Wild Woman: Trail Mothers Founder Kristen Hernandez
Updated: Oct 7, 2020
Having a kid doesn’t have to mean giving up on doing fun, outdoor adventures. For Kristen Hernandez, her relationship to the outdoors really took off only after having her son Liam. Now 8 years old, Liam and Kristen do all kinds of adventures together including hiking and rock climbing. Their own adventures and subsequent Instagram post inspired the freelance social media strategist to start Trail Mothers, a non-profit dedicated to mothers and children who thrive to hike, climb, educate, and be good stewards of the environment. Kristen is based out of Northridge, California, a neighborhood of Los Angeles with access to climbing, hiking, and camping in Santa Clarita, Stonypoint Park, Simi Valley, and elsewhere in the area.
What is Trail Mothers? Why did you start it and when?
Kristen: I started Trail Mothers in 2017. It actually was just a mom and son Instagram called Trail Mother. I decided to create the group as Trail Mothers because I saw other moms and kids hiking, doing the same things we were like picking up trash. I started to host events in different parks in California. I had one mom come with her daughter and it just started to grow and grow from there. By that time, I had the group for about 2 or 3 years and I filed for non-profit status this year in January. We were accepted and became a 501(c)3 non-profit org and I created the organization to inspire moms to get out of the house, to try something new, to get their kids off the couch and go outside whether it be for a walk or to ride your bike. At that point in time it was all about hiking, but now I’m into climbing and being environmental so we do trash cleanup with kids and adults. It just kind of went from there. I have people who are part of my team, but it’s majority me 100% of the time doing everything from picking the place for the event to getting the sponsors and partners. It’s a lot of work, but I love it.
What are the group outings like?
Kristen: In the past, I’ve scouted over 100-200 hikes by myself or with my son Liam—he’s my cofounder. What we do is pick different trails in or around Los Angeles county and we say we’ll meet at this place and time and here’s what we’ll do and we create the event. We try to make it fun for the kids like having glow-in-the-dark necklaces and hot chocolate at the top. All of our events are free, you just show up. A lot of the times when it comes to trash clean up it’s a spot locally around me that’s heavily trashed and graffitied or people will send us messages about what areas should be cleaned.
What do sponsors and partners of the events do?
Kristen: A lot of our sponsors donate gear to be raffled off. If we have an event that’s climbing-related, Friction Labs will donate chalk, Access Fund will donate stickers, Leave No Trace donates LNT info.
Were you always a hiker or was it something that you started after you had Liam?
Kristen: When I met Liam’s dad Patrick, I was not a hiker. I was afraid of hiking, I didn’t even think about climbing ever in my life. Patrick was the one who got me into hiking and then I got really crazy into it. When I got pregnant I was hiking up to 30 weeks into my pregnancy. When I had Liam, we started to take him on the trails and teach him everything we were doing to teach him something new. He’s been hiking since he was walking at 11 months. Then he started climbing when he was 5.
How did you get into climbing?
Kristen: It was actually Liam. I gave him a choice of a sport; I said do you want to try climbing or karate? He chose climbing. So he got into it and then I got into it and then I learned how to belay so I could belay him because he loved it so much. I wanted to get into it too and I got really into it. Three years I’ve been climbing.
Where did you grow up? Did you do any outdoor activities growing up?
Kristen: I was born in Pasadena and I grew up in Alhambra, California which is near Pasadena and I didn’t do any of these things. Occasionally I camped and that’s about it.
Why do you think it’s important for kids to get in the outdoors?
Kristen: I think it’s important for them to know that there is a space for them out there and we have to take care of it. It’s not great to stay inside all the time, it’s good to get out and enjoy the fresh air, enjoy what our world has to offer, and to teach them values and about nature and what it does for us and how we can preserve it.
How many people usually participate in your events?
Kristen: About 50 people. It’s crazy because a lot of these people do not even live in the city, they come and they visit the area because they hike and climb and camp, but when they come to our events, half of them don’t live in this area. People come from San Diego, Orange County, very far just to hike, camp, climb, and pick up trash. We had a Black Friday event and partnered with REI and we had about 60 people who came out. We had media, we had news coverage, it was pretty insane. People are usually shopping on Black Friday! But these people didn’t, they came out and dedicated 6 hours of their time to pick up trash here with me. I was shocked.
Where would you like to see Trail Mothers go in the future?
Kristen: Ever since COVID, things like grants have been put on hold. But moving forward, I want to offer more when people come to my events. I want to offer more education when it comes to Leave No Trace, maybe get everybody certified in CPR. Basically, bring education to the events so when we have our mom-only hikes we can teach them what to do when you’re alone, maybe self-defense. And when we do our kids events, I can hire Leave No Trace to do education, REI to come out and do education, I just want it to be very educational. In the past I would have people come and be like, bye thanks so much and that’s it. Now I want it to be like, thanks so much I hope you learned a lot.
Do you hope to get into other activities in the future with Trail Mothers?
Kristen: Last year we focused a lot on hiking, this year and next I want to focus on climbing. I want to partner with some other companies. I want to a mom and child to try something new and have it be like top roping or bouldering or mountain biking and learn how to ride a bike or different things like that. Maybe meet at the beach and learn to surf as a group.
What is Trek Kids?
Kristen: That’s going to be my son’s chapter. We wanted to create tiny leaders to host kid-led events. Liam and some other kids that have grown up together in this group said it would be cool to host an event and be the leaders and the parents help out. We thought of Trek Kids and we want to hopefully have events next year with kid-led hikes and get some of our kids to learn a little bit of LNT principals so they can educate kids who come to their events.
Find Trail Mothers on Instagram @trailmothers and @trekkidtm and Facebook @trailmothers.