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Hit the Trail

Ideas for making a family hike a fun and stress-free experience.
Family hiking Find Your Path

You'll want to choose a hike that's challenging, but not too challenging: somewhere in between a trek to Machu Picchu and a trip to the mailbox. For tips on picking the right track, we asked Helen Olsson, author of The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids.

-- Consider the change in elevation (meaning, how steep the trail is). Two miles on a flat trail is easier to hike than a trail with a vertical gain of 500 feet. That said, many kids find uphill routes, with their opportunities to scramble up boulders, more engaging than fl at trails.

-- For a rough idea of how long a trail to try, figure that a child can walk about a half mile for each year of age. So a 6-year-old should be able to handle a three-mile trek. (Of course, you should take into account your child's disposition and energy level.)

-- Loop trails are more interesting than out-and-back trips, which have you retracing your steps on the way home.

-- For a group goal, set a destination to reach, such as an old cabin or a pond with a beaver lodge.