Take a hike

Filed under: Activities: Babies


Fall isn't just here, it's settled in and made itself comfortable. In my part of the country, the long winter ahead is looming, which means getting outside as much as possible right now, before that long cold snap sets in is more important than ever. Hiking is the perfect family activity for fall. The air is crisp and cool, the fallen leaves are perfect for crunching or collecting, and the colors are just stunning.

Hiking doesn't have to mean rugged backwoods or deep wilderness. Many communities have trails running right through town, so families can choose the terrain that suits them. A paved trail is obviously important if you're pushing a stroller, while older kids might like the challenge of a geocaching -- a hiking scavenger hunt.
How to find a trail:

So you've never been hiking before, where to begin? Start by checking out what your community has to offer. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a great resource for local trails, and Trails.com will help you get your feet wet -- sometimes literally -- on a back country trail. Local Hikes details trails near metro areas, though it is far from all inclusive. Another option is visiting your local state park. Find your park online to learn more about local trails before you head out.

Geocaching:

Geocaching is a great way to add a little excitement and adventure to your hike. Using a hand-held GPS, hikers go on a scavenger hunt for "caches" that have been left behind by others in the woods or along a trail. Older kids and teens are sure to get into the hunt, but don't think that because your kids are little you can't enjoy the fun. Trails can be anywhere from difficult to easy, and you might be able to bring your stroller or put baby in a backpack.

Geocachers can go out hunting on their own, or participate a larger event. Learn more at Geocaching.com.

Hiking with children:

A short hike near your neighborhood doesn't require much planning, but taking a longer hike in deeper wilderness means being prepared, and that's especially true when you're bringing children along. Gorp has some excellent tips for parents who want to start hiking with their kids, including how NOT to get lost, keeping kids warm, and what to pack.

If you aren't already a hiker, kids don't need to go on long hikes in the deep woods to be happy. Spending an afternoon on a local city trail is sure to expose them to a variety of local flora and fauna, while encouraging a love of the great outdoors. If you're already an experienced hiker, you don't need to hang up your boots. By modifying your hikes to make the shorter, slower, and less strenuous, you can pass your love of hiking on to your little ones.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.