The history behind a movement, brand, or challenge can often play a role in their allure. We love to hear stories that motivate us, stories that we can relate to, stories that stretch boundaries: the 52 Hike Challenge is one such example. While the concept is simple, execute 52 hikes in 52 weeks, the transformational and empowering history behind the challenge is what really inspired us.
Karla Amador and Phillip Stinis, founders of the 52 Hike Challenge, each had a unique story that brought them to the outdoors. After their paths crossed, they merged their experiences and together created the 52 Hike Challenge.
When he was young, Phillip had an uncle who often took him camping and hiking. Like many children, he experienced these small jaunts into nature as exciting and memorable grand adventures. As he grew up, life became busier… and busier. His time outside slipped away and so did his health. He began to gain weight and found it harder to live the life that he envisioned for himself.
Phillip knew he needed to take charge of both his health and his happiness. Recognizing that he wasn’t inspired by simply setting a weight loss goal, he began to explore other options. He wanted to work towards a tangible challenge that required a high level of fitness: he decided on California’s Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48.
After 10 months of hiking and regular gym attendance, he made a late season ascent on Whitney in 2002, 40 pounds lighter. Phillip went on to lose another 40 pounds and kept them off while adding more adventures and summits to his outdoor resume.
Although Karla did not grow up camping or adventuring outdoors, as a young mother, she began taking family vacations to National Parks. She found herself inspired by their beauty, but was timid about hitting the trails with a new baby and figured those sort of adventures weren’t for her.
Finally, on the heels of a hard divorce, Karla began to seek something that brought her peace. She unexpectedly turned to the outdoors, “I don’t even know where the idea came from…I suddenly… was envisioning my life out there hiking and camping.” She had an instinct that living a life of adventure would make her happy again.
It was around this time that Karla and Philip met.
After hearing Philip’s story, Karla realized it was time for a transformation of her own. She had no knowledge of the outdoors or hiking so she asked Philip to guide her. They started hiking together regularly. Karla set the goal to hike once per week and when Phillip heard this idea, he jokingly replied “Hey! It’s like a 52 hike challenge!”
Karla said it was her 15th hike, a strenuous, tearful ascent of San Gorgonio, when she broke down and broke through:
I made it to the summit with surrender while saying, ‘I trust the process.’ I realized how powerful we really are in our own minds. That was a life changing transition for me. On that hike… I was listening to my inner dialogue and thought, ‘I’ve been negative for so many years… this has to stop.’ It was the quiet silence in the outdoors that made me realize that.
Shortly thereafter, the details for the challenge were decided and announced to the world. The original 52 Hike Challenge is aimed at the outdoor beginner: a hike per week of 1 mile or more. You can take on this challenge at any point and once you commit, you have 52 weeks to complete the challenge. There’s also plenty of autonomy built into the challenge so you can personally customize it as needed.
If you are a more experienced outdoor enthusiast, you can try one of their newer challenges: the Adventure Series or the Explorer Series. In the Adventure Series, you complete a series of tasks like going to a National Park, hiking to a body of water, participating in trail projects, and even intentionally reflecting on these experiences.The Explorer Series is for hiker who are ready to commit to 52 NEW hikes in one year.
Philip and Karla have bigger goals than getting people outside, they want to use the outdoors as a catalyst for transformation and they are succeeding. The 52 hike challenge is more than a fad or a hashtag: it’s a movement. Through their movement, Karla and Phillip are truly changing the world for the better.
52 HIKE CHALLENGE
About: Commit to 52 hikes in 52 weeks
Who it’s for: The original challenge was designed for outdoor beginners. There are now two new challenge options that are great for more experienced outdoor enthusiast. Once you subscribe through email, you will receive access to tons of great resources including mileage trackers, group finders, trail locators, FAQs, and more.
Founders: Karla Amador and Phillp Stinis
Sabrina Carlson is on the AMI Board of Directors and is also the Youth Outreach and Education Coordinator with the Seeds of Stewardship Program of the Arizona Trail Association. She is a mama, writer, adventurer, outdoor educator, PPD warrior, fiercely passionate friend, self-care advocate, and deep lover of chocolate and bacon (occasionally together). Follow Sabrina’s adventures @mamawildnfree or read more of her writing at mamawildandfree.com.