One of the great things about children is that if you introduce things to them when they are little they usually just accept it. They approach everything with wonder and delight, curiousity and a willingness to try.
When you introduce it at a young age they do not have the fears or hang ups that we do as adults, the beliefs that we can’t or shouldn’t, or the stubborness to refuse what you are suggesting because they ‘don’t want to’. This is one of the beautys of being a child and spending time with a child. They remind us to try it all and to move forward fearlessly because you never know what joys you are going to experience.
We have introduced things early on with all of our children, in many things, but specifically in introducing camping and hiking to them; all at around the age of 2. Matthew’s first hike was the Fenland Trail in Banff, a 2 km loop through a lush forested area. He completed it easily and then we did another short hike after lunch that day. I think he did 5 km total that day and he was only 2 or 3.
Luke and Chloe’s first hike was a few weeks ago on our way to visit my parents in Oliver, BC. We had stopped for lunch at the Giant Cedars trail in Mt. Revelstoke National Park, British Columbia. There was a picnic area and washrooms to use and after our tummies were full, we went for a walk along the trail.
The Giant Cedars trail is an easy, self guided, 500 m loop with some of the oldest trees in the Columbia Mountains. Featuring the largest western red cedars and dark brown western hemlocks, this boardwalk trail is lush, green and alive. As soon as you enter the trail you can feel the warmth and comfort of a such an old forest.
It is a great trail for kids with lots to discover and explore. There are benches along the way so you can sit and relax, enjoying the serene atmosphere and the magic of an old growth forest. Both Chloe and Luke effortlessly went up the stairs that start the trail. Chloe was delighted by the little brook flowing by and would stop every time she saw water. She would scream in delight, “water!” and then bend over, hands on her thighs to take a closer look.
We meandered along the trail checking things out, the Giant Devil’s Club, the nurse logs and fungi. We read the interpretive signs at different points along the trail describing the age of the trees (over 500 years old), the animals who live there, such as bats, bears and caribou; and how they all make up an important and healthy functioning ecosystem.
Luke was very excited about the fairies which he shared were in their houses; which he told me were the splits in the trees or under the lush underbrush. Both Luke and Chloe walked the whole way, with Chloe stopping to hug and kiss trees and Luke checking out the flowers. Matthew of course ran the trail, cause as usual he had energy to burn. It took us half an hour to do the trail, but is typically done in 15-20 minutes, depending on how fast you move along the trail and if you stop to linger.
It is a great place to relax and unplug for a while, to just sit and soak up the atmosphere. It is also a super easy hike for kids and will be a great first or early experience for them.
The key to hiking with kids to make their first experiences easy (short enough that they can walk it without feeling tired or have to be carried), achievable (something that they can do all by themselves without feeling discouraged at the end), interesting (lots of things to see, check out and explore) and in proper footwear. Now I would not run out and buy hiking boots for my 2 year old, but it is a good idea to ensure that they have sturdy, closed toed shoes, like runners. If you make their first experiences enjoyable and memorable than they will quickly and easily develop a love for hiking (and an appreciation for their natural environment) as they grow up.