Sunday, September 1, 2013

Consider trail difficulty when selecting route on day hike with kids

Quality trails for kids tend to be flat and have compact surfaces. 
When selecting a trail to hike, especially if children are coming along, you’ll want to think about trail difficulty. Depending on the child’s age and abilities, some trails are too hard for them to hike, even if for an hour or so. And if you’re hauling a tyke around in a child carrier, the trail may even be too tough for you.

To determine trail difficulty, consider the following factors:
g Length – Know how far your children can (and are willing to) walk. A physically fit four-year-old can handle about two miles, but each child is unique.
g Elevation change – Try to find the flattest trail possible or one with very gradual elevation changes. Anything more than a 100 feet in less than a mile will be difficult for a preschooler not only to scale but to go down.
g Altitude – The higher the altitude, the less the oxygen. This limits how far a child can go and requires that more breaks are needed.
g Terrain quality – The rockier and sandier the soil, the more difficult of a time little feet will have going over the trail. Pathways also should be groomed so that stray bush branches and weeds don’t scratch arms and legs.
g Water crossings – Young children never should cross water, and teens shouldn’t unless they know how to swim and if the current is slow and water level low. Water only needs to be a couple of inches deep for a child to drown, and currents easily can sweep away a person and cause them to panic.

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