New Year, New Me: A Local Hiking Group for Your New Year’s Resolution

Laura Bradford started her hiking and asthma-awareness blog,, in January 2018 after years of leading hikes for the Raleigh Recreational Hikers Meetup. In August 2018, the companion Meetup group I’d Rather Walk was born, offering free hikes to locals of all ages.


“Despite lifelong chronic asthma, I’m still pretty fit and have successfully hiked under some difficult conditions — so I think I’ve demonstrated a certain amount of expertise,” said Bradford.

A Cary resident since 1996, Bradford tries to keep hikes within a 30–40-minute drive from downtown Cary. Umstead State Park, Carl Alwin Schenk Memorial Forest, the North Carolina Museum of Art Park and Lake Crabtree are popular locations, with occasional trips to Falls Lake or Eno State Park.

For a good cardio workout, I’d Rather Walk hosts fast-paced hikes with a distance of at least 6 miles. Slower hikes are available when the terrain of the trail is particularly rough or steep. For those new to hiking, Bradford hosts a free “get in shape” eight-week series of hikes each January.

“I try to go for natural terrain rather than pavement because it’s better for you, especially for the longer distance hikes that I host. I’ve occasionally hosted hikes at other relatively close state parks, like Pilot Mountain, but I don’t do that very often because of all the variables that are out of my control. I want to make sure that everyone has a good experience,” said Bradford.

The majority of the group’s 2,785 members live in Cary, Apex, Raleigh and Durham, but a typical hike consists of no more than 25 people. In addition to a healthy amount of exercise, the group offers participants a sense of community.

“Since we are always outside, I’ve had a few hikers tell me that the hikes have been their only social outlet during the pandemic and it’s really kept them sane,” said Bradford.

“There’s a cooperative group of local Meetup hike Leaders who informally work together to keep a certain amount of hikes posted, with some variety in location and at different paces, to be sure there are always alternatives for people to choose from. There’s always a hike out there, if you want to go!”

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