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Outdoor participation continues to grow at record levels. More than half (54%) of Americans ages 6 and over participated in at least one outdoor activity in 2021, and the outdoor recreation participant base grew 2.2% in 2021 to 164.2M participants. This growing number of outdoor enthusiasts, however, did not fundamentally alter long-term declines in high frequency or “core” outdoor participation. Additional key findings of the report include the following:
  • The outdoor recreation participant base grew again in 2021. The Outdoor participant base has increased 6.9% since the COVID pandemic began in early 2020. Although many of the official restrictions on indoor entertainment including restaurants, bars, and sporting events ended in 2021, outdoor recreation participation continued to grow.
  • Youth participation is climbing but the frequency of their participation is declining.
  • New outdoor participants are more diverse than the overall outdoor participant base and are driving increasing diversity not only by ethnicity but also across age groups.
  • Hi frequency or “core” participation in outdoor recreation is declining. 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% in 2007 to 58.7% of the participant base in 2021. In fact, the number of core participants has declined from 99.5M in 2007 to 96.4M today.
  • The number of participants 55 years and older increased more than 14% since 2019, and senior participants ages 65 and older were in the fastest growing age category with 16.9% 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.
The Outdoor Foundation has developed the Outdoor Participation Trends Report for 15 years. The annual report examines 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.