Walks with Kids

In my experience, most parents underestimate how far their kids can hike. Humans, after all, evolved as nomads. From a very young age, children needed to walk along with everyone else. The blurry photo you see above shows my 5-year old son on a backpacking trip we took as a family to the Pacific Crest in the 1990s. On the most intense day of the trip he walked 8 miles and 2,200 vertical feet. We had started him hiking in the Catskills when he was 3, and at age 4 he was comfortably completing day hikes of 4-5 miles and 1,000 vertical feet.

Now my son is 25, 6’5″, and kicks my butt whenever we hike together. But these early walks inculcated a life-long love of the outdoors, and established an activity we still love to share.

The best hikes for kids aren’t necessarily easy, but they do need a “payoff”.   It can be a great view, a waterfall, a cave, or a ruin: something that gives them a goal to reach, and intrigues them.  Below, we’ve listed some of the hikes which we think kids are likely to find intriguing.  Note they are of all different challenge levels, so read the full review before deciding whether to take your kids along.

Recommended Hikes with Kids
Bowman's Hill Hike
(New Hope, PA) Steep climb for serious hiker-dude kids only. Or skip hike and park near tower for the view

Fiddler's Creek Preserve
(Titusville, NJ) Easy ravine hike with mysterious architectural ruins at one end. Only 15 minutes away.

Goat Hill Park
(West Amwell, NJ) Easy walk to spectacular views of the Delaware.

Hacklebarney State Park
(Long Valley, NJ) Varied hiking from paved paths to narrow scrambly trails. Lovely, rocky ravine. Great place to gain experience.

Hartshorne Woods Park
(Highlands, NJ) NJ's mystery spot: a forest and 200 ft ridge right next to Sandy Hook. Highly recommended

Haycock Mountain at Nockamixon State Park
(Haycock, PA) Superb, intense scramble for experienced hiker kids and parents only. Trail is poorly marked.

Mt. Tammany Hike at the Delaware Water Gap
(Blairstown, NJ) Spectacular hike to an amazing view. Steep. Hiker dude kids only: see Notes for Parents about alt hike to water fall

Picking wild berries at local parks
(Titusville, NJ) Pick delicious, wild raspberries and blackberries along the trails, usually in early July.

Pine Grove Hike on Baldpate Mountain
(Titusville, NJ) Fun, mysterious hike for fit, motivated, reasonably experienced kids. Too long for beginners.

Point Mountain Preserve
(Port Murray, NJ) Great for hiker dudes: varied terrain, gorgeous river, corn fields, steep scrambly climb to panoramic views.

Sayen House & Gardens
( Hamilton, NJ) Charming free botanical gardens and wooded walks

Schooley's Mountain Park
(Long Valley, NJ) Great for hiker dudes, if you park low and climb up. Pack a lunch and explore the views and Electric Brook gorge.

Sourlands Preserve
(Hillsborough Twp, NJ) Extensive trail network, all levels. Big boulders are fun, but require mile+ walk plus 300 ft. elevation gain

Stony Brook Trail
(Princeton, NJ) Go in late spring or summer with water shoes and plan to splash

Stony Brook Watershed Reserve & Center
(Pennington, NJ) Lots of kid-focused events, tots to teens

Teetertown Preserve
(Glen Gardiner, NJ) One of the nicest, closest places to take your kids camping. Little used except when the Boy Scouts show up

Thomas F. Breden Preserve
(Holland Twp, NJ) Little used preseve with nice views of Delaware. Combine it with lunch in Frenchtown or Lambertville for a full day excursion

Tyler State Park
(Newtown, PA) Lots of family activites here, e.g. Frisbee golf, horseback riding, canoes.

Valley Forge National Park
(King of Prussia, PA) Lovely hike, with lots of interesting variations, and serious history you can explore in bits. Only 45 minutes away.

Washington's Crossing State Park
(Titusville, NJ) Lovely beginner hikes, only 15 min away, and history too. Check websites (PA as well as NJ) for special events

Witherspoon Woods and Mountain Lakes Preserve
(Princeton, NJ) In Princeton. Charming trails and mysterious boulder formations including the "Devil's Den", which is close to trail head

Woodfield Reservation
(Princeton, NJ) Compact trails to some cool boulders. Can get muddy in spots, and little used (wear long pants, even in summer)


One thought on “Walks with Kids”

  1. Ringing Rocks County Park – Bucks County
    An amusing and large boulder field. Bring a few hammers and join the other crazies scrambling over the rocks trying to ring out a tune!

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