WNY Hiking Challenge

Welcome to the Western New York Hiking Challenge, brought to you by Outside Chronicles. This challenge aims to encourage people to explore the many beautiful and unique trails throughout WNY and reap the many benefits of spending time in nature. We also want to give back to the trails and have donated over $325,000 to great organizations. Our goal is to promote outdoor activities and help people appreciate the natural beauty of the region.

What’s Included in the Challenge

  • Challenge Packet – a PDF containing information to get you started, park descriptions, trailhead coordinates, maps, checklists, and more. Check out some sample pages and the 2024 trail list.
  • Digital Maps – every location has a digital map you can import into the easy-to-use Avenza maps app.
  • NEW Challenge App – new in 2024 is an app to track your progress; the app works on iPhone, Android, or in a web browser.
  • Challenge Portal – hikers can check trail conditions, access a Google map of hike locations, report a problem, and more.
  • Private Facebook Group – participants can join a private challenge Facebook group to ask questions, share photos, and meet your fellow hikers.
  • Improved Physical & Mental Wellbeing – it’s a proven fact that getting outside in nature will improve your physical and mental fitness.
  • Give Back – a large portion of your challenge registration fee will be donated to organizations doing incredible work in WNY.

New to the Challenge? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Participated in the Challenge before?  Check out What’s New in 2024

Giving Back

The WNY Hiking Challenge gives 100% of profits to organizations that promote stewardship of the outdoors, protect the lands we use for recreation, or provide outdoor education for all. This year’s theme is Nature Preserves. We are donating to Buffalo Audubon and WNY Land Conservancy, combined they protect over 3,600 acres across 20 preserves in WNY. Learn more about this year’s beneficiaries.

Challenge Rules

This year’s Challenge features 46 trails. Hikers need to earn 75 points to receive a finisher patch, sticker, and bragging rights.

  • Earn seventy-five (75) points by completing challenges in our new app between May 1, 2024 and November 15, 2024, inclusive.
  • Points can be earned by hiking trails, completing stewardship tasks, and other fun challenges!

For Independent Health, please use your Health Extras card like a credit card at checkout.

For Highmark WNY, you will need to use your personal credit/debit card and submit a Wellness Card Reimbursement Claim Form.  Claims can be submitted on the member website. Log in at myhighmark.com and click Manage under Spending Account Balance to access your personal dashboard. Then, select Claims and Claims Activity under the menu in the upper left corner to submit your claim.

How to Get Started

1. Register

Head to our store and purchase the challenge product that fits your situation.  We have the following to choose from:

Individual: $25
Family (up to 4 members, +$5 for additional patches): $65
Pet and Owner: $45
Scouts: $20 (Use coupon code
scouts24 at checkout, put your troop number in the Order Notes)

2. Download Challenge Packet

After your purchase, you will be emailed a link to the digital Hiking Challenge packet. The packet contains more information about the parks, maps, suggested hikes, landmark locations, and how to sign up for our new app.

3. Hit the Trails!

Use the information in the Challenge packet and app to earn 75 points, trails are worth 3, 5, 8, or 15 points depending on difficulty. Get out there and find the landmarks! Each map has a suggested path, but feel free to make your own hike.

Remember to take a garbage bag and leave the trails better than you found them.

4. Complete Challenges

Our new app will keep track of your progress. As you complete challenges, your points will increase. Reach 75 points to earn a finisher patch and sticker.

But don’t stop there! You can earn additional in-app badges. Some of the badges will earn you additional stickers! Check out the My Badges section of the app for details.

5. Follow Everyone’s Progress in the App

You can see the Top 20 Leaderboard, check your points, follow a photo feed of submissions, and chat with other hikers; all within the app.

6. Get some 2024 WNY Hiking Challenge Merch

FAQ

What does the WNY Hiking Challenge Packet contain?
When you register, you will get the complete Challenge rules, a description of this year’s Challenge beneficiaries, a map, and description for every hike with links to a digital map to use with Avenza Maps, check out a few sample pages here.

How long and hard are the hikes?
We offer a range of hikes that vary in length and difficulty to cater to different hiking levels. Most of our hikes are between 2-5 miles, with a few exceptions that are longer at 8-10 miles. For those seeking a greater challenge, we have Ultra hikes that range from 15-25 miles. However, it’s always up to you to decide which hikes to participate in; you are not obligated to hike the longer trails. Our hikes are rated as easy, moderate, difficult, and strenuous. We base our difficultly level on distance and elevation gain (ascent). Completing the challenge is possible by hiking easy and moderate trails. We suggest starting with the easy hikes, which will help you build up your experience and confidence for tackling more challenging hikes.


Do you offer gift certificates?
Yes, we sell gift cards in our store.

Are there any family discounts?
Yes, the family rate is $65 and entitles your family to up to 4 patches (including pets, +$5 for additional patches) upon completion of the Challenge. Just select Family at checkout. Families use a shared app account and upload one group picture per hike or challenge. 


Although we want all family members to go on every hike, we understand that things happen and this may not always be possible. We ask that most family members be present on a majority of trails. And those family members who show up for every hike can hold the patch over the slackers, just kidding!

Is the challenge family-friendly or good for young children?
We have had many families and children of all ages complete our hiking challenge. We feature several family-friendly hikes that are 2 miles or less, and some are even stroller-friendly. Many hikes are easily doable with young kids, and they might even surprise you. Just make sure to have some ice cream after the hike and ensure that the young ones are properly hydrated and have some snacks for the trails. Remember, it is all about getting outside together. Even if you have a meltdown and don’t make it to the challenge landmark, it’s no problem, it still counts!

Are there discounts for scouts?
Yes, registered Girl Scouts, Scouts BSA, and active Scout leaders will receive a $5 discount. Use coupon code scouts24. Please enter your troop number at in the Order Notes at checkout. 


Do I need to register by May 1?
No, you can register anytime between now and November 15, 2024. You need to earn 75 points by November 15, 2024 to earn a patch and sticker.

Are dogs welcome at the Challenge?
Absolutely, they can even register with their owner(s) and earn a patch. Proceeds from pet registrations benefit Sadie’s Safe Harbor Canine Rescue. Please follow each park’s rules when you bring your dog (i.e. they must be licensed, kept on a leash and you must clean up after them).

Choose the Pet and Owner or Family products in our store.


I’m new to hiking, what do I need to know?
First of all, you will need appropriate hiking footwear. Crocs and sandals are not appropriate. You can get away with a good pair of sneakers on the easy trails, but we highly recommend trail runners or hiking boots on moderate to strenuous hikes. Almost as important as your boots, are your socks. We suggested spending a little extra for Darn Tough socks (ankle or crew). You won’t be sorry and they have a lifetime warranty. However, any synthetic or wool sock will work.

Next you are going to need appropriate clothing. Synthetic clothing is a must to manage perspiration in warm and cold weather. Your layers will largely depend on the ambient temperature and weather conditions. We always suggest carrying a rain shell in the fair weather months.

Finally, we suggest someone in your group carry the 10 Essentials on every hike. Every hiker should have a headlamp and whistle at all times. We have a Resources page with checklists and links to our instructional videos. We are also offering a Virtual Hiking 101 Class.

How do I not get lost on the trails?
The Challenge Packet contains QR codes to download live maps to Avenza Maps. We have created two tutorial videos for Challenge participants. The first video shows you how to import maps and use basic features. The second video shows you how to use Avenza Maps while on the trail. We also highly suggest taking a paper map and learning basic map and compass skills. We have videos to help you there too!

You mentioned that a book acted as the inspiration for these Challenges?
Correct, the book is out of print, but you may be able to find it used on Amazon or at the library. The book is Secret Places: Scenic Treasures of Western New York and Southern Ontario by Bruce Kershner.

The late Bruce Kershner was a great conservationist and advocate for places like Reinstein Woods and Zoar Valley. *He was also my wife’s high school teacher.

Good news, there is an updated version of Secret Places of Western New York written by Jennifer Hillman and William McKeever. The new version includes some of Kershner’s Secret Places and some new ones taken from his notes. It is a very well done tribute to the original book.

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