I don’t know about you but this time of the year we find ourselves getting stuck in the house more and more. It’s chilly out and it takes a bit of extra work to get everyone dressed and ready, but it is so worth it, for everyone’s sanity! When we enter the forest, if we allow it, our breath slows, our mind quiets and our body relaxes.
Winter is one of our favorite times of year to get outside. Animals are hibernating and brush has died back so it’s much easier to go off the beaten path. It took quite some time for us to figure out our formula for a long and happy experience but we feel like we finally have it down! Here are our favorite tips for hiking at this time of year, or really any time of year!
1. Outfitting your kiddos, AND yourself, in the right gear is key! We load up with layers, water proof boots, rain or snow pants are a must (even if it’s not raining or snowing!), and mittens and hats.
2. Pack an extra pair of socks and gloves so you are free to explore water and ice, snacks, and a bottle of water or better yet, a mug of hot cocoa or tea to share.
Check out Biddle and Bop for tons of great gear.
3. Be open to going slow! Your kids idea of a hike is not the same as yours. For them it may mean stopping to inspect bugs, flowers, leaves and rocks. Splashing in the same puddle over and over again or digging in the dirt.
4. Let them take the lead and try to see things through their magical eyes.
5. Think outside the box! Today our kiddos spent an hour throwing sheets of ice across a frozen pond. Watching them shatter and slide and hearing the beautifully musical sound was beyond magical! Find bales to hide in and climb, jump and run across. Follow animal tracks through the snow.
If you are local, here are some of our favorite spots to explore:
This is the closest preserve to West Chester and one we frequent often. There are four different loops for hiking, all of which are easy or moderate.
This spot has an easy to follow trail along the water. The full loop is about 4 miles long and can easily be completed with kids in packs or walking.
This is our favorite spot for kids to hike and play (and the location for our Summer Camp!). They have a specific natural outdoor playground area called Ollie's Nature Playground that is an easy hike from the parking lot. There are 5 different trails at this preserve, the longest one equalling 3.2 miles.
The Orange Trail is our favorite because it is a short loop right along the water that provides plenty of stopping places to throw rocks, picnic, and wade in the water. There are also horses to visit and beautiful mansion grounds to explore.
There is a giant, man made lake in the center of this park with boating, paddle board, and water activity rentals available. This park also has a trail system that is great to hike.
Blue Marsh Lake is a man-made lake along the Tulpehocken Creek that features numerous boating, hiking, biking, and birdwatching opportunities. There are trails throughout and an awesome lake for kids to play and swim. We usually pack a picnic and make a day out of it.
This is a beautiful spot for hiking right along White Clay Creek in southern Chester County. It is an easy hike for kids to walk and play within the flowing water.
There are so many places to explore in Valley Forge. As far as hiking is concerned, we love to hike the Mt. Misery (2.7 miles) and Mt. Joy (3.5) trails. Both of the trails can be modified to be a longer or shorter hike depending on your time and situation.
We hope you get out on your next hike soon and enjoy it more than ever!
Cate and Jessie