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Mother Nature Welcomes Every Body

Fat Girls Hiking is an inclusive hiking club for all bodies

In the summer of 2018, an unlikely group of hikers converged at Missoula’s Blue Mountain Trailhead. I was among them. While waiting for any latecomers, we filled our circle with small talk. I remember noticing one woman with sun-kissed cheeks and summer-washed blonde hair. She looked like any other outdoorsy woman. Except, she wore a bright floral dress that flounced just above her sunburned kneecaps. I did a double-check. Yep, she was wearing hiking boots. She had a backpack, too. In fact, as she introduced herself, I realized that she was the leader of our hike. Her name was Summer Michaud-Skog and she was touring the country and hitting the trails to launch chapters of her new organization, Fat Girls Hiking.

We listened as Summer shared her mission and promised that no one would be left behind on the hike that day. Indeed, no one was. We enjoyed a beautiful ramble at a comfortable pace. We stopped to examine chartreuse lichens and pet velvety tufts of moss (one of Summer’s favorite things). By the time we returned to the trailhead, everyone was all smiles. When Summer asked if anyone would like to lead a Missoula chapter, my hand shot up. Along with another volunteer, Jenny, my adventure as an ambassador for Fat Girls Hiking began.

I’ve always loved hiking and I’ve always lived in a bigger body. As a Missoula native, I’ve been exploring our trails my whole life. When I was a girl, I escaped to the hills above my home in Lolo. Shortly after my daughter was born, I tackled Strawberry Hill up the Rattlesnake. Being outdoors has always returned me to my best self. Whatever that “best self” has meant over the years, it has never been about my weight. Even so, when I first started leading hikes, using the word “fat” took some getting used to for me.

Friction around the word “fat” is exactly why Summer began Fat Girls Hiking (FGH). In her book “Fat Girls Hiking: An Inclusive Guide to Getting Outdoors at Any Size or Ability,” she shared what inspired her to create FGH. “I noticed that I didn’t often see people who looked like me on trails. I am a queer, fat, heavily tattooed woman with chronic pain who hikes in dresses. I wanted to amplify and showcase other fat women, queers, and women of color who were out here taking up space in the outdoors just like me and my friends.”

Today, Fat Girls Hiking has over 26 chapters in three countries. Missoula’s club was among the first wave to launch—no surprise, given our outdoorsy population and easy access to recreation. In the last six years, our group has logged many miles. We’ve wandered the routes surrounding our valley in every direction, trekked alongside whitewater rushing down from the mountains in the Bitterroots, stood atop batholiths to look out over the national forest up Highway 12, and investigated historical spots in the 9 Mile Valley. Our hikes are one-to-two miles, mostly on wide, wheelchair-friendly trails, with little elevation gain. We always go at the pace of the slowest hiker (which is usually me) and stop mid-way for a snack break.

The best thing about being an ambassador for Fat Girls Hiking is the people. I’ve met hikers of all sizes, abilities, and from all walks of life. Along the way, I’ve come to understand that the name “Fat Girls Hiking” is an invitation. It may be our bodies that bring us to the trailhead but it's our love of the outdoors that turns strangers into friends along the trail. Without the pressure to keep up or look a certain way, we’re just another group of outdoor recreationists walking in nature simply for the joy of it.

Fat Girls Hiking - Missoula is open to all genders and abilities. They hike every second Saturday of each month. For details on upcoming hikes, you can follow @fatgirlshiking_missoula on Instagram or search the calendar at Learn more about the international organization at

"It may be our bodies that bring us to the trailhead but it's our love of the outdoors that turns strangers into friends along the trail." - Shelby Humphreys