Skip to content
Photo: Courtesy Alexa Rosales

The Body Liberation Hiking Club

This affiliate of the Body Liberation Outdoor Club welcomes people outdoors, no matter their physical shape or identity.

by Kat Merry
Share:

Hiking is a beloved pastime for so many, offering a chance to escape the hustle of daily life, get some fresh air, and delight in all the natural sights. Yet for individuals who do not conform to a conventional image of a “fit” hiker or may feel intimidated hitting the trails, starting an outdoor adventure can feel daunting. That is where the Body Liberation Hiking Club comes in. 

Alexa Rosales founded the hiking club, an affiliate group of her larger organization Body Liberation Outdoor Club two years ago. Since then she and her group have been featured in local publications like Hudson Valley Magazine and Spectrum 1 News. They’re inspiring people of all shapes, sizes, genders, and skill levels, to rekindle their love of nature in a judgment-free setting. Here’s how Body Liberation hikers are moving with a mission: to promote inclusion and body positivity on the trails, one hike at a time.

How and when did you form this group?

I formed the group in May of 2021 at the height of the pandemic. I got the idea from my own personal struggles. I’m someone who doesn’t look like a stereotypical “fit” hiker. I had been feeling so bombarded by exercise culture and the pressure to always associate movement with burning calories and dieting. Instead of going out and nature and feeling joy, I was isolating myself and feeling dread.

The Body Liberating Hiking Club at Fahnestock State Park. (Photo: Courtesy Alexa Rosales)

One day I realized there are so many wonderful benefits of being outside, and I am not going to keep myself from this space any longer. I started to re-engage my mind and body with nature, and it felt so liberating to re-enter the outdoors with a new mindset. I guess once I experienced that transformation, I wanted to inspire others to do experience the same.

I started by making a Facebook group to engage locals near me and a lot of people resonated with the mission right away. At first, I kept most hikes within a one-hour radius of where I live in Newburgh, so it was easy to promote them and get people to commit to trails that weren’t too far away. 

We started to grow our presence on Instagram as well and since 2021, we have almost 2,000 followers across our social media pages. 

What makes your group unique?

Our group was actually initially called “Plus-sized Hikers of the Hudson Valley,” but after a year I started to realize that name was excluding some people and I wanted the group to be open to anyone who didn’t feel they had a space to feel empowered and comfortable hiking and being outdoors, including across the gender spectrum. By changing the name to Body Liberation, we are reaching so many more who need this judgment-free space, and I think that intention makes us really unique.

We also understand what it’s like to get winded. We don’t pressure anyone to keep any pace, and we always wait for you if you need a break along the trail. This isn’t a race or a competition to burn the most calories. We are all about taking our time and being present with nature and each other. Stopping to have a little picnic at the summit of our hikes is a good example because we don’t want to miss out on all the beauty at the top. Nothing better than lunch with a view!

Most uniquely, we are about freedom and liberation to be yourself and taking the body you have now outside to move. If you want to eat a burger after we hike, go for it! Want to take a burger with you on the trail? Go for it!

What are some of your group’s favorite places to go in the Hudson Valley?

Sam’s Point at Minnewaska is definitely a favorite — the ice caves there are unreal! Any hike that has some kind of natural wonder, like waterfalls or special view points are always on our list. 

What are some challenges your members have faced?

I’m not sure we’ve faced many challenges, honestly. Since we have a big presence on social media, I was concerned, and kind of expected, some negative comments or trolling posts about our group, but we have never encountered anything like that. I think that’s a huge win and a testament to how many people benefit from the space we’ve created. 

On the Little Stony Point Loop. (Photo: Courtesy Alexa Rosales)

What does the experience of walking or hiking do for your group in particular?

A lot of our participants had never hiked before because, similar to my past experience, they would feel anxious and isolate themselves from this kind of activity. They’d worry about how they might be perceived by others on the trail. 

I created this group to lift people up and out of that mindset and I think it does just that. We encourage people to break free from the pressures of diet culture and come together to find the joy nature offers. People also make friends and have really valuable conversations while hiking. It’s a hiking group, sure, but it is also a community.

How does the time in nature inspire you? What are some favorite sights you’ve seen?

As the leader of Body Liberation, I am inspired in so many ways by meeting new people on the hikes. When I see people enjoying the outdoors for the first time, feeling empowered, and gaining all the intended positivity from it, that alone is incredibly inspiring. 

As just Alexa, outside of my work with Body Liberation, I feel liberated just to be totally switched off when I go outside. All I think about is my feet moving and it puts me in a place of peace and calm. 

In the past, all I would think about is how can I change myself to fit this activity — how can I shrink or change my body to fit? Now I am more present outside and I see so much of myself in nature — in the shapes of the trees and even in the insects. The beautiful curves of nature!

Peter’s Kill and Mossy Glen are definitely some of my favorites. The rock formations look like you’re walking on the moon! 

Are you open to new members, and if so, how can people get involved?

Absolutely. The best way to get in touch is to contact us via our social media pages. Join our group on Facebook and send us a DM on Instagram. We post updates on upcoming hike and meetup points on both pages and we try to do new hikes about three weekends every month. 

Kat Merry holds a master’s degree in science and spends weekends exploring new hiking trails in the Hudson Valley with her husband and dog. Based in Beacon, she writes for local news publications such as the River, the Highlands Current and MainStreetBeacon.com.

More in this series

Nature has the power to help heal. Few understand that more fully than Bryan Clog, founder of RecoveryHike. Clog regularly...

Related Content

Editors' Picks

Climate Solutions
How to Get in on the Refillability Game
Land + Air + Water
Restoring Resilience to Mawignack Preserve
Land + Air + Water
Can Hops Make a Comeback in New York?
A close view of a hop growing on a vine. Behind it is a red barn.
Land + Air + Water
Protecting Forests by Managing the Exploding Deer Population
Climate Solutions
Floatovoltaics Makes Waves Approaching the Valley

Search Viewfinder:

Hudson Valley Viewfinder is a collaborative, community digital magazine sharing what inspires us about the beautiful Hudson Valley. We publish original stories and multimedia content about all things sustainable in the region along the Hudson River — including agriculture, science, wildlife, outdoor recreation, green transportation, environmental justice, and more.

Our mission is to immerse you in the storied history, fresh happenings, and coming solutions for making the Hudson Valley greener and more livable long-term.

Viewfinder is published by Scenic Hudson, the celebrated nonprofit credited with launching the modern grassroots environmental movement in 1963. With over 25,000 passionate supporters, Scenic Hudson’s mission is to sustain and enhance the Hudson Valley’s inspirational beauty and health for generations to come. Viewfinder supports that mission, because the better people understand what makes this place special, the more they will invest in protecting it. 

Keep up with the latest stories by subscribing to Scenic Hudson’s monthly digital newsletter, and connect with us on social via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Threads.

Our mission is to immerse you in the storied history, fresh happenings, and coming solutions for making the Hudson Valley greener and more livable long-term.

Viewfinder is published by Scenic Hudson, the celebrated nonprofit credited with launching the modern grassroots environmental movement in 1963. With over 25,000 passionate supporters, Scenic Hudson’s mission is to sustain and enhance the Hudson Valley’s inspirational beauty and health for generations to come. Viewfinder supports that mission, because the better people understand what makes this place special, the more they will invest in protecting it. 

Keep up with the latest stories by subscribing to Scenic Hudson’s monthly digital newsletter, and connect with us on social via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Threads.

Lynn Freehill-Maye
Managing Editor
editorial@scenichudson.org 

Riley Johndonnell
Director Creative Strategies & Communications
rjohndonnell@scenichudson.org

Lynn Freehill-Maye
Managing Editor
editorial@scenichudson.org 

Riley Johndonnell
Director Creative Strategies & Communications
rjohndonnell@scenichudson.org

We’re always looking for ideas around our main topic areas of Climate Solutions, Land + Air + Water, Plants + Animals, History + Culture, Outdoors, and Community.
  • Journalists and writers who have deep familiarity with New York and the Hudson Valley, we’d love to have you contribute! Please do introduce yourself by email, sharing writing samples and any relevant pitches you may have.
  • Photographers and videographers, we’d love to hear from you and see what you do. Please send along a portfolio with images or footage that showcases your best and/or most relevant work, with an emphasis on anything captured outdoors. 
  • Illustrators, we commission artwork on the regular. Drop us a note with some of the beauty you’ve created.
  • Media Partners & Social Media Influencers, we welcome opportunities to team up on series and campaigns. Reach out with any background about yourselves and your ideas.
We’re always looking for ideas around our main topic areas of Climate Solutions, Land + Air + Water, Plants + Animals, History + Culture, Outdoors, and Community.
  • Journalists and writers who have deep familiarity with New York and the Hudson Valley, we’d love to have you contribute! Please do introduce yourself by email, sharing writing samples and any relevant pitches you may have.
  • Photographers and videographers, we’d love to hear from you and see what you do. Please send along a portfolio with images or footage that showcases your best and/or most relevant work, with an emphasis on anything captured outdoors. 
  • Illustrators, we commission artwork on the regular. Drop us a note with some of the beauty you’ve created.
  • Media Partners & Social Media Influencers, we welcome opportunities to team up on series and campaigns. Reach out with any background about yourselves and your ideas.
  • We love to collaborate with media outlets, especially on episodic series (like these) of interest to our shared audiences. Past collaborations have included radio interviews, panel discussions and other events, original artwork, and e-blasts, all furthering the campaign’s excitement and reach. 
  • We also love to partner with other organizations whose missions align with Scenic Hudson’s. Feel free to reach out with some background on your group and its work.
  • Writers, photographers, and creatives, if you have an idea for a series or content campaign that might be a good fit, drop us a line!

Businesses, please note that as a nonprofit, Scenic Hudson is restricted from advertising or promoting for-profit companies, through Viewfinder or other outlets. While we understand content managers may wish to alert us to your company’s role in a relevant topic, we are unable to add links to businesses to our stories.

  • We love to collaborate with media outlets, especially on episodic series (like these) of interest to our shared audiences. Past collaborations have included radio interviews, panel discussions and other events, original artwork, and e-blasts, all furthering the campaign’s excitement and reach. 
  • We also love to partner with other organizations whose missions align with Scenic Hudson’s. Feel free to reach out with some background on your group and its work.
  • Writers, photographers, and creatives, if you have an idea for a series or content campaign that might be a good fit, drop us a line!

Businesses, please note that as a nonprofit, Scenic Hudson is restricted from advertising or promoting for-profit companies, through Viewfinder or other outlets. While we understand content managers may wish to alert us to your company’s role in a relevant topic, we are unable to add links to businesses to our stories.

Subscribe!

Get the latest articles delivered right to your inbox  — for FREE!