Sunday, June 9, 2013

When planning a day hiking trip with kids, study your map

As planning a day hike with children in the wilds, having a map isn’t enough. You want to study it before heading out so that you’ve got a general idea of where you’re going. Not only will this reduce the chances of getting lost but will help you familiarize yourself with the sites along the way.

Some items to look for on the map include:
g Trailhead – Where does the trail begin and how do you get there from the parking lot?
g Key features – Is there a spot along the way where you begin to walk beside a waterway? Or maybe go under electrical or phone wires? Or maybe reach a vista? These are great places to take a rest; you may want to plan route segments so that you know when you’ll stop.
g Major terrain changes – If children are getting tired knowing that a steep incline is ahead can help you decide if you should turnaround or continue going. Likewise, know if you have to cross streams so you can pack a change of socks and shoes.
g Intersecting trails – Be aware of points where other trails branch off or join the one you’re taking. You want to avoid unintentionally going onto those paths.
g Destination – Where is the end point of the hike, or the place where you’ll turn around? This may not be applicable if a loop.

If children are of elementary and middle school age, have them familiarize themselves with the map as well. This will help them become better map readers and even can get them excited about what awaits them on the adventure.

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.