Hiking fun for the family

It’s summer and there’s nothing better than exploring the great outdoors, especially with kids! Learn about hiking in Michigan, tips for having family fun while hiking and resources to keep everyone busy.

It’s summer and there’s nothing better than exploring the great outdoors, especially with kids!  Hiking is a great way to exercise and works almost every muscle group in the body including legs, arms, abdominals and even the neck and shoulders.  For families, hiking can be an amazing adventure to explore natural resources, learn about safety and orienteering, discover how plants and animals live in different environments, and much more!

Hiking with kids in Michigan can be great for the new hiker or the experienced hiker. According to Pure Michigan, many of Michigan’s state parks and recreation areas offer designated hiking trails. Michigan Hiking and Backpacking Clubs also provide numerous opportunities for group and family hiking experiences. Families can search for the following information about hiking in Michigan:

  • Statewide hiking listings
  • Find a trail by activity, park, region or county
  • Michigan trails finder map
  • Lower Michigan trial information
  • Trail and pathway search

Once you have found the hike that you’d like to go on with your kids, Michigan State University Extension suggests treating every hike as a learning experience!  It’s important to keep hikes up-beat and fun, but relaxing yet adventurous, and educational yet exploratory.  For an adult who is planning a hike with kids, it is important to plan well to ensure the hike is successful and meets everyone’s expectations.  Below are 10 tips from The Wilderness Society to making a kid adventure fun for the whole family:

  1. Keep it easy and feature-friendly.
    Choose a hike that isn’t too long or strenuous for kids.  Remember to look for features that are exciting for kids such as a lake or stream.
  2. Time is your friend; plan for lots of it.
    Kids are natural explorers and there is a lot to discover. Allow them time to get their fill of the wilderness adventure.
  3. Prepare for anything.
    Anything can happen during a hike, but be prepared by packing some kid-friendly supplies such as wet wipes, tissues, lip balm, binoculars, magnifying glass, camera, field guide and a safety whistle.
  4. Dress for success.
    Make sure you and the kids are dressed in layers and don’t forget to bring some rain or wind clothes.  Proper hats, shoes and gloves are essential for a variety of terrains.  Don’t forget to pack a change of clothes for the car in case someone gets wet or muddy.
  5. Plan for frequent energy stops.
    Hiking takes energy!  Pack accordingly for several small snack and drink breaks. 
  6. Pick a leader and make sure to rotate.
    Kids love to be in charge and feel empowered, so let them take turns leading your family.  When the kids lead you will know that the pace is perfect for them and may keep arguments to a minimum when they know everyone will have a turn.
  7. Make it fun.
    Keep the kids motivated.  Sing songs, play games, create a scavenger hunt, count birds or flowers, and search for signs of wildlife.  The Appalachian Mountain Club, Washington Trails Association and Discover the Forest, a public service campaign, have more information about activities you can do with kids while hiking.
  8. Believe in the power of positive reinforcement.
    Don’t be afraid to give the kids positive reinforcements such as telling them how well they hike, how strong they look or how fast they are!  Kids need to know they are doing well, especially if it’s their first time hiking.
  9. Leave no trace.
    Teach the kids how to be good stewards of our land no matter how young or old they are.  Be sure to bring a gallon size bag with you to collect any trash from snacks.  Teach them the “pack it in, pack it out” concept to ensure they are bringing any trash they create on the trail back with them and disposing of it properly.
  10.  Hike often.
    Kids love doing things that are new, especially as a family!  Try a new trail, terrain, or pathway and start a family tradition of getting outside!

Whether you are a family who is thinking about hiking for the first time or a family who has put miles on their walking shoes, remember to keep your hike fun, adventurous and safe for everyone.  Don’t forget to bring a camera so you can capture those memories out on the trail!

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