Celebrate National Trails Day (June 6, 2022) with a Family Hike

Published on June 4th, 2022

National Trails Day is June 4 (technically, it’s the first Saturday in June). It’s a day to get out on the hiking trails, revel in nature with fellow outdoor-enthusiasts and give back to the trails that have been so good to us, especially during the pandemic. 

It’s a day to spend together as a family on a favorite hiking trail, but also a day to recall and reinforce best practices critical for time spent in nature. Yes, there are best practices, in the form of seven Leave No Trace principles, which allow us to leave the trails better than we found them. 

The principles embolden hikers to be prepared, stay on trails, don’t leave trash, but do leave pine cones. Also, respect wildlife, as well as fellow hikers. The principles are simple, but sometimes we need a reminder, especially when focused on making sure everyone has a good day on the trail.

National Trails Day

National Trails Day is an annual celebration that was created by the American Hiking Society. It’s a day to hike, but also to advocate and serve our trails. It’s easy to do so too thanks to local events that are organized by parks, public lands, hiking clubs and recreation areas across the country. 

There are several ways to celebrate. Attend an event, like one listed on the National Trails Day website. You can also pledge to better our outdoor spaces, then connect with others on social media to show your support by using the #NationalTrailsDay hashtag.

Regardless of where you choose to hike and how you plan to celebrate the day, just get outside and into nature. Take in the flora, fauna, views and fresh air that’s oh so good for your physical and mental health. Importantly, enjoy time spent on the hiking trails as a family. 

How to Make Hiking as a Family Fun 

That last bit above is important, if only because we want to do what we can to make sure this is not the last hike as a family. Thankfully, we’ve got advice, tips, even tricks, to help ensure a hike on National Trails Day that is enjoyable, tear-free and definitely not miserable. 

Even in the rain (okay, maybe not a pouring rain), a hike can be fun. Take a look at the tested pieces of advice that will help you plan a great hike, keep the kids interested and moving, and importantly, get kids and family to want to ask to go on another hike in the future. 

1. Never leave the house without snacks. 

Not just any snacks, the good snacks. The snacks that are hands-down favorites in your house. The quality and quantity of trail snacks are more important than the hike length, elevation or even time spent in the car. You will not realize how true this is until you are physically on the hiking trail. 

2. Let your kids bring a friend. 

Encourage your kids to bring a friend on a family hike, at least on early adventures. There are several benefits. One, your child may be less likely to act up with a friend in tow. Two, you are helping to grow a love and interest in nature in another person. It’s a win-win situation. 

3. Realize it’s not a race. 

Take it slow. Your kids, even other family members, may not all hike at the same pace, so take it easy. Slow-movers will not like anything about the hike if they’re constantly having to catch up to the group. Relax, let the leisurely-paced members of your pack take the lead on the trails.

4. Let your kids stop. 

Let them stop as many times as they like – for sticks, stones, flowers, frogs. There’s no need to limit stops to snacks and hydration breaks. Allow pauses to hunt for hiking sticks or to skip stones across a gentle stream. If kids want to toss 100 rocks into a creek, let it be. Enjoy time in nature.

5. Choose a fun, engaging trail. 

A hike may be five minutes from your house, but if it’s boring your kids and family members won’t engage and they won’t want to go hiking again. It’s easy to go ga-ga for rock scrambles, creek crossings, swinging bridges, wooden boardwalks, waterfalls and swimming holes. 

6. Let them get dirty. 

Allow your kids to get muddy, wet, dirty and sweaty. If the dirt factor contributes to their enjoyment outside, that’s a huge win for you. Plan for dirt and mud, too. Wear old shoes, bring extra water and toss towels into the car to clean up once you return to the parking area. 

7. Don’t overestimate your kids and family. 

Take it easy on your first hikes to gauge the abilities of your kids and family members. Much like boring trails, if it’s an uphill slog, no one will ever want to go for a hike again. Start with short trails with mild elevation gains, but up the ante with an ever more challenging hike the next time.

8. Lower your expectations. 

When you set the bar low, it’s hard to be disappointed. You’re more likely to close out the day feeling happy, satisfied and confident. If your family makes it one mile, that’s fantastic. Don’t convey frustration or push your family too hard. Celebrate small successes in the great outdoors. 

9. Plan for rewards. 

A successful hike deserves ice cream. Even a moderately successful hike with minimal complaining deserves a scoop. Plan for an ice cream stop and know exactly how far it is from the trailhead. Print out directions in case you have no cell service. Go right away after the hike. 

10. Then plan for more rewards. 

Ice cream is an awesome reward, but go bigger, like Junior Ranger badges, hiking patches and geocaches. Some state and regional parks also have Junior Ranger activities and programs. In Virginia, kids earn Trail Quest pins for visiting and hiking at state parks. 

11. Bring comfort items. 

No, not teddy bears, but if your child wants to hike with teddy, that’s great, too. Bring lots of water, snacks, bug spray, sunblock and a travel first aid kit. Kids who are bleeding, thirsty and getting eaten alive by bugs are not fun. You want to ensure your kids and family want to get back outdoors. 

12. Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Much like shampoo, with hiking, it’s all about the repeat. Once your kids and family have a positive outdoor experience, do it again. Then again. After a while, it will become second nature to go hiking as a family and your kids may even start to research and plan out weekend hikes. 

What do you think?

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