Clubs are cool—especially those that get you outside. Outdoor clubs have a long history of bringing people together, handing off skills, and providing excellent opportunities for trips, lodging and even equipment. Plus, many outdoor activities are safer and more fun if you enjoy them with others.
Whether you’re just getting into outdoor sports or are a seasoned veteran, clubs are a great way to meet people, get motivated, stay in shape, and improve your craft. Plus, many clubs offer deals on lodging, discounts on gear, outdoor skill clinics, and opportunities for international travel. Here are some of our favorite adventure orgs that provide affordable outdoor trips of all kinds if you’re not sure where to go next—or with whom.
1. ADL Ski Club
This Seattle based group is reinventing the ski club experience with small pro-style trips, huge gear discounts, and retro-style fun. They arrange small group trips (no more than 12 to 13 people at a time) to bucket list destinations like Wengen, Switzerland, Kitzbuhel and Innsbruck, Austria, Chamonix and La Grave, France, Chile, and Japan. Some of the trips are in conjunction with World Cup Ski Races, with special access to the U.S. Ski Team athletes. Others focus on powder and big mountains where there are no lift lines. The group offers an adult summer race camp on Oregon’s Mt. Hood every June where your coaches are Olympic legends Phil and Steve Mahre.
2. American Alpine Club
In 1902, adventurers and environmental conservationists banded together to support climbers, land preservation and the quest for adventure. John Muir, known for his efforts to protect Yosemite as a national park, was the AAC’s second president. The club still works to support the climbing way of life and has broadened its scope to become more diverse and inclusive (you no longer need to provide a climbing resume with the membership application). The headquarters (and impressive library) are in Golden, CO, but there are AAC chapters all over the U.S. Membership benefits include access to events, discounts on lodges and bunk-houses all over the globe, and great travel insurance. The annual Craggin’ Classics, which are held at prime climbing destinations like Bishop, CA, Moab, UT, and Mt. Rumney, NH are great opportunities to meet other climbers and up your skill level.
3. Appalachian Mountain Club
Dating back to 1876, the AMC is the oldest outdoor club in the U.S. The group’s original focus was on protecting public lands in New England. Today, the AAC spearheads education, exploration, and outdoor community building throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. The AAC is famous for its lodges and campgrounds that include the White Mountain Hut System, Pinkam Notch and Crawford Lodges, and the Bear Mountain/Harriman Lodges and Fire Island Cabin in New York. There’s also the Mohican Outdoor Center in New Jersey in the Delaware National Recreation Area that offers a multitude of outdoor education opportunities. One long-time AAC tradition is its “August Camp,” held annually with 64 campers per week. There’s a different location each year, with past camps being held in New England, Wyoming, the Pacific Northwest, and Canada.
4. Colorado Mountain Club
If you live in the Colorado Rockies and are interested in hiking and climbing, this is the club for you. Based in Golden, Colorado, the club offers more than a dozen monthly activities in the surrounding forests and mountains, plus well-priced guided trips all over the world. The group is designed to support mountain education, adventure, and conversation, plus it’s a fun group of dedicated enthusiasts. You can start out with easy day hikes near Denver, progress to Colorado 14ers, or go peakbagging in the Himalayas, Andes, and Alps. Activities include hiking, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, and lots of skills clinics. Groups are kept small and activities are available for everyone from novices to experts.
5. Explorers Club
This is the premier international club dedicated to outdoor exploration and scientific study. The clubhouse, on the east side of New York’s Central Park, has been a meeting place for adventurers and explorers for nearly 200 years. President Theodore Roosevelt, aviator Charles Lindbergh, deep sea diver Jacques Cousteau, astronaut Neil Armstrong, and Sir Edmund Hillary were all members. Current members include the world’s top divers, astronauts, alpinists, and climate scientists. The EC hosts film screenings and lectures, many of which are open to the public. You don’t have to forge a first ascent on Everest, circumnavigate Antarctica, or walk on the moon to join—but it doesn’t hurt.
If you’ve ever dreamed of climbing Mt. Hood, consider joining the Mazamas. Based in Portland, Oregon, this club (founded in 1894 on the summit of Mt. Hood) is dedicated to mountaineering, conservation, and outdoor education in the Pacific Northwest. The Mazamas conduct more than 700 hikes and 350 climbs every year, plus tons of skills courses. You have to have summited a glaciated peak to join—but that’s a great objective for everyone. A highlight of club membership is the Mazama Lodge at the base of Mount Hood near Government Camp. There are bunks and private rooms with food prepared by the staff, plus easy access to Mt. Hood and the surrounding forest for skiing, hiking, and climbing.
7. The Mountaineers
Based in Seattle, the Mountaineers is a nonprofit outdoor community with about 13,000 members and 2,000 skilled volunteers. It hosts more than 100 monthly activities and courses. You can learn to hike, rock climb, sail, move through avalanche terrain, and read a map and compass. The organization has been around since 1906 and is responsible for introducing thousands of people to outdoor activities. There are clubhouses in Seattle and Tacoma, WA and five lodges scattered through the state’s western peaks where members can stay, ski, hike, and even enjoy outdoor theater productions.
8. Outdoor Adventure Club
While most clubs offer trips led by volunteers or paid experts, this San Francisco-based club is a professional guide service (insured and accredited) that’s designed to make it easier for people to get outdoors in a safe and social environment. They offer lots of hiking in the greater San Francisco area, as well as cool climbing, skiing, rafting, and even mountain bike trips. Your membership fee (levels vary but standard is $199) includes things like “free” rental equipment and discounts on hikes and skills clinics. At $3,000 per year, the club’s “Ultimate” membership includes free weekend trips to some of California’s choicest outdoor destinations. Non-members can pay as they go.
9. Outdoor Afro
This decade-old national organization is dedicated to connecting people with nature. The group focuses on furthering the Black outdoor experience, but anyone can join in on the outings. Plus there’s no charge. Outdoor Afro operates in more than 56 cities across the U.S., from NYC to Hawaii. Over 100 volunteers organize and lead activities that include hiking, kayaking, fishing, swimming, and even gardening. This year, the organization is dedicated to increasing access to swimming lessons. Outdoor Afro has a MeetUp site where you can find events in your local area.
10. Single Divers
Single Divers is not a dating site, but a group dedicated to arranging group dive trips and helping you find a dive partner. Plus, they offer well-priced trips to some of the sweetest dive spots on the planet, including Roatan, Cozumel, and the Red Sea.
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