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Arkansas is known as the Natural State for many reasons and one of the main ones is the many wonderful hiking trails across the state. Taking the kids on a hike at an Arkansas State Park is friendly on the budget yet packed with tons of fun and adventure. Check out these 10 tips for having a successful hiking day with kids in Arkansas.
Yes, this is a very important tip. While hiking, your kids will get dirty! They will slide down the side of mountains getting their backside covered in dirt. If it is warm outside and there happens to be a beautiful waterfall or creek on the hike, then it is inevitable, they will get wet. Not just wet, they will become soaked! So, be prepared and pack extra clothes and let the kids be kids and enjoy a day in nature getting dirty and exploring.
I find that it always makes the day more memorable if I bring special snacks or treats that my family doesn’t typically have on hand at home. It is funny how something as simple as a favorite drink or favorite convenient snack can make the day awesome in the eyes of a child. We all know that great snacks make the picnic part of hiking much more fun!
There are signs posted while hiking that mark the trails. It is important to teach your kids to read these signs/markers and to know what to look for while hiking. It helps to keep them safe and on the right track. In addition, pull out a paper map and show them how to read the trails on a map. These are life skills that will help them in the future, and are fun to learn on a family hiking day.
When taking your kids on a hiking day, make sure to have them wear the correct shoes. If they don’t, you are just making more trouble for yourself. Athletic sneakers with a great grip on the bottom or hiking shoes are best. Do not wear flip-flops or sandals while hiking. Everyone will need their grip on their shoes while walking, and you most definitely don’t want to end your day with a blister or turned ankle.
Living in Arkansas, we are all blessed to call home a place that has four distinct seasons. You can hike the same trail in each season and it is a completely different experience. For example, a spring hike on the Cedar Falls Trail at Petit Jean State Park will give you the opportunity to admire the waterfall in all its glory. But if you take that same hike in the fall, you will be able to admire the beautiful foliage in shades of gold, orange, and deep red. Summer hiking trips are best taken on trails with water. The creeks on the trails at Blanchard Springs State Park make for perfect summer hiking trips. The trails never get old. Make a point to take your children to the same trail but in different seasons.
It is important to know the weather for the day before going hiking. Depending on the forecast, you might need to pack multiple items such as a poncho and an extra layer of clothes. You don’t want to be overdressed either. You might need to be prepared to start the day in layers and end your hiking trip in a bathing suit! After all, we do live in Arkansas.
Make sure to stop by the visitor center at all the Arkansas State Parks with children. A lot of effort has been put into making them educational and enjoyable for all the visitors. Plus, this is where you can get the trail map!
While on a hiking trip, make sure you have a first-aid kit with you. Someone always gets a scraped knee or a little cut while hiking (in my family at least). It is amazing how fast a Batman Band-Aid can clear up some tears, and then everyone is back to having fun.
Find some friends who are up for an adventure and go and make memories together. Having kids build friendships by being outdoors and exploring Arkansas is one of the best memories a kid can have.
One of the fun things about exploring Arkansas is finding the local treasures in each town. So, while on your hiking adventure, make sure to find a local shop and see what you can find. It can be a local food specialty shop or a shop featuring handmade goods. One of my favorites is Petit Jean Coffeehouse where I can get both! I can get a coffee treat after a hike and browse their Arkansas-Made goodies. Kids always love getting to visit these shops (but it is just a bonus for the adults when coffee is involved).
Other favorite stops:
Writing this and reminiscing over all our hiking trips over the years in Arkansas makes me grateful to live in such a rich state full of natural beauty and entertainment. So, grab your shoes, kids, and some friends and GO EXPLORE ARKANSAS.
Bonus Tip: If you are a parent, be prepared to be a pack mule at some point on any given hiking trip.
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