Great Advice From Roger Lohr, Publisher of

There’s no better way to enjoy the outdoors than hiking on a trail alone or with your friends or family. Whether you are a first time hiker or a walking aficionado, hiking with the family provides quality time together, allows the family to grow closer, develops life-long memories, and introduces the next generation to the outdoors. It’s no wonder that statistics show that nationally more than 34 million people went hiking in the year 2013 and that has remained somewhat consistent in the last few years.

Family hiking in Smuggler's Notch is a perfect summer vacation. Credit:
Family hiking in Smuggler’s Notch is a perfect summer vacation.

You don’t need to walk very far to experience the joys of being outdoors with your kids or grandkids. It’s about discovery and having fun. For parents taking their kids on a hike, it is recommended that the child’s early experiences be positive, so avoid plans to reach that favorite spot or the top of the mountain. Keep it simple by being flexible and adaptive to make sure the younger ones have a good time.

Perhaps short hikes at first near home or a local park will provide a positive experience. Bring a snack, water, and invite your kid’s playmate. They can find joy in clouds, flowers, tadpoles, splashing water, getting dirty, colorful bugs, etc. but you don’t want them to get sunburned, hungry, thirsty, or exhausted.

Safety and Other Considerations on a Hike

Be careful of rocks, rubble, brush piles, or fallen logs where kids might lose their footing, sprain an ankle, or take a fall. Tell kids not to drink the stream water or eat berries or mushrooms, and the rule with poison ivy, oak, and sumac is “leaves of three, let it be.” Be wary of places where bees and wasps might nest.

Wearing bright clothing is a good idea so you are easy to see and find if lost. Layer clothing, and be prepared for weather changes. Synthetic clothing (such as a capilene shirt or a pile jacket) is lighter, a good insulator, and dries faster. Socks and supportive boots are important. Traditionally hiking socks were made of heavy wool but more recently socks that are made of a variety of materials that provide warmth, durability and keep your foot dry. Hiking boots are not required but they can help kids feel like explorers.

A list of items that could be useful on the trail includes: signal device (whistle, mirror), water bottle, emergency blanket, map, compass, flashlight (with spare battery and bulb), extra food, extra clothing, sunglasses, sunblock, insect repellent, knife, waterproof matches, firestarter or candle and a first aid kit.

If you think that you are lost, try to retrace your course rather than continuing on in an effort to reach some destination. An emergency call consists of three short audible or visible calls repeated at regular intervals. Use a whistle for making noise and a mirror or smoke puffs during the day. At night, use a flashlight or small bright fires to signal.

 You may consider leaving your dog at home if he or she cannot be kept under control. Respect the privacy of residents that live along the trail unless there is an emergency and you desperately need help.

Leave No Trace

Some basic concepts for outdoor and trail etiquette include: Plan ahead and be prepared; Travel on durable surfaces to minimize trail erosion; Pack out what you bring in to the outdoors (don’t bury trash or diapers); Leave the outdoors as you found it, don’t feed the wildlife, and take only memories away with you; Minimize the use of fire and take extra care if you do use it.

Here are some hiking destinations in Vermont and for more locations, check the Resorts Page:

Bolton Valley: There are 100km of Nordic and backcountry ski trails at Bolton Valley Resort and in the summer these same trails provide paths for outdoor adventure in over 1,000 acres of wilderness. Some trails lead up the valley to the ridge-line where hikers can connect with Vermont’s Long Trail.

Killington Resort: With 15 miles of hiking trails at Killington Resort, you can summit Vermont’s second tallest peak to be treated to 360 degree views of Vermont’s Green Mountains, New York’s Adirondacks, and New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Additionally, near the top of the mountain provides access to the Peak Lodge, Killington’s state of the art facility, which offers fresh food and cool drinks to hikers and mountain bikers all summer. The K1 gondola lift is open for rides to reach the summit.

Smugglers’ Notch Resort: The Green Mountain setting at Smugglers’ Notch Resort creates many opportunities for guided and self-guided hiking for all ages. The resort hosts guided outings designed for families with young children, with a gentle pace and fun learning opportunities. Other guided outings entice new hikers and experienced hikers with the opportunities to learn more about the history of the surrounding area and the local flora and fauna, and to summit some of the area’s most challenging peaks. Guided hiking is included in the resort’s vacation packages. The resort provides informational sheets on self-guided outings nearby.

Trapp Family Lodge: There are over 60 kilometers of wooded hiking trails for all levels of ability at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. There is a short, peaceful hike to the Chapel, built by the Trapp family sons on their return home after World War II. A more challenging hike takes you to the Slayton Pasture Cabin, a favorite resting spot for cross country skiers or snowshoers in the winter. Guided nature walks are available to guests to learn about native plants, wildlife, and the evolving landscape.

Woodstock Inn & Resort: Step outside the Woodstock Inn & Resort and choose from more than 60 miles of interconnected trails and pathways that wind through the Woodstock Village, nearby meadows and woodlands, scenic vistas, and rural countrysides. Pedestrian pathways skirt local landmarks, while off-road trails yield to magnificent vistas from the summits of Mount Peg and Mount Tom. For a historic walking tour of Woodstock’s past, stroll the 20+ miles of colonial carriage roads as they wander through the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park and intersect with the Appalachian Trail.

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