I’ve been hiking since I was a child. For as long as I can remember, my favorite time of year for being outdoors was winter. With the absence of Ohio’s infamous humidity, no mosquitoes and smaller crowds, many of the region’s best hikes become even better in cold weather. There’s really no better cure for cabin fever!
Here are my top picks for family winter hikes, as well as some gear suggestions and other tips!
Length: .72 mile loop trail
Why it’s a great winter hike: Level and accessible to all, this interpretive trail gives families a taste of nature in winter without trekking to far with little ones. The trailhead is near parking and center facilities for potty breaks and warming up after your hike. The trail will lead you past a cabin (a great place to take a little break) as well as the Nature Playscape. You can experience a variety of settings, from wetland to woods to prairie on this brief but interesting hike.
Length: .9 mile loop trail
Why it’s a great winter hike: If you pair the hike with a visit to the excellent onsite museum, you get an excellent glimpse into the importance of the area’s history. This hike will take you to the bison herd, which is always a hit with kids. Also be sure to check out the interpretive exhibits behind the museum before you leave!
Length: 1.4 miles out and back trail
Why it’s a great winter hike: This moderate trail will take you through the forest, past beautiful creeks and a waterfall. Several impressive structures such as a dam and bridge. After, make sure to visit the center for interpretive exhibits and a gift shop. This hike is a great way to get in touch with nature while still remaining close to civilization.
Length: Varies depending on how many trees you visit
Why it’s a great winter hike: Many area families know that Spring Grove Cemetery is full of many species of trees and its miles of paved roads perfect for strollers and little feet. For an interesting winter walk, check out the linked brochure guide to the evergreen collection. This is great for the times you may need to bail quickly!
Length: .5 mile out and back trail
Why it’s a great winter hike: Hocking Hills is simply stunning in the winter and it’s just far enough away for a long day trip when you need a change of pace. While it’s popular year-round, you won’t find as many crowded trails during this season unless you’re there during a special program. The Ash Cave Gorge trail is level and accessible to all, yet results in a fantastic view– giving you the most bang for your buck. You won’t find the hazards of other park trails such as cliffs or ledges here. Kids will love standing inside Ash Cave, especially if recent cold weather has produced icicles or even more impressive ice piles! There are plenty of other trails in the park as well, so be sure to check them out if you’re up for a challenge.
Any reputable outdoor outfitter (Such as Roads Rivers and Trails in Milford) will be able to help you with your gear list. The Ten Essentials list is the best place to start and I recommend this even for what you think will be a short hike. I keep all of these things in my daypack at all times–even if I am sure I’m just going out for half an hour!
Here are my personal favorites for winter treks with my little guy:
- Wool socks. Wool stays warm, even when wet. Smartwool or Wigwam socks are affordable but quality options.
- A thermos. This is probably my favorite piece of baby/toddler gear ever. It’s practical but can also be fun (trailside hot chocolate, anyone?)
- Hiking/trekking poles. Keep your footing on frozen ground or in snow. Kids think they’re fun to use, too.
- Long undies/thermal layer. For myself, I splurge a bit as I wear them year after year. For kids, there are some great affordable options such as Cuddl Duds that won’t break the bank buying them each year as kids grow.
- Microfiber towel. You can find these in camping/backpacking sections of stores and they often have their own pouch. They fold up small but can dry a lot of surface. As you know, keeping dry is also key to keeping warm!
- Proper shoes. I can’t say enough what a difference this will make. If you buy no other special hiking gear, winter hiking boots are what you should invest in.
Tips and Tricks
- For your first few outings, keep it simple and close to home. Most county parks have some sort of a nature trail; get comfortable there first.
- Join a group such as Hike it Baby to find like-minded parents who organize hikes locally
- Plan to go at your child’s pace. They’re going to want to stop and pick things up. This is the whole point! Don’t go into it thinking an hour hike will only be an hour.
- Be flexible. There will be times you won’t make it ten feet into the woods. I’ve been there.
- Extra. Clothes. Lots.
- For more great tips on hiking with kids, click here.
Challenges and Incentives
There are a few hiking challenges and incentives out there that are great for families! Here are a couple:
Cincinnati Nature Center’s Hike for Your Health Program Ready to tackle all 15 trails? Pick up a Hike for your Health Passport and work your way towards cool incentives.
52 Hike Challenge The premise is simple and the possibilities are endless! Simply sign up to take on 52 hikes in 2017: An average of one per week this year.
Check out the free scavenger hunt printable below and enjoy your time outdoors this winter!