Children, Family, Hiking

National Trails Day: Introducing Kids to Hiking

introducing kids to hikingSaturday, June 3, 2017, is National Trails Day! National Trails Day—the first Saturday of June each year—is a nationally coordinated event created by the American Hiking Society to join all trail activities with the purpose to connect people to trails. Each trail invites adventure and has a story to share with people of all ages that are eager to find it. These trail encounters can improve the lives of every American.

Hiking offers all the benefits of being outdoors—sunshine, fresh air, and exercise. There are an infinite number of plants, animals, and insects to study. The geology of the hiking area and the natural environment are captivating and can make for a lifetime of learning. These benefits and more await your children on the hiking trail.

For the new hiker, day hikes can be a welcoming break from our technological dependent world. In fact, many people who take a day hike fall in love with it (Read: 26 Reasons People Fall in Love with Hiking). A day hike is short enough to be completed in a morning or long enough to span an entire day but before it gets dark. Children and parents are free to spend a few hours enjoying the natural environment around them. A little planning is needed to make for a comfortable and enjoyable hiking trip.

First, when planning a day hike match the trail conditions to your children’s physical abilities. Learn about the trail by using a trail guide or search online for the trail ratings. Changes in elevation can make it more difficult for children and those not in good physical condition.

Finding family-friendly hiking trails can be as easy as traveling to your closest state or local park. Trail maps—usually available from the park office—show distance, difficulty rating, and points of interest along the trail. If paper maps aren’t accessible, an enlarged map might be posted at the trailhead or park office. Many parks will also have well-marked trails specifying direction and distance.

Next, before hitting the trail, have a basic knowledge of plants that should be avoided. Be able to identify poisonous plants— poison ivy, poison oak, and others— so that they can be avoided. Knowing what to look for can help you and your children avoid uncomfortable or troublesome encounters.

While on the trail, engage your kids with the nature and geography around them. You could even make the hiking trip into a scavenger hunt game. Play in groups or individually with this FREE Scavenger Hunt Printable. Whoever finds the most (or all) the items at the end of the trip wins!

Finally, make sure that you have the day hiking essentials with you when you hit the trail. A backpack filled with snacks, bottled water, charged cellphone, a simple first aid kit, sunscreen, bug spray, and a map or guidebook is important to bring with you, even on a day hike. Also, make sure to wear appropriate clothing and shoes for the trail conditions. Being prepared will ensure that your family time on the trail is an enjoyable and delightful experience.

Try out hiking this weekend. You can find a National Trails Day event to match the interests and ability level of everyone in the family by visiting the National Trails Day website HERE. Happy Hiking!