My husband and I love to hike and have always sought to pass on to our kids the magic and discovery that comes with hiking and spending time in nature. As 2015 was drawing to a close, we saw a challenge to hiking as a family. Our 4- and 6- year old kids had outgrown the kid carrier backpack and Ergo, so we thought we may need to put “real hiking” on hold for a while until our kids could make it farther than a mile. As we have learned throughout this year, we were wrong.
Just after Christmas, we sat together discussing our individual and family goals for 2016. I suggested we make a goal to hike 50 miles as a family during the year (thinking that would be a bit of a stretch). One of the kids responded with “No, let’s do 100 miles!” I couldn’t deny them their desire to reach that number, so we wrote it down and got to work.
It wasn’t until we finished the beautiful, 5.5-mile Fish Canyon Falls hike that I started to believe we would meet our goal. I was amazed that those short little legs could hike so far, and our 4-year old finished the second half of the hike with a wet foot from stepping in a stream. Most importantly, the kids started to see the beauty and reward of hiking when we sat and had a picnic lunch at a waterfall, feeling like we were seeing a special part of the world only revealed to those willing to get out and seek it.
We have had to adjust our lifestyle—for the better—to help us meet our goal. We plan most weekends around getting a good hike in. We planned our spring break with our goal in mind, hiking 17 miles in Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks. It was an incredibly rewarding trip and a great way to jump ahead in our 100-mile goal.
Baseball games, ballet performances and other life events force us to plan ahead to schedule our hikes on non-event weekends. But even on the busiest of weekends, we are always glad if we run out to the nature center closest to our home to hike two miles as a family. It gets us closer to our goal of 100 miles, and more importantly, we get to experience nature, and all its benefits, as we grow closer.
We hope our experience can inspire others to join the movement to build the next generation of hikers. Kids are born loving nature—it’s the best playground around. Rocks, sticks, streams, bugs, leaves and animals are all a rich opportunity for learning, growth, and exploration. Hiking and spending time in nature boosts creative problem solving, reduces negative thoughts, and improves ADHD symptoms. Our experience has shown the benefits are far more than that though. We are a closer, healthier, and happier family.
If you want to set—and meet—your own family hiking goal, here are some lessons we’ve learned in our quest:
6 Steps to start a family hiking goal
- Get input
Sit down as a family and get the kids input. They are more likely to want to participate if they are a part of creating the goal.
- Start a countdown sheet
Put a countdown sheet on your front door for everyone to see as they exit the house. Kids love marking each mile off and it’s a great visual reminder for everyone.
- Offer praise and incentives
Praise your kids for their performance, make them understand they are stronger after they have accomplished each hike.
Offer a small piece of candy every mile or a special treat after hike completion like dinner out or a stop at an ice cream shop, it works!
Create a celebration plan for when you reach your goal like a special getaway or toy.
- Bring patience and a good attitude
- Pack the necessities
- Make it fun
As an additional boost of fun, try treasure hunting with geocaching. Kids absolutely love treasure hunts and we’ve found caches on almost all of our hikes.
We are stronger physically and mentally as a family unit because of this experience. We hope to inspire you get out and enjoy your family’s next Tiny Big Adventure!
Follow us on Instagram at @buildinghikers
The Brown Family
2016 Brown Family Hiking Goal Mile by Mile
January 2 0-3 Carbon Canyon Park, Brea, California
January 3 3-6 Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Huntington Beach, California
January 16 6-11.5 Fish Canyon Falls, Duarte, California January 16
January 23 11.5-14 Upper Newport Bay, Newport Beach, California
February 28 14-17 Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Huntington Beach, California
March 5 17-20 Oak Canyon Nature Center, Anaheim, California
March 6 20-21 Cerritos Regional Park, Cerritos, California
March 12 21-25 Santa Rosa Plateau, Murrieta, California
March 27 25-29 Navajo Loop and Queens Garden, Bryce Canyon, Utah
March 27 29-30 Bristlecone Loop, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
March 28 30-31.5 Canyon View, Zion National Park , Utah
March 28 31.5-33.5 The Narrows Riverside Walk, Zion National Park, Utah
March 29 33.5 – 34.5 Mossy Cave, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
March 31 34.5-38.5 Bright Angel, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
March 31 38.5 – 40 Rim Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
April 1 40 – 42 Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
May 8 42-45 Eldorado Nature Center, Long Beach, California
May 22 45-46 Fort Harrison State Park, Indianapolis, Indiana
May 25 46-48 100 Acre Park, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana
June 4 48-52 Switzer Falls, Angeles National Forest, California
July 2 52-54 Top of the World Aliso Canyon, Laguna Beach, California
July 9 54-58 Murphy Ranch, Pacific Palisades, California
July 15 58-60 Saw Mill, Mt. San Jacinto State Park, California
July 15 60-61 Panorama Point, Mt. San Jacinto State Park, California
July 16 61-64.5 Idyllwild Nature Center, California
July 17 64.5-66 Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail, Idyllwild, California
August 6 66-68.5 Portuguese Nature Reserve, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
August 14 68.5-70.5 Eldorado Nature Center, Long Beach, California