According to Outdoor Foundation’s 2022 Outdoor Participation Trends Report more than half (54 percent) of Americans ages six and over participated in at least one outdoor activity in 2021, and the outdoor recreation participant base grew 2.2 percent during 2021 to 164.2 million participants. However, the number did not fundamentally change long-term declines in high frequency or “core” outdoor participation.

“We know spending time outdoors brings many benefits to individuals and society, including improved mental and physical health, job creation and economic growth, as well as increased stewardship for our lands and waters,” said Kent Ebersole, OIA interim executive director. “While the historic growth we see in this report is encouraging, we must continue taking action to help more individuals and families build life-long relationships with the outdoors so that our communities, environment and businesses continue to thrive.”

Additional key findings include:

  • Outdoor recreation participant base grew again in 2021. The outdoor participant base has increased by 6.9 percent since the pandemic started in early 2020. 
  • Youth participation is climbing, but the frequency of participation has declined.
  • New outdoor participants are more diverse than the overall outdoor participant base not only by ethnicity but also across age groups.
  • High frequency or “core” participation in outdoor recreation has declied. The outdoor recreation “core” participant, defined as someone who participates 51 times or more in outdoor recreation activities in the past 12 months, has declined from 71.9 percent in 2007 to 58.7 percent of the participant base in 2021. The number of core participants has declined from 99.5 million in 2007 to 96.4 million today.
  • The number of participants 55 years and older increased by more than 14 percent since 2019. Senior participants ages 65 and older were in the fastest growing age category with 16.9 percent growth since the COVID pandemic began in early 2020.
  • Despite increases in the number of participants, the number of outdoor outings is declining significantly. The number of outings has been in decline for the past decade and the increased number of participants are not stemming the tide.

“Data in this year’s report reinforces the important need to continue supporting efforts that help create repeat and reinforcing outdoor experiences for youth and families,” said Stephanie Maez, Outdoor Foundation Executive Director. “Working together across industry sectors and through philanthropy, outdoor programming, and public policy can move the needle on these issues. The Outdoor Foundation will continue in its mission to catalyze collective action to address equity barriers and help make the outdoors accessible for all.”

The Outdoor Foundation has developed the Outdoor Participation Trends Report for 15 years. The annual report examines the demographics of the outdoor participant—defined as someone who participated in an outdoor activity at least one time in the past year. The survey reflects data gathered during the 2021 calendar year and garnered a total of 18,000 online interviews consisting of people ages six and older. 

Outdoor Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Outdoor Industry Association (OIA).