While traveling is an exciting and liberating experience, for those of us in the LGBTQ community, it can also come with risks. Between navigating TSA scans, using public restrooms, and understanding our rights under differing state legislatures, it can be really daunting to venture off the beaten track. This is why looking into group travel and using the support of organizations is a really great way to plan a trip, especially if you’re considering an outdoor excursion.
There are many LGBTQ outdoor organizations that run a huge range of activities throughout the US promising a safe environment and community for all. These range from camps, specialized programs catering to youth, to educational and conservation trips. You may have heard about the excellent work being done by the likes of The Venture Out Project and the social media initiative Diversify Outdoors, but we wanted to shine a light on a few others who not only make the outdoors accessible to the LGBTQ community but also create a welcoming and inclusive environment.
1. Wild Diversity
Wild Diversity was founded in 2017 by Mercy M’fon Shammahk to support a community of POC and LGBTQ+ outdoorists. Based out of Portland, Oregon, Wild Diversity provides experiences for those from underrepresented communities to enjoy being in nature. Through its various excursions, educational programs, and community workshops, the organization strives to foster a sense of community, provide resources and decolonize outdoor spaces.
Most of the available excursions explore the state of Oregon, but there’s a varied catalog of activities to choose from. It’s worth keeping an eye out for their leadership and development training and their conservation programs. The BIPOC Swimming event is currently running which is part of the larger BIPOC event series. The wild swimming goes beyond jumping in and getting wet, it invites attendees to explore their relationship with the water. Check out their events page for more information regarding the summer schedule.
Founder Ed Ferguson created OutVentures in 1994 after moving to Seattle. Wanting to explore more of his surrounding area, he began leading an informal Sunday morning hiking club for young men. OutVentures now caters to a larger spectrum of people in the LGBTQ community and hosts a variety of events for members to enjoy. Between day hikes, camping, backpacking, white water rafting, and potlucks, OutVentures is up for just about anything in the outdoor realm.
In order to become a member, you must be 18 years or older. However, minors can participate if accompanied by a member guardian. Community is at the cornerstone of this organization. Being volunteer-driven, all members come together to cultivate a safe space and plan and coordinate all activities. For more information and event dates visit their website.
3. The Venture Out Project
In 2014, Perry Cohen founded The Venture Out Project as a way to combine his professional life with his other passions: his love for the outdoors, his dedication to social justice, and his own trans and queer identities. Having worked for other outdoor organizations and camps prior to this, Cohen harnessed his experience to establish the organization which now provides a huge range of excursions for queer folx.
The TVOP headquarters are based in Western Massachusetts, but they host trips and events all across the US. We reached out to the organization to see what upcoming events they have on the books, and the list is long. This summer they are running events for all ages. In mid-August, TVOP will be co-sponsoring an LGBTQ+ river rafting trip in Colorado with Holiday River Expeditions. At the end of August, they are leading a trip to Yellowstone National Park to support trail rehabilitation. And throughout summer, they are leading hikes close to their headquarters every Thursday night. There is a waiting list for many of the upcoming events, but we recommend getting in touch and expressing your interest regardless.
TVOP is one of the most well-established LGBTQ outdoor organizations in the US and really do cater to all, welcoming anyone between the ages of 18 to 65. Also, if you think you’d like to give one of their many trips a go but don’t have anyone to sign up with, don’t worry, they express that you’ll make friends and a community in no time.
4. One Heartland
One Heartland creates camp experiences for youth dealing with isolation, intolerance, and/or serious health challenges. Located in Willow River, Minnesota, they cater to youth from all over the US. One Heartland calculates the cost of camp based on income and need, making their programs accessible to a wide range of folx and to those who could benefit the most.
We reached out to One Heartland to get more information on Camp True Colors, their program for LGBTQ+ youth. This is one of the largest LGBTQ+ camps in the US. Originally advertised as an educational leadership program, the camp changed direction and now provides a summer camp experience just like any other. They have established a safe space where campers can enjoy the outdoors and be their authentic selves, free from bullying and judgment. One Heartland also runs camps for youth experiencing housing instability and those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. For more information on any of their programs, visit their website.
5. OUT There Adventures
OUT There Adventures has one simple goal: to empower young queer people through their connections to nature. Founder Elyse Rylander is an activist who works tirelessly to break down the barriers to outdoor spaces for the LGBTQ community. Since 2006, OTA has taken thousands of LGBTQ youth and adults on outdoor excursions all over North America and invites attendees to think critically about the equity, access, and privilege that is often needed to easily enjoy nature.
This year they launched their Get OUT There Virtual Challenge, which you are welcome to participate in from your home state. Once a month they bring together queer folx to complete an outdoor challenge and share the experience with the online group. It costs nothing to join and is a very supportive community. If you want to know more or get involved with OTA’s programs, in-person or virtually, all the information is listed on their website.
6. Queer Nature
Queer Nature is a queer-run educational and ancestral skills program on a mission to connect the local LGBTQ2+ community to the land they live on. Co-creators Pinar and So lead three public programs covering topics such as survival skills and understanding the power dynamics between humans and other beings. The company is based in Washington State and is currently offering virtual content via their Patreon. If you want to stay in the loop regarding future in-person events, subscribe to their email list on their website.
7. Diversify Outdoors
Diversify Outdoors is a social platform catering to anyone from the LGBTQ+ community. From bloggers, athletes, activities, entrepreneurs, and other influencers, members come together to share their love of the outdoors without the barrier of physical location. If you’re interested in interacting with Diversify Outdoors, there are several ways you can do so: You can become one of their influencers, join the movement by using #DiversifyOutdoors on social media, or connect with them through their website.
8. Rainbow Ranch Campground
With an assortment of tent sites, RV sites, and one large house, Rainbow Ranch — located in Central Texas — provides a safe outdoor space for their queer campers to enjoy. In addition to their rentals, they also have several events such as Women’s Summer Splash, Men’s Round Up, and Single’s Weekend for campers to make new connections within the community. For more information on their events, policies, and campsite map, check out their website.