Cooler to cold weather means cabin fever. But as long as temperatures are still in the 60s, you're still outside! And as easy as it is to explore around home, seeking hiking adventures elsewhere is a sure-fire way to ramp up the adventure factor in the family.
By no means do you need to be professional hikers, especially with kids. Just simply enjoy getting out, exploring, checking out beautiful scenery, experiencing natural wonders and teaching your children to respect nature.
And there are three things you should consider first before hitting the trails with kids this autumn.
First, choose a trail that's easy to moderate (at least at first and until your children get used to hiking). Second, keep the mileage low (a one- to two-mile hike with little kids is a safe bet). And third, know your location—one that's easy to get to, kid-friendly, and with trails that start not too far from where you park the car.
Oh, and don't forget your camera!
Depending on the age of your children, it's probably best to plan your trip for first thing in the morning when they have the most energy. Or, if you have a baby that naps in the afternoon and is small enough to carry, then plan your trip around that late-day nap time so your baby can snooze while you hike.
This is probably a no-brainer, but plan on taking lots of short breaks (think photo opps if you remember your camera) and pack plenty of drinks and snacks. We all know it's not fun being around a hungry, tired kid and this can come quite often even on a leisurely hike. When you're on a break, seek out some interesting plants or rocks for your kids. Teach them what poison ivy looks like. Choose a trail near a waterfall or stream and plan your stops accordingly. Look for interesting creatures and wildlife.
And while you're hiking, don't forget to make it fun. That shouldn't be hard with kids who are always looking for new things and adventures. Help them out by creating a scavenger hunt. Sing songs. Play "I-Spy." Identify things (maybe bring along a guide book or two that helps describe trees, plants, flowers, and insects).
It's so easy to get creative on the trails—you can even turn a lesson of good outdoor ethics into a game. Teach your children to respect nature and other hikers. Explore and touch but don't destroy or take. Stay on the trails, don't throw rocks, break tree branches, pick flowers, carve into tree bark, or write on rocks. Don't litter, and keep loud noises—and yelling—to a minimum.