Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Family Hiking 101

This is a guest post by Jennifer Chambers, founder of Hiking Along. Do you want to contribute to the Natural Capital? Email us at thenaturalcapital@gmail.com.


Do these questions or thoughts enter your mind when you think of a “family hike?”
  • How do I fit another activity into my overscheduled family calendar?
  • There are dangerous things in the woods.
  •  I don’t know where to go hiking. Where are the closest and best trails for my beginning family?
  • I have never been on a hike before. How do I start?
The word “hike” can be intimidating to parents. Some parents visualize scenes of skyscraper mountains, deep canyons and vast, never ending forests. Big scenes that can be a little scary. Some parents can’t visualize anything because they don’t have a point of reference or connection.

Let’s break the word down and use the less intimidating word of “walk.” More parents can visualize this word – a walk down their neighborhood street (with or without the dog), in a neighborhood park, or along the beach. These are known, provide a point of reference, and create a connection. Now, think of a walk in the woods, along a stream, to a pond, in a wetland, or many other possible places.

A hike is synonymous with it takes a long time to do - an all day event. Whereas a walk means a shorter period of time – an hour....When does your family have an hour in its schedule? Where is the nearest trail to walk for an hour?

A family hike in the woods in Bandelier National Monument
Photo credit: wfryer
Many sites or resources aren't geared to help families navigate which trails or “walks in the woods” are best for kids, but below are some.
Don’t feel comfortable taking your family for a walk in the woods because danger lurks around the next tree or you have never taken a hike? Don’t fear, Washington DC and many major cities have organizations that guide families to explore and experience fun adventures on kid-friendly trails. These hikes provide opportunities for parents to feel comfortable in an unfamiliar activity in an unknown place and everyone can participate in unstructured play in a structured event. There are many on the Natural Capital calendar, or check out this hike I'm leading.

Family Hiking 101: Exploration, Safety and Leave No Trace
Sunday, May 15, 2011
2:00 – 5:00 pm
Join two expert guides from Hiking Along and The North Face on a two mile circuit hike around the perimeter of Theodore Roosevelt Island. The trail is natural surface and raised walkways through two ecosystems, a deciduous forest and wetlands. The hike is great for children of all ages with fun natural playgrounds: rocks for climbing, water for skipping rocks, and the monument plaza for a game of hide and seek. While hiking, learn about hiking safety, Leave No Trace, and the plants and animals surrounding the trail. Enjoy an afternoon in the middle of the Potomac River engaging in the great outdoors! The cost is $15 per family. To register, email jennifer@hikingalong.com.


This spring, make it a family goal to venture outside of your familiar comfort zone and embark on a hike or a walk, if that word feels more comfortable. Seek out the extraordinary amount of resources available both on the web and with organizations whose mission it is to get more people, including families, outdoors. Hiking isn’t a scary word in your family? Then, step it up a notch and venture to adventure on a new level or outdoor activity. Happy trails!

3 comments:

Go Out and Play: Arlington said...

Hi there! Do you mind if I include the Family Hiking 101 as a something to do this weekend with kids on my blog? Sounds like fun!

Elizabeth | The Natural Capital said...

Sounds good -- I'm sure Jennifer would love the extra publicity!

Anonymous said...

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