Thursday, May 17, 2012

hiking with little legs

A few months back I promised you to teach you.
to play.

Every time I post about hiking I get so many questions, so I will try my best to answer them.
 Let me know what else you would like me to cover--feel free to leave a question in the comments-I will see if I can cover it in a future post.

Today we're going to talk about hiking (short distances) with kids.
Short=you're out for a few hours. This might mean a half a mile, for us it was five.

Start sllllooooow.
We hiked all last summer and through the winter, so my kids' little legs took them 5 miles with no problems at all.
But if your kids are newer to hiking, especially if they are little, pick a scenic destination that can be reached at a shorter distance.

How do you find a trail? Google. It's so easy to find trail maps online. A lot of them will tell you how to get there, what you'll see, how far you'll go, and how hard it will be. I will always post trail information here in case you are local.

How to Play Outside: Hiking with Kids

Trail Stats:
 Bell Canyon Falls
trailhead: Sandy, Ut around 10245 South on Wasatch Blvd.
Distance: this was our first time on this trail and we logged 5 miles......but we overshot the falls a bit and headed up too high. The real hike is more around 4.5 miles round trip.
Elevation gain: we gained 1900 ft (including our extra 1/4 mile up)
Trail: Over half the trail was really (really!) rocky (see 4th photo from the bottom). Going up wasn't a problem at all--my kids love to climb. The going down part was a bit more slow, the trail was steep, slick, AND rocky, which lead to some interesting falls for little legs. Earlier on (right past Bell Canyon Reservoir) the trail was nice smooth single track. Perfect for little legs to run.
Destination: Bell Canyon Falls was BEAUTIFUL! We stopped at the falls, and sunned ourselves on the giant boulders near the water. It was the perfect place to rest and have a snack--the falls to our right, the valley to our left, and paragliders coming off the mountain above.
Worth mentioning: No dogs allowed on this trail. Sorry, Charly.
-It's a pretty popular hike--I think because the trailhead is right in town, and it's a fairly short hike with some awesome views. The trailhead parking lot fills up quickly.
-A lot of families with younger kids stop at the reservoir which is about a half mile from the trailhead--this is a great starter hike. (no swimming in the water, and catch and release fishing only)

You don't need much if you're only going to be out for a few hours. We checked the weather and there wasn't a cloud in sight so this time we didn't even bring along a jacket (if we are going to be out more than a few hours I ALWAYS carry jackets for all of us--even if the weather is nice)
We had a big lunch before we left, and we always pack lots of high calorie snacks, like granola bars, dried fruit, and trail mix.
Water water water. You can never have enough, even on a spring afternoon.
I have raved before about my kids Camelbaks--we love them. When they carry their own water it's a guarantee that they are drinking enough because they can drink whenever they want. The packs have a few small pockets so they can carry their own snacks (and garbage), and it's also getting them used to hiking with a pack so they can be ready for longer adventures.
I always bring a few bandaids, sunscreen, and chapstick--even for short hikes.
(I will post about gear for longer hikes on another post)
If you're headed out in summer months, always bring bug spray. You never know what you'll run in to. It was still very springy where we were hiking and there weren't any bugs out yet.

Wear what you like for yourself, but for my kids my all time favorite shoes are Keens.
They are comfortable, they protect their toes, let their feet breathe, and they are so durable. My kids wore them ALL spring/summer/fall last year and they are still in great shape.....if only their feet would stop growing! And believe me, we put these shoes to work! I cannot recommend them enough.
Please don't be the parents on the trail who have their kids in flip flops or any kind of cute or stylish shoe. Your kids will be MISERABLE. If their feet aren't comfortable, they won't be comfortable, and they aren't going to enjoy the hike (and neither will you).
Take care of their feet!

-find "joy in the journey". Don't just trudge along until you reach your destination.....enjoy your trip. identify bugs, birds, and plants. Explore rocks, streams, and trees.
-bring binoculars
-take lots of breaks. kids sometimes just need a few minutes to recharge......let them.
-let them help. have a trail map? let them carry it. show them your progress as they move along. kids LOVE to carry their own stuff--let them wear their own pack.

and as always.....take lots of photos...
Sign of an awesome afternoon......grubby little faces. The dirtier the better!
more helpful tips on hiking with kids here from REI

And if you leave this hike famished and are in the mood for good food, stop by Lone Star Taqueria (the fish tacos are my favorite!) They have outdoor seating and it's always packed with hikers and bikers, so no one will mind how filthy your feet are.

Enjoy your weekend--hopefully you can get outside to a trail.  I'll be catching up on some much needed girl time and a little R& know, running and rapelling.

Happy Weekend!

I'd love to hear any other questions you have about playing outside. And I'd love to get YOUR tips on hiking with little ones!


Unknown said...

Sheena your pics are gorge.

I took my 6month old on a few hikes (in a pack) last summer... even a brave 7 miler, I can't wait to get back out there!

Kris and Corissa said...

These tips are awesome! Thanks for sharing. I also just have to say I love that first picture, it seems like your kids are best friends. So cute!

Kimber said...

Sheena you just have the best insights, I seriously love it.

What shoes do you and your husband wear on most hikes? Do you wear those on all your hikes or just shorter ones?

Rachael said...

Gosh your hair is so long!
That's such a great idea though! I never thought to do that with kids. I wish there were trails to do with the kids I babysit...well, there is a parkway trail right by the water, but with one who is 4 and one who is 1...not sure that'll work out.
But I love that idea. And love the pictures, as always :)

Anonymous said...

if kids don't get grubby and muddy from playing outside, then they didn't do it right :)

Unknown said...

My parents took me for a ton of hikes as a kid. Their strategy: 1 snack for every mile. It worked like a charm & kept me going.

I spent about 5 years (late middle school into high school) hating to hike. None of my friends did, and I just wasn't into it. Now, though, I wish I could hike daily. Being outside is so rejuvenating!

Thanks for always reminding my why I love nature so much & for helping others learn to enjoy it, too.

Claire said...

My little girl is only two months old, but this post fired me up to start her hiking now! (In the front pack, of course.) thanks for these tips. I think they'll also work nicely for this new mama recovering from pregnancy.

Cassie said...

As a trying to reform couch potato mama, I have been waiting patiently for more "How to Play Outside" posts! Inspired, today we went on our first hike. We did a tiny 1/4 mile trail at a local park that goes by a waterfall. I was pleasently surprised to find that there are 4 (and maybe more) trails that offshoot from it and lead to who knows where! We didn't have time for them today, but we made plans to return!

We followed up our first hike with a picnic and then a run through the splash pad! What a great day!