Family Trails: Creative Hikes for Kids

Getting the kids away from their electronics and into the great outdoors is a wonderful way to educate them about the environment while bonding through an active adventure. Here are some favorite family-friendly trails, from Australia to the Americas. We focused on creative hikes that offered something beyond just the trail itself.

Highlights
Glass House Mountains QLD 4518, Australia
According to Aboriginal legend the Glass House Mountains in Queensland, just inland from the Sunshine Coast, got their shapes after an epic ancient fight amidst the family they belonged too. As such they have held supreme spiritual significance for generations and the story of their creation remains important to this day. Hiking around these 16 ethereally shaped volcanic crags that rise from the humid green environs in sporadic bursts is as stunning as it is sacred. The mountains are part of a national park named after them. There are hiking for all fitness levels, including families. One option is the short, but intense, roundtrip hike to the summit of Mt Ngungun (253m). It has impressive views of the four major peaks and can be a bit challenging hiking – keep the kids close, the steep trail passes close to the cliff line and can be slippery. If you love to scramble up rocks, try climbing Tibrogargan and Beerwah, both hikes require some free base scrambles up loose rock, but are under 2 miles round trip.
Railway Trail
Until 1948, a train traveled the length of Bermuda from east to west, some 22 miles. Just over 15 years later the process of converting the rail lines into a paved path for bikers and walkers began, and now 18 miles are open to the public. It is most often explored in stages, whether on bike, horse, or foot, as it winds past thick vegetation, over centuries-old bridges, and through tunnels—even hugging the coastline in some sections. A particularly pretty stretch is the two-mile route between Somerset Village and Somerset Bridge, often considered the smallest drawbridge in the world.
Mt Baldy, CA 91759, USA
This 10-mile out and back hike begins in the middle of nowhere and dead-ends with a bungee jump into it. While relatively flat, the trail is easy to lose as it criss crosses the San Gabriel River and winds through mazes of vegetation and rock. Pitched tents and footprints help confirm the path as you follow the river upstream. About three quarters of the way, look for an uphill turnoff that begins the ascent to the Bridge to Nowhere (make note of this spot for the trip back). Upon arriving, cross to the opposite ridge and look back at the impressive vertical panorama of the 120-foot arch transposed between the craggy canyon walls of the Sheep Mountain Wilderness. After marinating in the scene, sit and snack on the bridge while watching daredevils of all ages bungee off the rail. Make sure to bring cash in case FOMO kicks in and you get the urge to make the plunge yourself. If the full hike and jump isn’t for you, walking along the river for any length can be a playful adventure, especially with kids and pets.
Rockefeller Nature Trail
At the Ambassadors of the Environment at the Ritz-Carlton’s Dorado Beach Resort, there are a number of eco-adventure activities for kids and adults. With guides at my side, I embarked on an 1.5 hour journey into the forest. The knowledgeable guides shared details about the island’s natural wonders and native Puerto Ricans, the Taínos. I learned what the coffee growers use to shade their beans (moca plants, which are also natural insect repellants), and what the Taínos use as musical instruments (flamboyan seed pods). But the culmination of the hike was through a small trail that led to the densely populated Pterocarp forest, only accessible during the dry season. This tree is found in Puerto Rico and no other place in the United States (our island has three species of Pterocarpus, but only one is native). Once back that the home base, the guides also showcased some of the Taíno artifacts that they constantly discover on the resort’s archeological site. I would highly recommend this nature hike, which is great for families, kids and adults.
Teahupo'o, French Polynesia
Tahiti Iti, Tahiti‘s smaller sister island that’s connected to the main island at the southeast coast, is home to one of the most famous surfing waves in the Pacific, Teahupoo. This powerful reef break most certainly should not be attempted by anyone but the best surfers—a fall means being dragged by the current across the sharp coral right below the surface. That edge of drama makes for a tense but enjoyable afternoon of observation (from the beach). The left break is best between April and October. The Billabong Pro competition is held here August.
18333 N Thompson Peak Pkwy, Scottsdale, AZ 85255, USA
In 1995, Scottsdale residents voted to set aside a large parcel of undeveloped city land as protected open space. Today, the roughly 30,000-acre McDowell Sonoran Preserve provides an opportunity for adventure. Hike, bike, and rock climb, or take to the trails with local guides from Arizona Outback Adventures and learn all about the desert along the way. Because most of the creatures that live in this desert habitat are more active at night, the best time to view animals is on early morning or evening hikes.
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