Meetup, an online service that helps people with similar interests create and find events, carried no local listings under “Catholic.” That is, until about two months ago.

Undeterred, avid hiker and doctor Thomas Ungar decided to create the Catholic Hikers’ Club of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland to help more people of faith connect with each other and the great outdoors.

“Faith-based hiking groups are becoming increasingly popular in Europe,” Ungar told The B.C. Catholic.

But “unlike their great European counterparts such as the Alps, the Dolomites, the Tatra mountain ranges – that are riddled with roadside wells, shrines, and villages that tell stories of thousands of years of human history – our Cascade and Rocky Mountain ranges remain wild and ‘unbaptized.’”

For Ungar, who lives in Washington State and enjoys hiking north of the border, that carries a certain charm.

“This world is only a stone’s throw away from the concrete and noise of the city,” he said. “Enter this world and quickly find yourself off the grid, iPhone as useless as a pebble on the bottom of the marshy waters.”

Already, his new Catholic hikers’ club has 87 members. Their most recent adventure was a three-kilometre canoe trip followed by a hike to waterfalls near Pitt Lake June 8.

Before every hike, members of the club meet at St. Mary’s Church in Vancouver for Mass at 8:30 a.m.

“We do not require our Meetup members to be practising but do request they be mindful whether they are able to receive Our Lord in Communion,” said Ungar.

Catholic hikers ascend the trail to Widgeon Falls.

In a beautiful city like Vancouver, where outdoor activities abound and many people make and meet friends online, Ungar feels it is important to make a Catholic presence felt.

“Meetup is used to bring together groups of people with similar interest, and what better way to connect than through our common faith and love of hiking,” he said. “Our Hiker’s Club provides a much-needed Catholic presence on this site.”

More information about the club and upcoming hikes is available here:

Hiking Tips:

1. Be prepared. Bring the essentials: food, warm and extra clothing, flashlight, and water.

2. Read a description of the hike before embarking on it.

3. Make sure your ability matches the difficulty of the hike.

4. Travel in groups and let others know where you will hike and when you plan to return.

Thomas Ungar (right) created the hikers’ club about two months ago.