My husband has always been big into the outdoors. By the outdoors, I don’t mean he likes to spend a couple of hours at a barbecue in the hills; his idea of the “outdoors” is hiking out in the wilderness. I like visiting wilderness areas as well, but I draw the line at overnight backpacking trips. Staying overnight often means tents, freeze dried food, and bears. You know…things that don’t always go well together with kids.
Backpacking is wonderful: no cars, no ATVs, no crowds…but notice there are no small children…probably for the best if you are backpacking. With small children, I like to stick to day hikes.
Wilderness Day Hikes Are A Great Activity for Kids
Although my husband would prefer to spend his time on long backpacking trips, one does not have to hike the entire John Muir Trail to experience a great wilderness hike. Every year we take our kids on a wilderness hike in the mountains. These hikes give them a chance to get exercise, appreciate beautiful scenery that you can’t drive to, and spend family time together.
Maybe they would prefer Disneyland, but you wouldn’t know it looking at them.
Hiking Is Great Exercise
According to WebMD, hiking is one of the most healthy activities we can do. It improves health in so many ways, including improving blood pressure, boosting bone density, building muscle strength in your legs and glutes, strengthening core muscles, improving balance, and controlling weight. Hiking also boosts your mood. “Research shows that hiking has a positive impact on combating the symptoms of stress and anxiety,” says Gregory A. Miller, PhD, president of the American Hiking Society. “Being in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that.” Hiking is also one of the best activities for burning calories. One can burn 530 calories per hour on a trail–about the same as running, but without the harsh impact to joints. Why jog in smog when you can burn more calories doing this?:
The above picture is of my friend Rebecca Maloney. She is an amazing outdoors woman and she is training for Mt. Ranier, but her favorite hike was a transverse of the Grand Canyon. I asked her what she loved about wilderness hiking:
“Hiking allows me to release any stress I may be holding onto. I am able to think clear during a hike and open myself up to solutions I hadn’t thought of before.”
Some of the Most Amazing Scenery in America Can Only Be Experienced By Foot
Nothing like a cool dip in a lake after a long hike. The above photo is a lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness near Mammoth Lakes, California. It took us a couple hours to get to it, but once we were there, we had the whole thing to ourselves.
America is one of the most scenic counties in the world. In order to preserve some of these areas from cars and motorized vehicles, Congress passed The Wilderness Act in 1964. The intent was to keep some of America’s beauty in its natural habitat and preserve it for future generations. Today there are more than 9.1 million acres of wilderness in the United States–all waiting to be enjoyed on foot.
The above picture is what a shower/bath combo looks like in the Yosemite National Park wilderness. This little known swimming hole is just a 90 minute hike off the highway and can only be accessed by foot. If you squint, you can see my husband swimming in the middle of the pool.
This is a great view, but you’re going to have to get out the car and hike awhile to see it.
Wilderness Hiking Is Great Family Time
My daughters love amusement parks, the beach, and they really like the America Doll Store, but they also like getting out and hiking. They get to challenge themselves physically, they get to appreciate beautiful scenery, and, without much other distraction, they get to spend some quality time together.
Even dogs get a kick out of it:
Planning a Wilderness Hike Is Easy.
There are millions of acres of wilderness in America. Thus, no matter where you live, there is probably wilderness area nearby waiting to be experienced. Some areas like Half Dome in Yosemite require permits ahead of time. Overnight hikes often require a wilderness permit. If you are not sure, check with the local ranger station. Also, ask the rangers about wilderness conditions and whether a certain hike would be appropriate for kids.
You don’t want to be hiking without a permit and run into this guy (notice the sly grin…he had just busted a couple college students for trying to hike Half Dome without a permit):
Not too much equipment is needed. Water bottles, sun screen, mosquito repellant (depending on the time of year), and some snacks are all that is necessary for short hikes. We like to also bring along a water filter so we never have to worry about running out of water.
Also make sure you know where you are going. Trail maps such as these are available online or at sporting goods stores for almost all popular wilderness areas:
Of course you need a backpack to keep it all together. My daughter always offers to carry the load:
So next time you want to see some beautiful areas, get some good exercise, and spend some quality time with the kids, consider a wilderness hike.
What will you do for exercise this summer?
If you plan to take a road trip to enjoy a few of nature’s wonders – you might need these 25 secrets to a successful road trip!