Body Liberation Hiking Club Treks Across the Hudson Valley

One Hudson Valley editor joined a body-positive hiking group that she discovered on social media—and it changed her life.

It was a typical night in April. I was lounging on the couch, extremely bored, and mindlessly scrolling through Facebook—DIY craft videos, marriage updates, cheesy quotes… Then I came across a page that caught my eye: a Hudson Valley hiking group full of people who look and think like me, and experience life the way I do.

The group was called Plus-Size Hikers of the Hudson Valley (it’s since had a name change). I thought, I’m a plus-size woman who lives in the Hudson Valley and enjoys hiking—so I clicked the “join” button. Suddenly my feed was flooded with images of landscapes, encouraging posts from members, and an event posted by founder and Newburgh resident Alexa Rosales. The group was meeting the following Saturday to hike Klara Sauer Trail in Beacon. I clicked the “going” button—and felt good. But it wasn’t until I finished the 5-mile, out-and-back trail a few days later that I felt a heavy weight lift off my shoulders at last.

And that’s exactly the goal of the group, now called the Body Liberation Hiking Club (BLHC). It was born out of a therapy session: Rosales, 31, was talking with her therapist about the joys of hiking—and admitted she hadn’t explored nature in a long time. “I’ve felt connected to the outdoors since I was a child,” she says. “But I stayed away because I associated it with negativity and failure. I felt like hiking was a marathon, a race.”

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After that meeting, Rosales realized she could offer body liberation (which she describes as “being who you are in the moment and living in your true self”) for Valley residents who felt like she did. “I wanted to make a space for people to come together and feel supported.”

hiking group
A Body Liberation Hiking Club meetup. Courtesy of Alexa Rosales

Since its founding in June 2021, BLHC has gained over a thousand members—a group of “unlikely hikers,” which Rosales describes as trekkers “who don’t meet society’s standards.” The rules of the club are simple: there’s no calorie counting, no weight loss discussions, and no self-deprecation. The goal is to make friends, share experiences, and bask in positivity. “[BLHC] is for people who don’t want to change who they are,” says Rosales, “The minute you bring up weight loss or changing yourself by force—it takes out the joy.”

Each season, Rosales posts a hiking schedule on Facebook and Instagram (@bodyliberationhikingclub) with details about where to meet, trail length, elevation, and even what to wear. Past hikes include Minnewaska State Park, the Cornish Estate Trail in Cold Spring, Anthony’s Nose, Fahnestock State Park, and Black Rock Forest. In addition to hitting the trails on weekends, the group gets together for other fun activities such as summer beach days, sunrise or sunset hikes, and seasonal overnight camping/hiking trips.

I’ve learned so much since joining BLHC and have made a lot of new friends. Wendy told me about “Kili Big,” a documentary about plus-size women who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania; I discovered folding kayaks were a thing when Julia pointed one out at Lake Minnewaska; and I polled members about their favorite sandwich at Rossi’s in Poughkeepsie. (The Number Four.) Most importantly, I learned that we unlikely hikers are worthy of experiencing nature and fostering community just like everyone else. BLHC encourages members to find self-acceptance, love the outdoors, and hit the trails as often as possible. I hope to see you there.

Related: How Climate Change Affects the Hudson Valley

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