Summer is the perfect time to take your kids hiking. Wendy Gorton, author of 50 Hikes with Kids, stopped by to share helpful tips to make the outings extra fun!
1. Make your own scavenger hunt: Write out three or four things you want each other to find on the trail -- maybe 3 different kinds of leaves, or at least 1 wildflower, or maybe steps. Challenge each other to find them while you're on the trail!
2. Days are long, nights are warm -- make a camp out of it! So many great trails have first backpacking opportunities -- stay the night up lakeside at Mirror Lake-- or a campground with full facilities right at the trailhead, like the Hardy Falls trailhead at Beacon Rock State Park.
3. Nature journaling: Consider getting a small empty book for your kids to document treasures and wonderings on the trail -- trace a leaf, make a swordfern sporeprint, or sketch a favorite scene or drop a funny quote someone said!
4. Bridge trolls, iSpy, and Pinecone Catch: Making up Games on the fly for Engagement: Every element on the trail is a chance to play-- play bridge troll when you come upon a bridge, iSpy for colors of wildflowers (identify just one flower on the trail before you go and delight it how often they find it!), and playing catch with pine-cones and noting what tree they came from are all fun ways to make longer and harder trials more accessible!
Some favorite hikes 90 minutes from Portland to try these strategies out on:
Hardy Falls and the Pool of the Winds in Beacon Rock State Park (2.6 mile out and back, two waterfalls and a pool)
- So many fun bridges, stumps to count, and make a wish in a pool!
Mirror Lake in Mt. Hood National Forest (3.4mile out and back, 694 elevation gain, Moderate for kids)
- Climb up and 'round a lake with Mt. Hood to greet you! Rhododendrons are fun for selfies!
Explore an Abandoned Mine at Henline Falls (1.9 miles out and back, 215 feet)
- History and imagining what life was like when mining for minerals is always fun-- this short trail leads to big payoffs by letting kids walk directly into a (safe) mine adit (opening) AND get the spray of a waterfall that used to power its hydraulics!