Hobbies on a Budget: Beginners guide to hiking with families

By SHARON WILLIAMS
Contributing columnist
If you have been thinking about going hiking with your kids, this is a great time of year to get started.   Take advantage of the long lazy days of summer and get out and explore the great outdoors with your kids!
Start Small & Go Early:  For seasoned hikers it’s no big deal to think about taking an all day hike out into the unknown woods; but for beginners with children, it’s better to start small. Look for hikes that are rated easy to moderate with distances less than 2 miles.
Because the sun comes up so early in the summer months, there is plenty of light so you can start your hike early before the heat cranks up. We love getting out on the trail right after breakfast so we can be out to our waterfall and back before the heat of the afternoon.
Stick with the Popular Trails:  There are hundreds of popular hiking trails in Kentucky that are great for beginners and families. The popular trails will typically be well marked with colored spots on trees, numbered markers, and will have full parking lots. Trails that are clearly marked make it more comfortable with kids because there is little to no chance of getting lost.
Take a Map (or take a picture): Most hiking spots will have a map display at the trailhead. Some will have printed maps for hikers to take with them. If yours doesn’t have a printable map, use your phone to take a picture of the map before you head out on the trail. This will keep you from getting lost once you are out in the woods.
Hike in any weather: Just because the weather may be dreary, or overcast, don’t think your hiking adventure is out. We have found some of the best hiking adventures to be on non-traditional hiking days. Some of our most memorable hikes have been when there is snow on the trails, waterfalls have turned to ice or right after a rain. Just make sure you dress warm enough for the trip and wear proper shoes that will give you grip on muddy trails.
Tip: Carry a backpack so you can pack dry socks for each member of the family in case you slip in the mud, splash in a creek or decide to go wading.
Talk to other Hikers:  As you are out hiking, talk to other hikers you pass. They can often share tips for how to get to waterfalls, stone arches or overlooks. When we were out on a recent hike in McCreary County and couldn’t find Lick Creek Falls, we talked to some backpackers who gladly shared the tips and directions to the elusive waterfall.
Tell a Friend:  Always make sure someone knows where you are going to be hiking before you head out. If there is a log in book at the trail head, take 2 minutes to sign your name and the time you start the hike.
Ask the Experts: If there is a visitor’s center, stop and talk to the park rangers before you head out on the hike.
Pack some Snacks: Don’t forget to pack some extra snacks. Even if you only plan on hiking a short trail, you may lose track of time or find something unique to explore. Always take a backpack with snack bars and drinks for the whole family in case your hike lasts longer than you plan.
Take your time:  Kids don’t get in a hurry like adults.  Let them take their time and explore along the trail.  Look for cool rocks, acorns and frogs along the trail.  Enjoy fun picture opps along the path and enjoy every moment as you wander down the trail.
What’s your favorite hiking trail or tip? I’d love to hear!
For more ideas on hobbies and life, check out Hobbies on a Budget (www.hobbiesonabudget.com).