A Fall Family Hiking Tradition
Our Favorite Way to Connect with the Outdoors for the Past Decade
As I recently mentioned on the Let’s Talk Parks podcast episode 2.16: Connecting Youth to the Outdoors with Dave Herpy and as I shared in my Fall Favorites Around the Triangle article last September 2019 in Carolina Parent Magazine, my favorite way to connect our children to the outdoors has always been hiking. With an abundance of city, county, and state parks in every state, hiking is a great activity to get outside and fun for all ages. Some of my fondest memories with our children through the years has been our family hikes at local parks on the weekends. Likewise, some of my fondest memories as a child growing up were family hikes with my parents through the years. There is no better time to hike than the fall season, with cooler temperatures and the changing colors of leaves. Fall is the perfect time to hike and to begin your own hiking tradition!
As Northeast Ohio natives, what got us inspired to begin hiking regularly was the annual Fall Hiking Spree through the MetroParks Serving Summit County (Akron, OH), hosted September 1 through November 30 each year. It is the largest and longest-running event of its kind in the nation. Trails range from easy to challenging. This program is free for all hikers to participate and the rewards are free for Summit County residents and only $10 for non-county residents the first year and $5 for following years. There are a total of twelve designated trails at each of their parks and you must complete at least eight hikes to finish the challenge over the three month period. Hikers who finish the challenge receive a wooden hiking staff and metal shield their first year, then a metal shield every year after.
One of the first pieces of outdoor gear that we bought as young parents was a nice backpack child carrier, which has proven to be a great investment! I began hiking with all of our children when they were about 5-6 months old. Our oldest two children earned their own hiking staffs and shields each year until we relocated to North Carolina seven years ago.
Last year we decided that we would continue our family hiking tradition here in North Carolina and continue adding to our hiking staffs. We have hiked dozens of trails since we moved here, but last year we decided to focus on North Carolina State Parks, which sell hiking medallions for each of their state parks in their nature centers. Since that decision, we have added four new medallions to our hiking staffs, with a fifth yet to be claimed for our hike in May at Oconeechee Mountain State Natural Area, which doesn’t have a nature center.
As for destinations here in North Carolina, the following are links to previous blog posts in Explore NC with some of our favorite State Parks for hiking:
- Eno River State Park – Durham, Durham County, NC
- Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area – Hillsborough, Orange County, NC
- Pilot Mountain State Park – Pinnacle, Surry/Yadkin Counties, NC
- Raven Rock State Park – Lillington, Harnett County, NC
In closing, the fall season is here! The cooler weather this week has really got us excited about getting outside hiking again. Although COVID-19 has changed life as we know it, our parks have always been open for hiking throughout this pandemic. As stated many times, hiking is great for all ages and the entire family. We encourage you to begin your own fall family hiking tradition if you don’t have one already. You will be glad you did.
Happy Trails! 🙂