One of my favorite things about living in Scottsdale is all of the local and accessible hiking trails. I love hiking and I want my children to love hiking too. Bringing children along can sometimes sound intimidating, so here are some pointers for hiking with kids.
Keep It Fun: Allow your children to go at their own pace and have fun checking out the trail. This will mean you need to slow down and not worry about making it to the end. If you push them to keep going when they’re tired or bored than you’ve taken the fun out of hiking. Bring journals for note taking and drawing. Go with other families or take some of their friends. Create scavenger hunts. Your scavenger lists can include collecting tangible items like leaves or a checklist of what you hear, smell or observe while hiking.
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Prepare: Ask your children to research hiking trails with you or discuss the trails you’ve hiked with them for some review. Make sure to apply and reapply sunscreen, bring hats, water, snacks, band aids, wet wipes and dress appropriately for the weather. Our children enjoy packing their own backpacks and helping with all of the preparations.
Snacks: My children love snacks, especially if they get to help select and pack them up. Snack and water breaks are needed and help keep the kiddos happy throughout the hike. Our family favorites include nuts, granola bars, dried fruit and carrot sticks. I also bring some fun treats like candy coated chocolates, yogurt covered raisins or fruit snacks that I proudly present if my children are veering towards unhappy town. You gotta do what you gotta do, right?
Where: I prefer to spend the least amount of time in the car and keep it local. I have also discovered that my children enjoy shorter trails that have less rocky paths and offer something more than the scenery to check out. Listed below are some of my children’s favorite trails that I hope you and your children check out.
Desert Botanical Nature Trail at Florence Ely Nelson Desert Park: This is a great trail to get started with because it’s short, flat and stroller accessible. It’s not really a hike, but it’s a great way to warm your children up to hiking and fun way to learn about the desert landscape. You will also see some local wildlife like rabbits and lizards. The park offers two playgrounds for varying ages, a splash pad, basketball courts and bathrooms.
Hillside Trail at George “Doc” Cavalliere Park: The trail is a one mile loop that offers breath taking views, picnic areas, public restrooms, basketball courts, shaded playground and synthetic turf fields. My kids are always so proud of themselves when they finish the hike and look forward to play time at the park.
The following trails are part of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy Website is a valuable source of information about the preserve, educational classes, tours as well as information about the hikes and trails. We’ve hiked many of the trails and we also enjoy the family fun events that the McDowell Sonoran Preserve offers. For instance, they have a Family Sonoran Sunday Series during the months of October, November, January, February and March that are free, educational and fun. Parking at these Traiheads have proved to be easy and there are public restrooms.
Bajada Nature Trail at Gateway Trailhead: This another great trail to start with because it’s flat, solid, smooth and stroller accessible. The half mile loop has interactive exhibits that my oldest children love to journal about and the lush desert landscape encourages beautiful art masterpieces. When your children are ready, try to hike Horseshoe Loop at Gateway Trailhead which is 1.7 miles and very manageable for kids with hiking experience.
Ringtail Trail At Lost Dog Wash Trailhead: This a a 2.4 mile loop with gradual ups and downs. The southern views and ancient tool-making site makes it engaging for all ages.
Brown’s Ranch Trailhead: This is a 3 mile out and back trail that takes you to the old Brown’s Ranch Homestead where you will see things like a water trough and water drums. This trail has a lot of bike traffic and you have to keep an eye out and move to the side. This is also a popular horse trail. When your children are ready I highly recommend taking The Brown’s Mountain Trail to the top of the summit. My 5 and 7 year old children managed quite well on the way up and needed some assistance on the way down. They were so amazed with the views and felt very proud to make it to the top of a mountain.