When it comes to planning family weekend activities, parents often have good intentions. You might consider going to the movies or visiting one of our excellent local museums, but end up settling for a trip to the mall. While it’s close and convenient, and you can get two things done shopping and spending time with your family, have you considered the advantages of a family hike in a nearby park?
The warmer weather and approaching spring days are ideal for getting outside and connecting with Mother Nature. Your children will enjoy exploring trails and looking for wildlife and wildflowers. Getting your hands dirty is a bonus!
A hiking excursion can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Hiking can be as simple as a stroll, a healthy stride, an exploration game like “I Spy,” as well as scavenger or treasure hunts. Geocaching and letterboxing are ideal for tromping through the wilderness for added adventure. In fact, they are some of the hottest trends in hiking, transforming a simple hike into a full-day adventure.
Letterboxing is a great activity for families who want to exercise outside. It combines treasure hunting and detective work set in the great outdoors.
Letterboxing entails deciphering a series of clues. The message directs you to a box hidden outside, possibly in the woods, on a nature trail, or in a nearby park. There will be a stamp, a notebook, and possibly other discoveries inside the box. Participants use the enclosed stamp to mark both their own notebook and the box’s logbook. As a result, the box reveals a record of all its visitors, and letterbox hunters keep track of all the boxes they’ve discovered. It’s an excellent activity for introducing your children to the joys of hiking!
Geocaching, similar to letterboxing but with a high-tech twist, is a game of finding a “geocache” (a hidden container) using a GPS device. It’s a popular game all over the world. Go to a website like Geocaching.com and enter your ZIP code to find a geocache near you. Players are frequently required to traverse parks, woods, streams, and other terrains in order to locate the geocache. There are several ways to play the game, but using nature as a backdrop is an excellent combination of hiking, exercise, and adventure.
Start with a shorter excursion if your family has never gone on a hiking trip in the wilderness. You can go out for two hours to a full day, depending on your children’s ages. The key is preparation – and some forethought.
First, decide where you want to hike and familiarize yourself with the terrain.
A quick online search can reveal local nature trails (Hiking Michigan is a good place to start) or Huron-Clinton Metroparks that are ideal for hiking. Seasonal activities, family-friendly trails, and even printable trail maps are frequently mentioned. Many parks also have rangers who can provide additional information about the park’s best trails and sights.
Your enjoyment will be directly proportional to how well you plan your first outing! So bring appropriate shoes, clothing, and other equipment, such as bug repellant, sunscreen, a spare set of car keys, a fully charged cell phone, a map, and other useful resources. Bring snacks and water to keep your family energized and hydrated as well.
Of course, when communing with nature, there is always the risk of an accident. Hikes closer to home are preferable until parents have some first-aid knowledge.
It’s also a good idea to be familiar with the plants and animals you might come across – which you should avoid. Hikers with the right information can avoid blisters, rashes, sunburns, bites, and other injuries that can ruin the day’s hike and discourage future hikes.
You’ll also need to know where the restrooms or outhouses are. Also, have a plan in place in case of a bathroom emergency.
Finally, dress your children in brightly colored clothing, so the vegetation does not easily camouflage them if they become lost.
Making the journey.
Working towards a specific landmark is a great idea for families who are just starting out hiking. If you have a worthwhile destination in mind, such as a historic site, a special bend in the river, or a beautiful hilltop or vista, your family will feel a sense of accomplishment once you arrive. However, keep your goals in check, especially in light of your children’s ages and abilities.
Aside from some basic planning, there are no rules to hiking with your family other than to have fun and enjoy your outdoor adventure. However, being aware of your children’s energy level, enthusiasm, and mindset will aid in making the day enjoyable.
There are longer outings that provide inexpensive but enjoyable ways to experience nature after you graduate from day hikes. Longer hiking trips come in a variety of shapes and sizes, making them suitable for families of any disposition or proclivity.
Volunteer vacations that combine hiking and volunteering are also available. Volunteer Vacations are a great, inexpensive way to see the country while doing something good for the earth and the soul as Americans become more concerned about the health of their finances as well as the health of their environment.
Trips range from easy to strenuous, and many require no prior experience. Some are specially designed for families who can participate in volunteer projects and cabin stays, as well as more physically demanding hikes to base camps with backpacks. Typical trips last one week, during which volunteers aged 18 to 80 work on trails, get to know their fellow crewmates, and spend their free time enjoying campfires, outdoor cooking, and exploring.
Most kids enjoy being outside, and any hike through woods and trails is likely to pique their interest. Hiking, on the other hand, involves valuable family time, not to mention group exercise.
Consider hiking when planning your next family activity, whether it’s a two-hour hike in the woods or a weeklong camping trip. With a bit of creativity and planning, you’re likely to discover a new hobby that provides a variety of experiences and can lead to future adventures with nature.