot in front of the other and explore the world around them. 

Courtesy of: Destination Hike, LLC. 

“If you can walk, you can hike, honestly. I think sometimes it’s easier to see something than to just tell people something,” she says. “You can say, ‘Black people hike,’ but if you don’t actually see any images of that, you won’t believe it.”

“Then to have all these people come out and hike and say, ‘Oh, this is safe. This looks like a lot of fun.’ So, yeah, I’m really excited about how that has impacted people in a way that I didn’t even plan to. I just wanted to hike.”

Smart plans to take her expeditions internationally in 2023 with the trip to Machu Picchu in southern Peru. To learn more about Destination Hike, LLC visit their official website.

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