7 June, 2024

How Backcountry Women Fosters Community Along the Trans Canada Trail

Backcountry Women is a social enterprise company based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with a mandate to empower women and marginalized genders by providing inclusive, accessible programming, and to help people to grow their skills in the outdoors in a safe and positive space. We spoke with Ashley Moore, founder and owner/operator of Backcountry Women, about the importance of opening up the outdoors to everyone. 

Connecting participants to nature by building skills and confidence 

Backcountry Women gathered in the woods, standing together. | Backcountry Femmes rassemblées dans les bois, debout ensemble.

Immersion in nature has profoundly impacted both me and the participants in our programs,” says Ashley. Spending time outdoors, particularly when shared with others, creates a deep sense of peace, well-being and connection. This connection extends to the environment itself, fostering a sense of respect and appreciation. Being outdoors also provides a wealth of opportunities for physical activity, skill development, mindfulness and personal growth.” She loves seeing program participants gain a newfound sense of accomplishment and self-confidence by learning new skills and stepping out of their comfort zones. 

The organization often facilitates recreation on trails in Birds Hill Park or Whiteshell Provincial Park, with some excursions on sections of the Trans Canada Trail. They lead activities year-round, including hikes, snowshoeing and paddling excursions, and they also offer confidence-building workshops and courses including wilderness first aid, safety, fire building, navigating and trip planning. Their programming is open to women and other marginalized genders aged 18 and over, regardless of skill level and background.  

Celebrating diversity and inclusion through Pride Hikes 

A group of Backcountry Women standing on a brick path, as they appreciate the scenery together. | Un groupe de femmes de l'arrière-pays debout sur un chemin de briques, appréciant le paysage ensemble.

The organization held its first free Pride Hikes in 2023, designed both to celebrate diversity and inclusion in the outdoor recreation sector, and also to create a safe and welcoming space in which to connect 2SLGBTQI+ individuals and their allies in nature. “These events are important in spreading the message that everyone belongs to be OUTside, just as they are,” says Ashley. The reaction from the communities they work with has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive, and participants have expressed how much it means to them to connect with others and share their experiences on a hike in a beautiful natural environment. 

Growing a more inclusive outdoor culture 

Backcountry Women paddle boarding together in the water. | Les femmes de l'arrière-pays font du paddle board ensemble dans l'eau.

To Ashley, part of growing community is making links with a wide variety of people who are looking to spend time being active outside – more and less experienced hikers; participants in inclusive trail initiatives; and individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and with a range of experiences. The organization’s programming helps to make those links, not only through Pride Hikes, but also through its other recreational events and its Hiking with Confidence course, which is aimed at beginner hikers or people looking to improve their skills. “We want to equip participants with practical knowledge that they can put to use right away. Things like how to pack your bag and what essentials you should be carrying with you, choosing footwear, starting a fire with limited supplies for warmth, what precautions to take for your own safety, how to build up your abilities and set yourself up for success, and so much more,” she explains. “We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to experience the benefits of the outdoors, regardless of their background or circumstances,” she says.

Find out more about Backcountry Women’s upcoming events and how to get involved with the organization on their website