This post was recently published as an Adventure Moms blog at Women’s Adventure Magazine! In addition to tips for making the most of family time on the trail, there are recommendations for short hikes in California, Colorado and Pennsylvania.
It’s timely, and I hope you enjoy it.
Keep Family Hiking Fun!
Once they could speak, and think for themselves, they began questioning the wisdom of hiking: Why should we walk so far? What are we going to see? Will this be fun?
Rather than continue our goal-oriented approach to hiking (miles, baby, miles), we adapted our trail style to accommodate our kids’ need for adventure.
Here are the best tips we’ve learned.
Kids thrive on adventure, so when picking a trail, look for kid-friendly features. Choose trails that offer a variety of experiences along the route, not just at the end. Trails that wind along streams and crashing waterfalls, that open from dark forest into wide open meadows (perfect for lying down and watching the clouds drift by!) or traverse steep canyons with fantastical rock formations are good choices.
So are trails that offer evidence of local history and days gone by.
Children hike to explore, not to lay down miles or earn bragging rights. They don’t care how many calories they’re burning nor how many vertical feet they’ll claim. Plan on, and encourage, detours, diversions and distractions. Follow your child’s lead and natural desire to wander and explore. You may not reach the end of the trail, but you’ll have better experience together.
Let your child be the trail boss and enjoy the slower, more attentive, pace.
Plan and Prepare
Caught up in the excitement of an outing, I forget everything from my sunglasses to my kid’s shoes. Planning ahead, and prepacking, helps a lot.
Keep a day pack ready for your expeditions. Fill it with snacks, basic first-aid, sunscreen, extra socks and, if you’re on unknown ground, a map or GPS. Keep your water bottles handy and ready to fill. Make sure your kids have appropriate shoes, and don’t forget additional clothes if the weather looks iffy. Let someone know where you’re headed and when you’ll be back.
Some Favorite Hikes
No matter where you live, north, south, east or west, great hikes abound. Look for trails along urban lake fronts and rivers, in National and state parks and on other public lands.
Here are three of our favorites from west to east.
Eagle Falls Trail, Lake Tahoe, California
This beautiful trail starts at the picnic area across from Emerald Bay near South Lake Tahoe. It’s one mile to lovely Eagle Lake and the trail crosses a footbridge at Eagle Falls, only 1/3 mile into the journey. This is the first hike our oldest son did independently. While we carried him up, he walked all the way down a week before his 2nd birthday.
The Trail Through Time, Mesa County, Colorado
A 1.5 mile loop adjacent to an active dinosaur quarry, this interpretive trail winds among intact plant and animal fossils. It’s a 140 million year-old treasure hunt. Paleontologists are often working at the quarry, and, of course, disturbing the fossils is forbidden. Summer gets too hot, so this is definitely an April or May (or Fall) proposition.
Wissahickon Valley Trail, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The leafy tree canopy provides plenty of shade and there is even a covered bridge along the trail’s more remote reaches. The Wissahickon Valley Trail can be accessed from several points in and near Philadelphia.
What are your favorite family hikes? Please share!
- For Hiker’s Of All Ages: Moab’s Corona Arch, August 29, 2012.
- Grow Your Own Junior Ranger, July 18, 2012.
- Family Hiking, Camping and Getting Outside: Tales from Two Mamas, June 27, 2012.
- Family Hikes at Some Favorite Resorts, June 14, 2012.
- Telluride’s Bear Creek Trail: Family Perfect, June 7, 2012.
- Climb High and Touch the Ski: Hiking Courthouse Mountain in Colorado’s Cimarron Range, September 15, 2011.
- Getting Outside: Family Hiking on the Colorado National Monument, June 23, 2011.
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