Tips for Hiking with Kids

The Benton Mackaye Trail is a great way to explore hiking with the family. Here is a great guide to make it a fun, successful trip!

Trail Sign for the BMT (Benton MacKaye Trail) and Fall Branch Falls

Ten Tips for a Great Hiking Experience

1. Have contingency plans – one kid might have the ability but just plain stops and won’t go further. So are some family members going to go on, while others wait or walk back? What’s the plan?

2. Take plenty of water and snacks. Carry a water filter and show the kids how to use it.

3. Carry small trash bags so the kids can clean the trail as they hike. However, bending over and picking up something in the woods may be harmful. Have kids point it out and Mom or Dad, wearing gloves, checks for things that bite and put  it in the bag of the little one who saw the trash. Biggest bag at the end of the hike wins. Be aware … after about a mile, Mom or Dad or both will end up carrying all the bags.

FYI: Kids on trails get pretty dirty!

4. Have a change of clothes, dry shoes and towels in the car.

5. Point out “walk arounds” and encourage them not to use them. A “walk around” is where the trail has been obstructed by a tree or standing water and a hiker will walk around creating a wider trail. This increases erosion. Also discourage kids from taking a shortcut across switchbacks. This is dangerous and leads to severe erosion problems.

6. Encourage them to remove sticks and branches on the trail so that it will make it easier for the next hiker. Oh, and kick those “rollers” off the trail. A “roller” is a small, round branch that, when stepped on by a hiker, will roll and possibly cause the hiker to fall or sprain an ankle.

7. Carry a small first aid kit, whistle and bug spray.

8. No flip flops … everyone should wear sturdy shoes.

9. Feel and smell the leaves and wood but please don’t pick the wildflowers. There also is a fair amount of poison ivy in the Cherokee National Forest. Point it out and tell your kids not to touch it.

Trail Maintenance along the BMT

10. Point out obvious signs of trail maintenance, like trees cut out of the path or trails dug into the side of the mountain. Explain that these trails are taken care of by volunteers – that means they come out in the mountains and woods to work on the trails and don’t get paid.

Here are a couple of hikes to start your adventure! Be sure to pack a picnic, both these hikes have great picnic spots.

Long Creek Falls  is an awesome choice for a fairly easy, kid friendly two-mile day hike!  Meandering creeks as well as abundant flora and fauna also have made this area a favorite with backpackers, fishermen and campers.  Side note, while hiking this trail you are also on the famous Appalachian Trail, two famous trails in one.

There are many waterfalls along the BMT. Please be mindful of the fragile environment around them!

Fall Branch Falls  is a must do hike for the entire family! Emerald green Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron line the half mile moderately easy trail to the falls.  An extremely popular trek for visitors and locals alike.

Formed in 1980, the nonprofit Benton MacKaye Trail Association (BMTA) was tasked with constructing, maintaining and preserving the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) – to leave “a footpath for generations to follow”. 

Benton MacKaye Trail Association invites your family to become a “Family Member”. Go to MEMBERSHIP for details.

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Benton MacKaye Trail Association

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