By Carey Kish, Registered Maine Guide
Hiking is a terrific way for families with children to combine healthy exercise with exploration of our natural surroundings. Southern and Mid-coast Maine have dozens of great hiking trails that are interesting and fun for kids of all ages, a little something for everyone. With the right planning and preparation, mindset and goals, you can create quality outdoor experiences for your youngsters that will not only forge wonderful memories but instill a long-lasting love and respect for nature.
- Choose a hike with plenty of chance for discovery. Big things like beaches, streams, ponds, and little things like frogs, birds, pebbles help maintain interest.
- Involve kids in the planning. Show them the guidebook, pictures and maps of the hike ahead of time to get them excited. Invite a child’s friend to join you.
- Pack plenty of snacks and water, warm clothing, bug repellent and sunscreen. Stop often to fuel up on goodies. Do a tick check immediately upon returning to the car.
- Be patient and flexible. Kids generally hike slower than adults, so remember to go at their pace. Stop often to talk about your surroundings, point things out, take pictures.
- Make it fun, set goals. Do a scavenger hunt, look for geocaches. And know when to turn around, as a tired child in the woods is not a happy one.
Try these five kid-friendly hikes:
Ferry Beach State Park, Old Orchard Beach
This 100-acre park features two miles of trails through cool woods and along Long Pond, plus a lovely stretch of white sand beach on the ocean at Saco Bay.
Beaver Park, Lisbon
Seven miles of nature trails wind through this quiet suburban park. With three ponds, two picnic areas and a beach there’s fun for the whole family.
Augusta Nature Education Center, Augusta
Five miles of footpaths wind through 175 acres of meadows and woods, revealing old granite quarries, waterfalls, lily ponds, beaver ponds, wildflowers and woodland creatures.
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay
Kids of all ages will enjoy a walk through the Children’s Garden, the Garden of the Five Senses, and so much more at this beautiful and nationally renowned garden.
Camden Hills State Park, Camden
Hike to the top of Mt. Battie and the historic stone war memorial for amazing vistas over Camden Harbor to Penobscot Bay. Interpretive signs describe the offshore scenery.
Carey Kish of Bowdoin, is an avid hiker and freelance outdoor and travel writer. He is the hiking and camping columnist for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and editor of AMC’s Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.). Kish is currently working on a new book on classic Maine coast hikes for AMC’s Best Day Hikes series.