This is honestly one of our favorite parts of going on a trip – choosing where to go. We truly love browsing guide books, maps, and trip reports. Each destination holds its own sort of magic and special appeal. It usually makes us wish for a years worth of free summers so we can go everywhere we want to. In the past we usually just choose where we want to go and then figure out the kid situation along the way. This time, we knew that we had to be very careful about choosing where we go because Chloe would be hiking some too and we didn’t want it to be too difficult for her. We are taking the baby backpack, but it’s so hard to sit in there the whole time when Mason gets to have all the fun throwing rocks and collecting sticks. Hopefully our chosen destination will be a good fit! Here are a few tips on how to select where to go.
1. Really analyze what your ability is and what you want from your trip (read about this here). You might want to go on a 50 mile trip, but think about if that’s realistic. If you’re new to backpacking, start small and get confident in your abilities before you bring the kids along.
2. Do some research. Be sure to use books and the internet. Each of them will fill in the gaps where the other is lacking. Check out your local library for a good selection of books on your area. Although everywhere you go will have different sites available, here are a few we like:
http://www.summitpost.org – Info and trip reports from around the world
http://www.bogley.com/ – Mostly Utah specific
http://14ers.com – Colorado’s 14ers and surrounding areas
http://www.aroundcolorado.com – Although this hasn’t been updated in years, the info is great
http://www.backpackinglight.com – Ultralight gear focus with great forums
http://www.backpacker.com – Home of backpacker magazine
3. Pick a spot that will keep the kids entertained. I usually prefer to hike near water so the kids can play around it. The trail that you hike along is just as important as where you camp, so make sure that you can find a good area for both.
4. Be aware of your elevation gain and loss. I really feel like hills are the thing that wear my kids out faster than anything else. We try to avoid steep trails on longer trips, for our sanity. Most trail guide books will tell you the elevation gain/loss of each trail. If you want more specific information, look at a topographical map of the area.
5. Choose a trail with some flexibility. Remember that you are backpacking with your kids and it will be different than just a regular hike. Chances are that everyone will be more tired and go more slowly. Choose a trail where you can have options where you sleep, or build in some extra time. On regular hikes, we plan for about one mile in an hour, but backpacking is usually much slower (is that even possible?).