Board of Directors Feature: Jeff Hayward

We're excited to continue introducing the new members of American Hiking Society's Board of Directors; next up on the introduction trail is Jeff Hayward!

Jeff Hayward was born and raised in South Dakota and lives in Sioux Falls. Jeff is the co-founder and CEO of Dakota Adventure Supply, an outdoor gear brand that promotes camaraderie through adventure and outdoor experiences. Jeff is also a program manager at Startup Sioux Falls, where he leads business accelerator programming and the EIR (Entrepreneur in Residence) operations, empowering founders, with a focus on underserved communities. He comes to American Hiking with a strong background in economic and community development, youth advocacy, marketing, and of course a love for the outdoors!

Coming back to the trails

One theme Jeff highlighted in his recent conversations with members of American Hiking was the idea that even if people step away from the outdoors for a while, there is always a chance to come back. “I had stepped away for a number of years. I would still get out outside a few times a year and get a hike in here and there, but then there were a number of years where I just didn't. It's been in the last two or three that I've had the opportunity to reconnect with some old friends who really re-inspired that passion in me.” 

Getting back in touch with Paxton, one of his friends from the Boy Scouts, not only helped to bring Jeff back to the trails, but their shared time together in the outdoors led them to launch their new business, Dakota Adventure Supply, as a way to mindfully reengage with the outdoor lifestyle. The decision to realign his life to be more fully focused on the outdoors, coupled with his long time commitment to service — and seasoned with a dash of stories shared by another Eagle Scout friend and AHS Board Member Matt Griffis — was what ultimately brought Jeff to American Hiking.


Highlights from conversations with Jeff:


What is one of your most memorable hiking experiences?

“I kind of want to tell a story about my wife. I will. I'll do it. So we were hiking the Crow Peak Trail in the Black Hills. It's a challenging hike. It was a little bit beyond the comfort zone of my wife, Kristin. She was struggling through some parts of it, but the group was really encouraging her. It was just that opportunity where she hit her line of what she felt her appropriate edge and comfort zone was, but then she persevered and got through it. We had a little celebration at the top.”


What is some of the most important work American Hiking does or should be doing, and what aspects of our work interest you the most?

“I did not, and this is 15 years of working with underserved communities, I just did not consider how inaccessible this activity is to many people. I'm incredibly impressed by this organization having gone through that process of really identifying these needs. It takes an effort to make sure that it's available to everybody. It's not just as easy as saying, ‘oh, the gates are open.’ It's something that takes active participation and work to allow others to access that. I think that it’s incredibly powerful work and the (JEDI) focus should continue.”


What advice would you give to someone who is new to hiking?

“It would really come down to just don't get discouraged. I think part of it is dip your toes. You don't need to go hike up a mountain on day one. It's really important to find what your appropriate and personal edge is, where's your comfort zone, and push yourself past that just a little bit. Then, the next time you go out, try to to push your boundary just a little bit further. But beyond that, just have a good time.”


If you had to pick one, would you pick Mountain Peak, Lakeside Valley, or Desert Canyon?

“I just came back from the desert and I fell in love with it. So I'm gonna say Desert Canyon. I loved it in Arizona. It was just beautiful. I need to explore that part of the country more.”


Is there anything else you want to share with our community about yourself?

“It's never too late to start enjoying this hobby. My passions in the last couple of years have really centered around shared experiences with people and shared experiences through adventure. I just want to encourage people to do that, and being a part of the AHS Board is an incredible opportunity to do so.”

We look forward to many more conversations with Jeff Hayward and ask you to welcome him and also to join him in American Hiking’s collaborative efforts to make the outdoors more accessible to all.

Jeff’s Favorite Hikes:

Centennial Trail, Black Hills, South Dakota

Flatiron via Syphon Draw, Apache Junction, Arizona

Black Elk Peak, Black Hills, South Dakota


During the next few weeks, we will continue to highlight our newest Board Members, sharing what brought them each to American Hiking and their insights on why sharing and preserving the hiking experience is so important. Stay tuned for our next introduction!