As the branch manager of the Capital District, NY branch of The Camper Connection and mom of 3 little ones, I know how beneficial it can be explore the outdoors. My husband and I try to take as many hikes as we can with the kids throughout the year. There are so many local trails throughout the Capital District, Saratoga, and Adirondack regions that are family friendly. We think it is important for kids to get dirty and experience nature. Here are some of our favorite trails to explore:
Long Pond Trail is located in Grafton Lake State Park in Grafton, NY. This trail is a 3 mile loop around the lake. It is rated as a moderate trail due to the varying terrain that can be difficult to maneuver for little feet. You may want to bring a pack along if you have toddlers.
The hike has great views of the water and wildlife. On our hike, there were ducks swimming and frogs hiding in the marshy water. We identified mushrooms and other plant life – thanks to the Seek app for identifying the items I wasn’t quite sure what the name was. The kids also searched for creepy crawlies. They found salamanders, centipedes, and worms. There are plenty of benches and rest areas to take a break along the way.
Near the trail head is a playground where the kids were able to unwind at the end of the hike. There are multiple playsets that include swings, slides, and climbing structures. A new natural playscape was built in the last few years which includes a tunnel made of vines, a boat with sand, and a lookout tower. There is also a kids area in the Welcome Center which is right next to the playground. This is an indoor facility that offers a puppet stage, camping pretend play accessories, and wooden dollhouse and stackables.
Of course, there is always the beach too, you can bring sand toys or trucks to play in the sand. After Memorial day, the beach is open for swimming and you make a whole day of your adventure. For older kids, there is also a boat launch where you can canoe or kayak.
Another trail within the Grafton Lakes State Parks, is the Dickinson Fire Tower. This is an easy, kid friendly hike that is about 2 miles out and back. We enjoyed hiking this trail when are two older children were 3 and 5. The trail has some incline but is mostly flat and open. At the end of the trail you will find the fire tower and a small picnic area where you could enjoy lunch if you packed one.
The Fire Tower is at the end which is 60 feet tall. It was built in 1924 to monitor the Tomhannock Reservoir for forest fires The Fire Tower had special meaning for my husband, as his grandmother used to work there as a watch guard and he was able share the story with our children. The Fire Tower was restored in 2011 and you are allowed to climb up and see amazing views of the Adirondacks, Green Mountains and Taconic Mountains.
The Hudson Crossing Park is located in Schuylerville, NY. It offers a unique hiking experience with natural playscapes throughout the trail. The trail is a 2.5 mile loop and is an easy hike for little ones. It is also smooth enough to bring a stroller if needed.
There are beautiful canal views and you can even see boats come into the lock on the Hudson River. Signs are posted throughout which gives you history of the canal. Our absolute favorite part of this hike is the play areas located along the trail. There are separate spots with swings, slides, and climbing structures which make a wonderful distraction for children when they get tired of walking.
There is camping in the area at Schuyler Yacht Basin RV Park. This campground offers a marina for all of your water toys and full hook-up RV sites. The campground is just two blocks from the heart of Schuylerville where you can visit unique shops and enjoy a delicious meal at Clarks Steakhouse.
Anchor Diamond is an easy 2.5 mile trail located in Ballston Spa, NY. It is heavily wooded and is a great place to see wildlife. There are multiple bridges, stonewalls, and creeks which make for interesting sites along the route. There are multiple trails which are all very well marked.
Since this trail it a little longer, I always like to have some activities for the kids to do on our hike to alleviate boredom. On this hike we did a Color Hike, which is great for kids even of a young age. When walking along we found every color of the rainbow. This simple task is just enough to keep kids’ minds occupied to get through lulls during the hike. For older children, or for those that love a challenge, you can try an ABC Hike. Starting with the first letter of the alphabet, find something that starts with the letter A (acorn, for example) and then continue on to the next letter. For the trickier letters, you may also find an object shaped like the letter. For instance, a Y shaped tree, twigs in the shape of an X, etc.
The Pinnacle located in Bolton Landing, NY is a more challenging hike, but is worth it for the amazing views at the top. The trail is 1.5 miles. The trail is steep and with loose rocks can be difficult to find footings, so our 3 year old did have to get carried in a few spots.
Because of the beautiful views, it is a popular trail and there can be some traffic, depending on the time you visit. At the peak, there is a nice flat area to rest and take in the breathtaking views of Lake George and the Adirondacks.
Hiking with children does require a bit more flexibility and preparation. Since this was a more difficult trail, it is important to be prepared. Here are my recommendations when hiking with kids:
- Dress in layers
- Pack lots of snacks
- Bring bug repellent – our favorite is Bug Off Lotion Bar by Seed Geeks
- Protect yourself and little one from the sun using hats and sunscreen
- Get an Oaki Suit to keep your little one dry
- Bring plenty of water
- Pack a first aid kit
Hiking can be started at any age and skill level. If you are local, or visiting the area, we hope this article will inspire you to explore the beautiful trails of Upstate NY. If you are in another state, I recommend the All Trails app to discover trails in your area. Looking for more things to do in New York? Check out our previous blog post for Saratoga Springs, NY.