Visitors of all cultures, races and ethnicities should feel comfortable basking in the magnificent natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, it’s not always so simple. Luckily, these five fantastic organizations exist to help people of color explore the great outdoors in and around Portland.
Friends on Bikes
Founded by Filipina cyclocross racer Gritchelle Fallesgon and Korean-born cyclist Molly Sugar, Friends on Bikes diversifies the cycling scene by connecting women and non-binary people of color. Launched in 2017, this Portland-based group organizes monthly all-levels social rides, as well as “bike-packing” trips, workshops and happy hours. Follow Friends on Bikes on Facebook for details about upcoming rides and inspirational posts celebrating femme cyclists of color.
Jorge Guzman immigrated to the United States from Mexico when he was 12 years old. However, he didn’t feel a strong connection to Oregon until he began surfing and snowboarding. Inspired by his experiences, Guzman founded Vive NW, a nonprofit organization that connects local Latinx communities with the great outdoors. The group hosts a wide range of dynamic events, including hikes, ski lessons, stand-up paddle boarding and snowshoeing excursions. Vive NW empowers community members to live more active lifestyles, while also fostering feelings of environmental stewardship.
Billed as “where black people and nature meet,” national nonprofit Outdoor Afro boasts chapters in nearly 30 states, including Oregon. Founded by Californian Rue Mapp in 2009, the group trains volunteers to lead African-American community members in outdoors activities. These include biking, hiking, rock climbing and wildlife spotting. Outdoor Afro’s Portland chapter hosts monthly excursions to spots like Hoyt Arboretum, Tryon Creek State Park and Smith and Bybee Lakes. Visit the group’s Meetup page for a list of events.
North Portland nonprofit Soul River focuses its efforts on two under-served populations: United States military veterans and inner city youth. By integrating life skills into free wilderness adventures, the organization hopes to help participants increase their focus, self-awareness, leadership abilities and conservation activism. Interested veterans, youth or volunteers can apply for upcoming trips (called “deployments”) on the Soul River website.
Unlikely Hikers began as an Instagram hashtag and blog from Portlander Jenny Bruso, a self-identified fat, femme, queer writer and “former indoor kid.” By posting stories and photos of so-called “unlikely hikers” — a tongue-in-cheek term that encompasses anyone who is not white, straight, thin, cisgender and able-bodied — Bruso hopes to disprove stereotypes of what hikers and wilderness lovers look like. Visit Bruso’s website or Facebook page to sign up for Portland-area group hikes. Past excursions have included Forest Park, Sauvie Island and Mount Hood.