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Best family friendly hikes

More from Outdoor Living Newsletter March Outdoor Living Newsletter

Going on hiking trips with your children is one of the best ways to teach them to appreciate and connect with nature. They get exposed to experiences they will never learn just by watching TV, surfing the Internet, or reading books. They'll see vistas transform before their eyes, interact with wildlife, and discover interesting things about the place they are trekking. More importantly, hiking impresses upon them the importance of spending time outdoors to maintain their fitness and health. And of course it always good to have a fun time as a family.

Although there are many trails to hike across the nation, most are not suitable for children. For one, the trail needs to be interesting enough to keep the kids from being bored. For another, the trail should be easy so your children can take it on without getting too tired by the end of the hike. Lastly, the trail should be safe enough so you won't have to worry about letting your kids loose on it.

To help you find the best trails we've come up with our list of the best family friendly trails.

1.  Bald Cypress Trail, First Landing State Park, Virginia

Hiking along Bald Cypress Trail in Virginia's First Landing State Park will take your kids wandering through a swampy forest of majestic cypress trees mostly covered with lovely Spanish moss. The forest is home to around 500 species of plants and numerous species of wildlife, including bobcats, raccoons, egrets and herons. The trail also goes through dunes and ponds.

Bald Cypress Trail is 1.5 miles long. Some parts of the trail will require you to make some uphill and downhill climbs, but these climbs are easy enough for your kids to take on. There is also a boardwalk along the trail where you and your kids can look through the swamp.

First Lake State Park is located near Chesapeake Bay just north of Virginia Beach. It is the most popular state park in Virginia. Formerly known as Seashore State Park, the park was renamed to reflect its history of being the landing point of the first members of Virginia Company to arrive in North America. Aside from hiking, you can also take your kids boating and fishing at the park.

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Bald Cypress Trail, First Landing State Park

2.  Battle Road Trail, Minute Man National Historic Park, Massachusetts

Your older children will have learned in school the story of Paul Revere and his famous ride to warn the Colonists of the impending arrival of British troops. If you take them hiking on Battle Road Trail in Massachusetts' Minute Man National Historic Park, you give your kids the opportunity to relive Paul Revere's adventure and make it their own.

Battle Road Trail is a 5.5-mile road that connects the towns of Lexington, Concord and Lincoln in Massachusetts. It is the site of the first encounters between British and Colonial troops at the start of the American Revolutionary War. While hiking here, you and your family can visit historic houses and other landmarks that will help you bring life to an important piece of American history. You can even take part in the reenactment activities regularly held by the park's staff here. Battle Road Trail is also a very picturesque place; along this trail you will pass through changing panoramas of forests, fields, meadows and farms.

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Renactment of Historical Battle between Red Coats and Colonials at North Bridge

3.  Boulder River Trail, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington

In planning hiking trips, you always need to account for the season or time of the year when choosing where to go hiking. Some places are too hot to visit in summer. Some places are closed by thick snowfall in winter. Some places are flooded in spring. But if there is one place you and your family can hike at any time of the year, it is Boulder River Trail in Washington's Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Hiking Boulder River Trail will take you across Boulder River Wilderness, an area known for its protected old-growth forest filled with ancient Douglas firs, hemlocks, red cedars and other species of great trees. This wilderness area is also home to black bears, elks, deer, mountain goats and various species of birds. The trail also runs along the bank of Boulder River, a wild and mighty river that flows from the Cascades and plunges down a waterfall or two as it crosses the wilderness area named after it.

The easy portion of Boulder River Trail starts at its trailhead near the French Creek Road and goes for 1.2 miles. When you reach the 1.2-mile point, you'll find a delightful series of waterfalls and cascades. If you have older kids who are up to the challenge, you can continue hiking on the slightly more strenuous part of the trail for another 2.8 miles and descend to Boulder Ford. While you're in the area, you can also visit North Cascades National Park and Mt. Rainier National Park nearby.

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Boulder River from Boulder River Trail

4.  Creekfield Lake Nature Trail, Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

If you're Texas-bound, you should make a short stopover at Brazos Bend State Park - just 30 minutes north of Houston - and take your kids to the guided Creekfield Lake Nature Trail hike. Fully paved, only half a mile long and taking only an hour to complete, the Creekfield Lake Nature Trail will take you and your family through a wetlands path featuring interpretative panels of wetland wildlife put up by the park's staff. You can also spend time on the boardwalk or the observation deck to view the wildlife.

Creekfield Lake Nature Trail is not the only family-friendly trail in Brazos Bend State Park. If your kids want a more exciting adventure in this part of Texas, you can take them alligator-viewing on the hiking trails around 40-Acre Lake and Elm Lake. Also, Brazos Bend State Park is a haven of diversity featuring forests, prairies, marshes and wetlands. There are trails where you can take your kids birdwatching in the forest, and there are footpaths where your kids can encounter any of the 300 species of wildlife in this state park.

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Kids at interpretative panel on Creekfield Lake Nature Trail Brazos Bend State Park

5.  Dunes Fields, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado

Visiting the dunes fields of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado will be a treat your children will never forget for the rest of their lives. It is only in this part of the country where your kids will get to see towering sand dunes standing dramatically in the shadows of the snow-capped peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The summit of High Dune, the second highest dune is a long mile climb through the shifting sands.

The dune field is also a great spot for your kids to have lots of other fun. They can run around and slide down these sand dunes as much as they want. Just make sure that the weather is not too hot or dry for sliding and your kids have a proper snowboard, sled or ski to use while playing in the dunes fields. They can also paddle in the nearby Medano Creek that offers a great place to cool off.

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Kids sand sledding at Great Sand Dunes National Park

6.  Florida Trail, LittleBig Econ State Forest, Florida

The Florida Trail is a scenic trail that stretches 1,300 miles across the state of Florida. You don't have to drag your kids through the entirety of this trail just to experience what it offers. Instead, you can sample a shorter, 7.7-mile, family-friendlier portion of this trail by visiting the LittleBig Econ State Forest

Located just outside the town of Oviedo and only 20 minutes away from Orlando, LittleBig Econ State Forest is a sprawl of wilderness that features cypress swamps, marshlands, old oaks, and ancient magnolias. The portion of the Florida Trail here lies parallel to the banks of Econlockhatchee River, from which this state park takes its name. Here, your kids will not only get to see the marvelous sights the wilds of Florida have to offer, but also get to see alligators, river otters, wild turkey, cranes, ospreys, foxes, deer and various other wildlife.

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People hiking on the Florida Trail

7.  Frozen Niagara Tour, Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

Many parents and kids find the idea of hiking through an underground cave system to be scary. Kids just don't like being in the dark. Parents are concerned about their little ones getting hurt on rocky and slippery cave floors. If that's how you feel, you'd change your mind about hiking in caves once you take the Frozen Niagara Tour offered by the rangers of Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

The Frozen Niagara Tour serves as a sort-of introduction to the subterranean beauty of Mammoth Cave, the longest cave system in the entire world. This tour is short and easy - it only covers a quarter of a mile and lasts for merely an hour and a half. But after the tour is over, you will have visited portions of Mammoth Cave with such whimsical names as Rainbow Dome, Onyx Colonnade, Moonlight Dome, Drapery Room, and Crystal Lake. The highlight of the tour is Frozen Niagara flowstone, a cascade of rock that resembles the great waterfall. Your kids will leave the cave fascinated with the wonders they have seen beneath the ground.

Aside from touring the cave, there are also a lot of things you can do above-ground with your family in Mammoth Cave National Park. You can go hiking or horseback riding. You can also go fishing at the Green and Nolin Rivers.

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Frozen Niagara Tour Mammoth Cave National Park

8.  Muir Woods National Monument, California

If you want to take your kids to a place that matches their notion of what a magical forest looks like, you should take them to Muir Woods National Monument in California. Once you're here, your kids won't be able to say that the magical forest in their imagination is better than this entirely real one. In Muir Woods, you'd be surrounded by really old redwoods towering up to the sky. Try as they might, your kids may not be able to see the tops of these redwoods. Also, because of the park's proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the forest is almost always covered in mist.

Muir Woods also has some of the safest trails in the country. Its main hiking trails are mostly paved and have handicapped accessibility features. These trails are six miles in total length. There are also longer unpaved trails connecting Muir Woods to nearby state parks.Muir Woods is also a day-only park; it doesn't have any campgrounds.

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Child on trail in Muir Woods National Monument

9.  Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

Aside from Mammoth Cave, another dark and creepy-fun place you can take your kids to for a hike is the Thurston Lava Tube, located near the Crater Rim in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Also known as Nahuku, Thurston Lava Tube was formed around 500 years ago when a river of lava flowed here and left a cave-like structure with solid walls and ceiling. In this lava tube, your kids will see lots of rock and mineral formations around them. Thurston Lava Tube is an otherworldly place that your children will definitely find fascinating.

Only a length of 1/3 of a mile of Thurston Lava Tube is accessible to visitors. The hike usually takes only 20 minutes. Thurston Lava Tube is part of the guided Crater Rim Tour held by the rangers of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You should take this tour and see more of the park, which is a stark contrast of lush tropical forest and badlands devastated by volcanic eruptions. Your kids will leave this park with their minds enriched with valuable knowledge of how powerful nature can be.

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Thurston Lava Tube Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Big Island of Hawaii

Going on hiking trips is the best way you can teach your children to love and appreciate nature, as well as recognize the value of staying outdoors to keep healthy and fit. Your children will value memories of these hiking adventures and the lessons they will learn from them for the rest of their lives.

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