Urban & Nature Hikes

HELP Foundation combines hiking and exercise with the benefits of participating in a support group.  We are blessed to be living in one of the most beautiful places in the country, with hundreds of miles of hiking trails all around us. 


We call our outings “walking and talking” – instead of sitting in one place, we are walking while talking about our issues and emotions, bringing awareness to the mind-body connection which promotes more creative, deeper ways of thinking when combined with mood-improving physical activity.  Many studies show that walking as a form of physical exercise is associated with enhanced wellbeing and that there are mental benefits from being active, especially in the outdoors.


No matter what someone’s level of fitness is, everyone benefits from fresh air and exercise while discussing feelings and challenges that come up during the week.  A lot has been said in recent years about the “healing power of nature” and we sometimes refer to our hikes as “medicine walking”: the sensation of being outdoors in a beautiful setting, noticing the various sights, bird and animal sounds, smells and textures of plants and flowers can have a powerful, calming and restorative effect on the participants. 


Walking, especially with good company and in pleasant surroundings, releases endorphins and reduces depression and anxiety.  Walking while sharing your struggles and life situations can also be meditative, grounding and relaxing.  Through the multi-sensory experience of our “medicine walks”, people tend to open up, be much more talkative and at ease, and many report that they feel more relaxed throughout the rest of the day and sleep better at night after our group hikes. 


Research has consistently shown that exercise can significantly reduce levels of anxiety, stress and depression, while improving overall mood and wellbeing. It is increasingly apparent that walking is not only good for our physical health, but it is also good for our mental health.  It is also a great way to jump start or support a fitness routine and active lifestyle, which HELP Foundation promotes through providing YMCA gym memberships for the people we serve.


As much as we enjoy taking advantage of the abundant natural beauty of our surrounding landscape, some days lend themselves better to taking shorter “urban hikes” around the neighborhood – or even in  the mall on rainy days.  Whether we are climbing the Dominican Hill in San Rafael (see photos below), or walking in the city parks or just down the street, the objective is always to reduce stress, elevate mood and provide a safe, fun and relaxing environment for group members to socialize, support one another and experience multi-sensory integration with nature (during our outdoor hikes) or the community (on our urban hikes). 


The dates and times for our hiking groups are flexible, as we try to accommodate everyone’s schedule.  Our hiking expeditions are open to anyone interested in participating as a peer, a volunteer or a hiking guide. 


Water, healthy snacks and transportation are provided by HELP Foundation.  Please contact us to learn about our upcoming nature and urban hiking events.