Meet Amy Viktoria: Founder of Hike365
Amy Viktoria was lonely.
A Canmore, Alberta resident, Amy was new to the area, and she didn’t have anyone to hike with except for her dog, Metsa. Her husband worked as an environmental scientist away from home, and while Amy took advantage of the stunning landscapes in Alberta, she wanted to share the beauty and adventure with someone else too.
“I was hanging out at home with the dog alone, and there are only so many trails you can hike with your dog before you start to get a little lonely,” she said. “So I thought, ‘What if I just go on social media to get a group of girls together to hike for free?’ That was literally the concept. I went on social media and said I was going to host a free event to bring women together to go for a hike.”
What Amy wasn’t expecting was the response. She expected a handful of ladies to take her up on the offer, but 20 strangers showed up for the first hike in May 2014.
“I just started posting a few nice mountain photos of the area and got like a couple of hundred followers and then said, ‘Hey, I’m hosting this free event to bring women together to go for a hike. Anyone interested?’ Twenty-something girls showed up. I think it was because it was free; who doesn’t love doing something for free?” she said.
From that first hike with 20 strangers, Amy created HIKE365 in 2014, an outdoor and wellness community designed to bring women of all ages together to hit the trails for organized and free events. Since then, hundreds of Alberta women have been inspired on the trails.
“It all started with this idea to bring women who were like-minded and had a love for the outdoors together on the trail and foster the building of friendships,” she said. “It is kind of like a blind date, I guess. As the years went by, more and more girls became friends and more and more girls started hiking together.”
The hikes don’t pull any punches either. Most run about 10 to 15 kilometers with 700 to 800 meter elevation gains. Amy specifically targeted the hikes for women, so she herself could make new friends.
“Women hiking together is the coolest thing. It started out as a simple idea. I justed wanted to make some friends,” she said. “Starting HIKE365 was a passion project for me. I find that because I don’t charge money, there isn’t the pressure to do X-number of events every month or do X-number of social media posts. There’s just no stress. I just kind of willy-nilly my way along.”
The “willy-nilly” way worked and resonated with hundreds of outdoor female enthusiasts. As the years went by, more and more women became friends and more and more familiar faces came to the planned hikes.
“A typical hike is a full day hike and is usually an adventure you might not do on your own, like a 30km-plus adventure, a bike and hike, a route-finding adventure, sunrise or sunset hikes with two hours or more in the dark, etc.,” Amy said. “The difficulty is usually moderate to strenuous, but we aren’t trying to win an adventure race with our pace. The goal is to take time to enjoy the hike, chat with friends and shoot photos all while accomplishing a sweet goal together. That being said, there is only so much daylight in a day so we do keep a steady pace.”
The popularity of the hikes proves to Amy that women crave adventures in the wild with other women.
“I think out west a lot of women have moved to cities in Alberta and British Columbia on their own and struggle to make friends who like to hike,” she said. “The positivity and support from like-minded women involved with HIKE365 is awesome. Girls tend to connect with one or two of the other attendees at our events and after the day is done, they have exchanged contact info. Then they usually get together for their own adventures. That’s a goal of HIKE365 – to connect women and foster friendships.”
While HIKE365 doesn’t turn anyone who wants to hike away, Amy was quick to point out that many of the hikes are challenging and suited for established hikers.
“I’m pretty transparent about like where your fitness needs to be. There’s a survey that fields questions like’ how often do you hike? Do you hike? What’s your fitness level? Have you ever hiked this much elevation are gone this distance? Do you smoke?’ Most of the girls are on the same fitness level, and if they aren’t, we figure it out.”
Amy is also a self-employed photographer with a fine arts degree in photography and design.She shoots photos of people in the outdoors and began getting contract commercial work in the outdoor and adventure industry, specifically mountain sports and activities.
“The commercial photography is now 60 percent of my income, but it’s all rooted in the adventure and creativity and just living my life as creatively as possible,” she said. “It’s pretty sweet that we also inspire women to get together and hike together. Through photography, I can tell the stories of the women who come in a trail. I shoot their portraits and share their stories of the trails and inspire more people to get out there and hike, regardless of whether it’s women who joined the community or who follow us on Instagram.”
For more information, visit https://hike365.wordpress.com.
About the Writer
Heide Brandes is an award-winning journalist and travel writer who contributes to numerous regional, national and international magazines. Besides freelancing fulltime, Heide is an avid traveler, medieval warrior, hiker, professional bellydancer and bellydance instructor and kind of a quirky chick who lives in Oklahoma City. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram and on her website.