As a recent North Country transplant looking to recreate with others, I joined a Facebook group that had organized meetups of NH48 hikes. The group, known as “Hiking Buddies NH 48” is some 11,000 members deep and is a well-run meetup machine with a focus on safety, connection, and support. Just scroll through the myriad of photos of happy faces hiking and you too will want to be among the strangers turned friends. But the community is so much more than outdoor enthusiasts looking for others to hike with. For one, it recently raised over $75,000 for 48 Peaks, a fundraising event for the Alzheimer’s Association’s The Longest Day. I spoke recently with the group’s creator and admin, Ben Pease, to talk about the community and the fundraising force it has become.

NH 48 Buddy Hike. Photo provided by Ben Pease

goEast: Ben! Thanks for meeting up today. Let’s start with an explanation to readers of what the Hiking Buddies NH 48 Facebook group is all about.

Ben: At its most basic level, the group is first and foremost about connecting people. Our original motto was “Make friends. Hike stuff” and the order of those two objectives was purposeful. When our members set up or join an open hike (which we call a ‘buddy hike’), they are generally looking for people to share the experience with. Typically, as they trek up the mountain, they want some company to converse with. When they get to the summit, they want friends to celebrate with. And afterwards, they sometimes want a group to get a burger with. For many, Hiking Buddies NH 48 has changed hiking from a purely solo activity into a social activity. While there is value in both solo and group hiking, they provide a very different experience. I think most of our members would say that on the drive home (and the days and weeks following), the memories that make them smile are not just the summit, but sharing the experience among new friends and looking forward to seeing them again.

goEast: What prompted the creation of it? Did you foresee it becoming what it is today?

Ben: The group was created less than two years ago, and honestly, I was not much of a hiker at that time. I think I only hiked 5 times in my life, in fact. So, I was a fairly unlikely guy to start a hiking group. So how did it start? Well, when the pandemic was a few months in, I rented a Condo in Bretton Woods to change my scenery for a few days. On a particularly boring rainy afternoon, I picked up a book on the shelf about the 48 4000 Footers of New Hampshire. I am ashamed to admit I had never heard of them! I read a few chapters, was very intrigued, and realized I had actually hiked a few of the 48 a couple years earlier by pure chance. In a moment of over-ambition, I threw caution to the wind and yelled to my wife in the other room, “hey honey, I think I’m gonna climb the 48 4000 footers in NH”. I sorta got a ‘sure you are…” type of response, which ultimately meant ‘Game On’ to my over-zealous pride. The next day I drove over to Hale around noon to start my epic journey of adventure and excitement. Well, the road was closed. My hike started just trying to get to my hike. I was pathetically tired of walking by the time I got to the trailhead. But, me and my out-of-shape body hiked to the top. And I never saw a single soul the entire way. Frankly, for a type-A person who gets energy from being around others, I immediately began contemplating how I was going to wiggle myself out of my prior-day announcement. How was I going to hike all these mountains alone? I barely made it up Hale without dieing of boredom, I clearly wasn’t made for solo hiking! How was I going to survive 40+ more hikes? On the way down the mountain, I thought about starting a Facebook group to try to find 15-20 people also hiking the 48, that might be interested in setting up some day hikes together. So I gave it a goofy name, and set it up. A year later I finished the 48, had hiked with over 50 new people in person, and the group had ballooned to about 5,000. Today, we have crossed 11,000 members of varying ability and have 5-15 buddy hikes set up every week. So, to answer your question, no…I never expected this group to become what it has become. But when I see the friendships on and off the mountain that have resulted from it, I am sure glad it did.

goEast: What would you tell someone who is thinking about joining a group hike but has hesitation? What is one thing you want everyone to know about the group?

Ben: That is the experience of almost all people who have been on a buddy hike. Sometimes taking a leap to meet strangers and climb a mountain together isn’t something people decide on a whim. I’d encourage people to just stalk the page for a bit. Check out the pictures, read the stories, watch the summit dance party videos, and notice the smiles. It can be a great encouragement. Further, it helps people get over the stigma of not being fast enough, good enough, or experienced enough to join. There are fast hikes, slow hikes, turtle hikes, and more. We only ask that you prepare, pack the essentials, and do your research about the trail. Most of that is pretty easy to google. And, while we can’t vet every person in the Facebook group, nor do we claim to, we do encourage all hikers to set up minimum groups of 3 or 4 when meeting new people to ensure comfort for all.

A buddy pack out in the wild.

goEast: How do you approach LNT concerns with groups?

Ben: Most of our groups run from 3 to 6 people. We have a max group rule of 10 people and have broken up groups (pre-hike) a number of times to avoid any groups larger than that. There have been a few times in the past two years where this rule has been broken (unintentionally) but we have spoken to the people who set up the hike and explained the rule – and that another offense would result in removal from our group. We do our best to encourage LNT rules (generally speaking) and most hikers who I have experienced hiking with in our group abide by LNT. That said, we can only set the expectation, LNT is a personal responsibility that each of us must commit to and we believe everyone should.

goEast: How did the group become involved with the 48 Peaks fundraiser? And $75,000 raised— Tell us more.

Ben: We are asked several times a week to allow posts for very worthwhile fundraisers, activities, political groups, local groups, and more. While we want to support everything and everyone, we made the decision to avoid turning the page into a frequent request for donations so that we could stay focused on our purpose; connecting people for hikes. In fact, we have fairly strict posting rules. That said, as the group got larger I thought it was too impactful to not use it for good. The other admins and I decided to focus on one charity annually. Last year, on Sept 11th, we held our first in-person outdoor event with live music and games at a brewery and made a donation to Tuesday’s Children, supporting the families of those lost on 9/11. This year, we were approached by Meghan at the Alzheimer’s Association and her persistence paid off. The ‘fit’ was perfect for the group as it allowed us to do what we are very good at doing already; setting up group hikes and connecting people. And, personally, I lost my grandfather to Alzheimer’s and so the cause holds a special place in my heart. That all said, the $75,000 and success that we have had really has 100% to do with the amazing members of our group. My goal was $10,000 and 10 teams. Because of how amazing the Hiking Buddies members are, we have over 20 teams and have raised over $75,000 and still going. Hikers are a very special breed, and I think our group has some of the best people in the world. The hikers I have met through Hiking Buddies NH 48 have huge hearts. It must have something to do with trail laughter and that sweet mountain air.

goEast: We are so excited for your fundraising accomplishment and look forward to seeing all of your teams out there this summer painting the White Mountains purple.

Ben: Thank you, we are excited as well. And if you are reading this, please join us by donating to this wonderful cause.

To learn more about the 48 Peaks fundraiser and get involved, visit

To join Hiking Buddies NH 48, request admittance via Facebook here.