Today’s the day. Today you will go out and hike. You will bring your offspring and enjoy the outdoors (gosh darnit). The only mountain you know is Camel’s Hump. You have a vague memory of hiking this sometime after a night of drinking back in college. You don’t remember much about that other than it was long and hard and while that may of been the hangover talking, you are pretty sure you need something less intensive for a FAMILY FUN HIKING DAY! You pull out the dusty long trail guide your partner has left over from when he hiked for fun ALL THE TIME. It has a list of day hikes that are easy and moderate…but is it 4 year old easy???
Well never fear, I’ve road tested the following 4 hikes and will give you the true story.
The following hikes are doable for a toddler or preschooler on a good day . I can’t speak to those “OHMYGODMYHAIRISTICKLINGMYNOSE” days. In my experience unless your kid is a super toddler you are going to need a way to carry the little bugger up or down at some point (ages 3 and under). After our kids maxed out the weight for most carriers we utilized the good old fashioned “piggy back” option.
All distances are Round Trip. All times are approximate.
Snake Mountain: 4.5 miles
It’s about 2.5 miles up to the summit and boasts a nice shady wide open trail. It was muddy in some spots (mid June). The boys were 10% concerned and 90% excited that it was called Snake Mountain. They had images of boa constrictors and rattlesnakes lining the trail. Sadly (or WOO HOO depending on who you ask) the mountain is named not for its slimy inhabitants but rather because from the valley the summit resembles a snake.
It took us about 3hours and 25 minutes to get up and down. We were on the slow side with many skittle and water breaks. The first .5 miles was pretty flat.
The summit is an old cement foundation that gives you an amazing view of the Adirondacks and the valley below. We picnicked and watched the valley and the peregrine falcons that are rumored to nest nearby. They flew so close it felt as if we could touch them.
The Verdict: A good hike to do with preschoolers and school aged kiddos.
Sterling Pond: 2.8 miles
This trail quickly pays off with a beautiful view of the rocky cliffs of Mount Mansfield from the trail. The trail is steep and tricky in some spots. My kids love that they have to get on their hands and knees to get thru some spots.
This is a very popular hike and you’ll find the trail congested at times. Every time we hike this we see someone we know. EVERY TIME!! Don’t let this deter you but if you are after a quiet solo hike in the woods avoid this trail. You’ll see lots of dogs and if your kids are animal lovers this just adds to the fun if not don’t worry the dogs are leashed and most owners seem very aware that a wet muddy dog can spook a small kid.
The summit is the real draw. A natural mountain pond with cool crisp water that my children take advantage of and swim and wade around in (bring extra clothes). This is also a stocked trout pond and we’ve witnessed many people hiking up with fishing poles. Fishing at the pond is on my kids’ summer list this year.
At the base near the parking area are lots of rocks and caves. When the boys were toddlers we avoided this part but as they’ve gotten older they enjoy a little bouldering.
The Verdict: If you only do one hike do THIS one.
Elmore State Park: Fire tower Trail 3 miles
This mountain is a good 2 hour climb that gets really technical at times. Think slippery rocks and muddy bog bridges. My boys 5 and 7 loved the steep rock steps and the wooden ladders and the fire tower at the top which my son and husband claim is the “best view ever”. I wouldn’t know I couldn’t muster the courage to go up. However there is a nice view before you ascend to the fire tower. We’ve stopped there and called it a day when watching my husband climb the wooden ladder up a rock face with my two year old son on his back gave me a heart attack.
This wasn’t very crowded when we went and I can just imagine the colors one would see in the fall.
After the hike stay and take advantage of Lake Elmore and cool off at the beach!
Verdict: Good for kiddos who like a little adventure in their hike.
This is a great first time not in a carrier hike. The trail up has some interest (big rocks a few stone steps) but the path is clear and wide and the scary cliffs of doom are limited. There is also a car-accessible road to the top if you just want to enjoy the view. We often hike the trail up and walk the road down to count the slugs or salamanders we can see.
The road is also a great stroller workout option if you take it up and down the mountain, with a nice run around and picnic at the top.