On Saturday the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) invites families to take a hike on the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) ATC invites people of all ages and hiking abilities to get outside and experience the adventure of being active on the Trail.
Held on National Public Lands Day, Family Hiking Day is an opportunity to introduce your children to America’s premier footpath and all of the benefits that come from being active and spending time outdoors.
Never been on the Trail before?
Planning a family hike requires a different approach than planning a hike for adults. Even experienced hikers may not be prepared for the needs of children. Below are some tips for planning a family hike.
As noted above, choosing a hike depends upon the age and experience of the children in your family.
- Consider a maximum of three or four miles for an all-ages hike
- Especially when very young children are participating, aim for loop hikes or out-and-back hikes rather than shuttles that are difficult, or impossible, for juggling car seats
When hiking with children or inexperienced hikers, don’t be afraid to change your plans – in fact, try to build options into your hike that will allow you to adapt if needed. Don’t wear them out on their first time. Make them feel like they can do it.
- It’s the journey, not the destination. Be willing to modify the hike. If you planned a four mile hike that was an out-and-back and the pace of toddlers means you are only going to walk half the distance, do so without making it feel like a concession. Adjust the hike to the comfort and enjoyment of all participants.
- Be flexible enough to stop and explore the natural world along the way – animal tracks, frogs, turtles, mushrooms, ants, flowers, wild raspberries, or evidence of beavers. Compare different ecosystems you pass through – a meadow, deciduous forest, or a pond.
Hiking with children requires additional preparation before the hike, and careful attention to hikers during the hike.
- Make frequent stops to rest and refuel.
- Set ground rules that includes who is the leader and who is the sweep.
- If toddlers or very young children are participating, the pace may really slow significantly as they explore everything; go at a speed that is comfortable to everybody.
- Adapt your first aid kit for youth and first-time hikers. Add children’s sunscreen, children’s Tylenol, liquid antihistamine, Band-Aids, tweezers, hand sanitizer, blister treatment (moleskin, etc)
- Children are especially susceptible to sun exposure and exhaustion; this makes frequent snack and water breaks all the more important.
Local hikes along the Appalachian Trail include Dunn Falls off the East B Hill Road in Andover and The Eyebrow in Grafton Notch.
Dunn Notch/Falls: Easy to Moderate, two miles round trip with waterfall attraction. Directions: Trailhead is eight miles north of Andover on East B Hill Road. Walk south on the A.T. from East B Hill Road. The trail will cross a brook and enter Dunn Notch. At mile 0.8, reac the West Branch of the Ellis River. An old tote road leads down to the bottom of the lower falls. By following the river upstream for 0.2 mile, you can reach the upper falls. Retrace your steps to return.
The Eyebrow: 2.2 mile round trip and moderate to strenuous (short, but steep in sections). Directions: The parking lot in Grafton Notch is 13 miles north on ME 26 from Route 2 at Newry Corner. From the trailhead follow the A.T. south. At 0.1 mile, reach the lower end of the Eyebrow Trail. Continue following the A.T. for 1.1 miles to the junction with the upper end of the Eyebrow Trail. Follow the Eyebrow Trail and reach the Eyebrow in 0.1 mile. After taking in the fine view, return via the Lower Eyebrow Trail. This section of the trail will lead you back to the A.T. in 0.75 mile. The lower Eyebrow Trail joins the A.T. 0.1 mile from the parking area. Steel supports and cable are anchored in the steepest section with ladder handholds to guide you across the granite ledge with a view of the Baldpates to the East. HIKE NOT RECOMMENDED FOR SMALL CHILDREN.