View Full Version : Need Advice: Hiking with Kids

04-30-2011, 09:33 AM
Thanks in advance for your help on this. I'm a lurker, first time poster.

I'm a 40 year old Mom of four. My 12-year old son and I love hiking and do a 3-4 day hut trip every summer, as well as many day hikes. My husband and 14yo stepdaughter are not very interested in hiking (and we have 3yo twins who just haven't yet been given opp). I have gone on a small campaign over the last 6 months to try to convince family that hiking is a fun group activity. My dream is that all six of us grow to love hiking as much as my son and I enjoy it. To this end, I have booked a weekend up at Highland Center in early June for all six of us. Here's where I need help.

My hiking experience in the Whites is pretty limited... just those trails that take us to and from huts. Does anyone have any ideas for day-hikes from Highland Center (or short car ride away) that will be do-able for active three year-olds but also be interesting for older kids? Perhaps a hike that includes falls or a lower summit? Given the amount of snow up there this winter, I'd like to avoid any difficult river crossings for fear of dropping a 3-year olds in. Also, will we encounter black flies in early June?

Is it possible to please 3 year olds and 14 year old in same weekend? :confused: Advice is appreciated. Wish me luck!


05-03-2011, 09:03 PM
Hi Clare,

Not sure how far you are thinking of hiking, or how long you can carry the little ones. Mt Willard is a beautiful short hike (1mi each way?) that leaves right from the Highland Center, and no brook crossings. Trailsnh.com/find/Willard.

There are many many other options in the area. Browse around the TrailsNH map and see what other are hiking. Maybe Arethusa Falls (few miles down Crawford Notch) as a good nature walk. Your 14yo hiker might love Mt Eisenhower's fantastic views and forgiving grade, but perhaps the 3mi (?) each way might be too much for the rest of your family.

My daughter went to the huts with me when she was young (8-11) but then stopped wanting to go hiking. Then last summer (age 18) something clicked and she's totally interested again. Most of her plans for this summer are hiking plans, so far. Makes me a happy Dad.


05-03-2011, 10:24 PM
Hi Clare,

I agree Mt. Willard is a great option, as well as Mt. Avalon a little higher up. Nothing too challenging, but the views are hugely rewarding.

If a 4,000-footer is within your abilities, Mt. Jackson is right across the street from the Highland Center and is one of the easiest 4Kers (5 mile roundtrip).
Ripley and Arethusa Falls are other great ideas, as well as Elephants Head.
A half-hour car-ride away in Franconia Notch is the very popular and family-friendly Artist's Bluff/Bald Mountain hike.

05-04-2011, 09:35 AM
The options above are all good ones. I would caution you that Jackson, while short, and of average grade, alternates between steep and flat, and has some (at least one) fairly challenging section near the top. You might ask the more hesitant members of the family what they would like to do and tailor you trip so they are happiest (and thus more interested in returning.) Willard and Avalon do have some really nice views. You could also start up the Davis Path for as long as you all see fit. Another really family-friendly option is to head to Zealand Road and do one or both of the Sugarloaf peaks (north/middle; south is trail-less.)

Although it will likely be cold and fairly swift, consider the Sawyer Rocks swimming hole just south/west of Crawford Notch. If you were going in late July or August, I'd say it was a "must do".

Another easier 4K, again with a bit of steep, is Mount Tom. It doesn't have 360 views, but you can walk from the highland center and possibly get Avalon on the way. Or, target Avalon with an option to go on to Tom (or Field, but Field has almost no views.) And of course Hale is also an option, also off Zealand Road.

Finally, never under-estimate the power of snacks to keep kids energized and motivated. Any time mine slow down, I feed them and then they take off like rockets.


05-06-2011, 11:40 AM
Even energetic 3 year olds are going to tire and lose interest easily and quickly. The 12 and 14 year olds are really going to want something that will challenge them physically - while being engaged mentally - for a longer period of time. This is a tough one to satisfy ALL at the same time - and ESPECIALLY if you are also trying hard to GET someone, who may not be as pysched up as you are, interested in this new activity. Key to success is to NOT completely wipe them out, while, at the same time, keep those that ARE extremely interested, CHALLENGED enough to win them over, too. Now - adding to your difficulty here, in my opinion, is the overall timing. Early June, in the Whites, can be a changing time - at best - where you could have lovely days in the 60's and an hour later be in the upper 40's with substantial winds. Late July would give you more options, in my opinion. Water would be much more approachable for "fun" and "playing", as it would have had a chance to "warm up" a bit. And the chance of having incredibly good weather "up top" would be greatly increased. One suggestion I have that might entertain all of the age groups here, would be to DRIVE to the top of Mt. Washington, park there, and do your day hike down along one of the ridge lines, returning to the summit for your return trip home. This has many good points . . . The most impressive, stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks, gorgeous views are above treeline. This will get those, that may be hesitant, pysched up before they even get out of the car. Take a day hike down to Lakes of the Clouds hut and back up. A relatively easy hike and beyond gorgeous! I've hiked Mt Washington so many times I can't remember the number, and I still have a hard time looking at where my feet are going because I can't take my eyes off the views . . . You're not going to get views like this down below without a few hours hike and the little ones will have long lost their interest. Also, from the "top" perspective, you have the whole Observatory to explore if someone is bored, with snacks that could be purchased. It just seems to me that you have so many possibilities to entertain those that have a long attention span AND those that do not, at the same time. HOWEVER, this plan might not work quite so well in early June as it would in late July . . . remember, at best, the hottest the summit has EVER gotten on Mt. Washington, - EVER - is 72 degrees. That's obviously at the height of summer. So, what would early spring be like on the summit? Think winter . . . . . . . . JUST A THOUGHT . . . . .

05-06-2011, 01:39 PM
I like the idea of driving to the top of Mt W and wandering around. I also like the Arethusa Falls hike. It's right down the street from the Highland Ctr, and the older kids could even attempt the hike up the side of the falls to the top. This could be dangerous if wet, but we hiked up as a family (ages 8-80) a few summers ago, and all made it to the falls, and a handful of us scrambled up to the top while others were happy splashing in the bottom of the falls or relaxing on the rocks. Eisenhower was a great easy 4000 footer, but might be a bit much for the little ones. I love the grade and the views, but it can be a long day if you're not used to hiking. It is a great way to keep someone interested in hiking though, since the work is worth it once you get to the top!

05-06-2011, 07:40 PM
Arethusa and Ripley Falls are both great options. So is Mt Willard. The others that were suggested including Avalon, Jackson, etc are great but I'd perhaps be a bit concerned about the stamina of the little ones. There are more short nice hikes from Highland Center (our favorite place to stay in NH). Elephant's Head and Gibbs Falls - both right across the street are nice short ones.

My personal favorite in the Around the Lake trail around Ammonusuc Lake (starts right next to Highland Center) with the spur that goes out to the Red Bench overlook. I do that one for sunrise on any potentially clear mornings as the Red Bench view of Mt Washington at sunrise is nothing short of spectacular.

Another good option with a very short drive are the Sugarloaves. Trailhead is on Zealand road and it's a short hike for a great view. A bit further down Zealand Road is the Zealand trailhead and a day spent wandering into Zealand Valley and perhaps to the hut for a break and a snack is wonderful.

Whatever you decide, gauge it by the kids. A simple hike with a good first experience or two can lead to a lot more. A tired grumpy kid on their first hike is tough to convince to get back on the trail.

Have fun!

05-07-2011, 12:00 PM
IMO, Trekker's advice is spot-on.

Jackson, Hale, Tom, and Avalon (which is on the way up Mt. Field, not Mt. Tom) are not hikes most three year olds can do. For example, my youngest, Sage (now a very strong and hardy six year old who has ten 4Ks under her belt) tried Tom when she was three and needed me to carry her half the way up. If you try Jackson, Hale, Tom or Avalon, I'd strongly suggest being willing and prepared to carry your two three year olds. Also, neither Hale nor Tom offer much in the way of views.

Mt. Willard is much easier. Never steep, fantastic views, and fewer miles. Your oldest two will enjoy the views and, if your youngest two need carrying, you won't have that far to lug them. :)

Elephant Head is a great hike for three year olds, just a few tenths of a mile with nice views. Your oldest two can do it in about ten minutes.

You also might want to consider hiking to Zealand Hut (trailhead is at the end of Zealand Road). It's just under three miles each way, and most of the trail is flat. It's a pretty path, and it has the potential for moose sightings.

However, Trekker's Mt. Washington idea is my favorite and perhaps the best choice for your situation. Drive up, then spend as much time as everyone likes exploring the trails. The Alpine Garden should still be in bloom and you'll escape most of the bugs and black flies. Lots of options up there. Everyone should have a good time and you can elimate the risk of doing too much too soon with the three year olds.

Just my $0.02,

PS -- Kudos for your desire and efforts to get the kids out there!

05-11-2011, 12:36 PM
What incredible responses. Thanks so much... sorry took so long to loop back!

Much will depend on weather, but I'm going to print out your ideas and take them with us. I like the Mt. Washington idea a lot. Will most definitely try Willard with the little kids. I think what I've really learned here is to make sure I carve out more challenging hiking time for the older kids (leave little guys at Highland with one parent).

A big thank you to all!