I have always enjoyed being in nature, whether I am skiing, running, biking, or hiking. Over the last few years, my adventures outdoors were not as frequent as they had been prior to having children; however, as our children have gotten a little older, it’s been easier to do family hikes. My husband and I have found that hiking with our children is an easy way to spend time together as a family while also providing an opportunity to explore.
Our children are young – ages 3 and 5. So, keeping that in mind, while deciding where our family nature adventure will take us, we’ll consider the following:
- How far of a drive to reach our destination?
Our kids have a semi-short tolerance for car rides. We try to find trails that are no longer than a 60 minute (or so) drive from home.
- What trails are appropriate for the kids?
One of the most important things I take into consideration is if there are trail options that are both safe in terrain and a “doable” distance for the kids. Our kiddos can last about 2-2.25 miles before they start begging to be carried. We try to stick to that distance. Ideally, I’d like the trail to be a loop vs an out-and-back but we’ll do whatever works!
After deciding on our location, I’ll prep the night before:
- Spray all hiking clothing with permethrin. Ticks are terrible this year and this spray is remarkably effective on avoiding ticks. I spray everything – shoes, socks, pants, shirts.
- Pack a bag with a change of clothing (including a change of shoes), sunscreen, snacks, etc.
- Pack a first aid kit and a tick key or tick twister. The first aid kit has come in handy on more than one family nature adventure.
- Pack a picnic lunch. After hiking and exploring, a picnic is a nice way to end the adventure.
COVID impacts to state parks in WI:
- Some state parks are currently monitoring capacity. Some of the more popular parks (Devil’s Lake, for example) have been meeting capacity numbers and have been turning away guests as a result. Prior to your visit, check out WI DNR’s website to see if your park is at capacity.
- Day pass purchases for state park entry are currently not allowed. To visit a start park, you will need to purchase an annual state park pass (vehicle sticker).
Wisconsin has many beautiful state and county parks to explore. Some of our favorite areas to hike, within an hour’s drive from Green Bay (or less), are:
- Whitefish Dunes State Park and Cave Point County Park (Door County)
- Kohler-Andrae State Park (Sheboygan)
- 1000 Islands Environmental Center (Kaukauna)
- Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve (Suamico)
- Maribel Caves County Park (Maribel)
- Not interested in any listed above? The Alltrails app & website is a great resource for finding local hikes or even state and national hikes.
Family nature adventure days have been a great opportunity for us to discuss nature, discuss the importance of caring for our national/state/county parks as well has given us natural experiences our kids still talk about even if the adventure was weeks or months ago. We’ve, unintentionally, hiked Barkhausen during snake mating season (yikes), climbed rocks and explored caves at Maribel Caves, enjoyed the corkboard hike at Kohler-Andrae and played on the sandy beach after our picnic, and admired the beauty of Whitefish Dunes.
These family nature adventure days have been a bright lining to the current chaos of COVID and I will cherish those memories during this time forever!