On your mark! Get set! Go…at the pace that feels right for you! Today we’re all about a non-race where no one loses, everybody wins, and all you have to do is put your best foot forward and then the other one, and so on. Volkssporting, as the American Volkssporting Association puts it, “is an international sports phenomenon that promotes personal physical fitness and good health by providing fun-filled, safe exercise in a stress-free environment through self-paced walks and hikes, bike rides, swims, and in some regions, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.” A genuine choose-your-own-pace adventure, volkssporting’s most popular iteration is called volksmarching, where participants are tasked with hiking 6.2-miles (10km) of pre-marked paths.Volksmarching is characterized by flexible start times for events and lengths that can vary to accommodate participants of diverse abilities to complete the course. Hundreds of thousands of folks have participated in organized volksmarches in the last couple of years, many of them matured in years or mentality beyond the need to come in first or otherwise exert their prowess over their peers. Sounds amazing, right? Here are a few parks where the spirit of the “fun, fitness, [and] friendship” aspects of volksmarch is alive.
Custer State Park, South Dakota
At Custer State Park in South Dakota, the Seasonal Volksmarch Trail is open mid-May to September 30 annually. Volksmarchers at the park can register between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to hike the trail. After paying a small fee, those who complete the course are rewarded with a stamp in their distance-keeping book, called a “credit,” and for an extra dollar, a “B Award,” or a medallion from a previous year’s event. Not to mention a sense of accomplishment!
Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming
Hot Springs State Park has 6.2 miles of universally accessible trails and hiking trails, which, you may have noticed, is precisely the length needed for volksmarching. The accessibility of the trails makes Hot Springs an exceptionally fine park to enjoy the sights that come with a good walk in the West. You can access views of the Big Horn River and accompanying mineral terrace, a side effect of the hot spring that gives the park its name. The hot spring, by the way, is accessible at the park-maintained bathhouse and soaking in its free 104 degree pool is an outstanding way to relax after your volksmarch.
Sebastian Inlet State Park, Florida
Sebastian Inlet State Park is an exceptional park because it offers access to all the best things that Florida’s excellent state park system is known for: Watersport recreation, camping, fishing, biking with sea and sand abounding in an ecologically diverse and sensorial, vibrant setting. All this knitted in with the Volksport Trail, 6.2 miles on the park’s varying terrain and with elements of all its best scenery. Whether you’re ready to sprint the whole course or looking to take your time at it, you’ll have a great time at Sebastian Inlet.
We talk a lot about sports and activities that are geared toward individuals who maybe don’t have to wonder as often about the types of materials that make up a park’s trails or if there is an accessible restroom with transfer bars. But state and national parks (and indeed, the wonders of nature!) are for everyone, regardless of age or mobility. Volksmarching gets to the heart of the idea that it’s less about speed and competition and more about the journey and the companions we take or meet along the way.
For more on this and other activities where you might enjoy some fun, fitness, and friendship, download a Pocket Ranger® mobile app and find a park to stretch your legs near you.