BY ROGER DUBIN
Want to do something special for your kids that can prepare them for a happy and healthy life? Take them hiking. There are many places within a short drive from Manhattan, even ones accessible from mass transit.
Why is hiking good for kids? Here are just a few reasons:
- Exposes them to nature and creates an appreciation of plants, wildlife, and land formations.
- Helps them learn how to be content without the help of digital aids.
- Provides exercise and helps them develop balance and coordination
- Helps teach a sense of direction
- Encourages the use of many of the senses at once.
My story. Over ten years ago I was on vacation with my family in Scottsdale Arizona. One of the “things to do” was to climb Camelback Mountain. The approach from one side was easier than from the other but regardless of how you approached it, the climb was challenging and you were rewarded with a feeling of accomplishment, satisfaction and some great views. My kids, now in their mid to late twenties, still remember those hikes, appreciate nature, and hike regularly. My takeaway at the time was if I had a mountain like that in my backyard, I would simply climb it a couple of times a week and that would be all I needed to stay in shape and have a good time doing it.
A little over four years ago I was driving down the Palisades Parkway on my way to the George Washington Bridge and noticed a footbridge over the highway. I remembered from growing up in the area that this bridge led to hiking trails along the Palisades. The next week I went back for a hike with my son and have been hiking regularly ever since. I’ve lost weight, my blood pressure has gone down, and I am in the best shape I have been in for decades.
And guess what? There are hundreds of miles of trails within easy reach of NYC and no fee or charge to explore them. Whenever I see kids on the trails they are filled with excitement and wonder. And many of the older hikers I meet have been doing it all their lives. So start them young and help them acquire a healthy habit for a lifetime.
Here are some tips for young and novice hikers from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, the people who maintain the trails in the NY NJ area:
- Help them prepare: clothing, gear, food, water, meds.
- Go short: limit distance, vertical gain.
- More “payoffs per mile”: viewpoints, lakes, waterfalls, etc.
- Invite a peer!
Go for it. Take a hike with your kids.
In addition to being the Marketing Director for this magazine, Roger is the Trail Supervisor for over 50 miles of trails in South Harriman (managed by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference). Follow him on Instagram @MrNaturalNYC or simply contact him if you have any questions or want any tips.
RESOURCES FOR HIKING NEAR NYC
- The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, NYNJTC.org. They have been connecting people with nature since 1920 and maintain 2,165 miles of trails. The simple “Find a Hike” tab helps you locate hikes with specific features.
- Palisades Interstate Park Commission (right across the Hudson): NJPalisades.org
- AMC New York-New Jersey Chapter: AMC-NY.org
- ADK North Jersey Ramapo Chapter: HudsonHikers.org
- And don’t forget the Boy Scouts (now girl friendly) and the Girl Scouts