View Full Version : Young children in New England

08-11-2014, 08:49
Hi folks,
I am wondering about people's opinions on the feasibility of taking two young children, ages 6 and 8, on portions of the AT in New England (White Mountains, 100 mile wilderness, Baxter). I have been searching around for people's experiences but have not come up with anything with children this young.
Anyone know of any journals or books?
I have been wrestling with the thought of using a portion of their summer vacation next year and just going out to hike until either we don't want to or school is nearing.
They have been doing quite of a few day hikes this summer (ranging from 13 to 18 miles, I think the largest one day total ascent was about 3000/3500 feet) and have really enjoyed themselves. Their uncle hiked half the trail (not the NE portion) and now they are asking to go.
Any opinions on starting somewhere in VT or NH and starting with low mileage days and gradually building up? Is it something a 6 year old would be capable of (i.e. he probably would not be able to climb a slope where rope assistance is needed, if such a place exists). I am not so much worried about the strenuous portions, but rather any dangerous situations that may exist.
Thanks for any information.

08-11-2014, 09:23
I kind of remember an article in Backpacker (this is going back decades) of a couple that brought their 3rd grade kid along on a thru.

But I'm now trying to picture you brining a six and eight year old child on a backpack that goes through the whites, 100 mile wilderness, and or Baxter. The terrain is rough.. or it rains all day, or its humid hot and buggy. I can just hear the complaints now. I would think that would drive you crazy. Also.. one may have done lots of day hikes, but that's not the same as an extended backpack. Have you taken your children on weekend backpacks at least? I'd feel better about this if you have.

I guess what's concerning me right now.. is not that the six and eight year old aren't physically capable (they probably are) but do you really want to deal with the problems and complaints that are sure to come?

If you were to say do a week-two week trip from Williamstown, Mass to Hanover NH.. that I could see working well. The Whites, the 100 mile wilderness, that's something else.

lemon b
08-11-2014, 09:34
Ct. and Ma. or as suggested above. Depends on the kids. But I'd stay away from Northern LT or Whites and Southern Maine with kids that young. 100 mile wild maybe. How many experienced adult hikers are going. In the 100 mile might want to have it one on one. or Three adults with the two kids to haul the weight.

08-11-2014, 09:34
I can't hike 13-18 miles :(

08-11-2014, 10:46
Thanks all for your thoughtful and kind replies.

David, Thanks for the advice. We do have some plans for some overnighters (have not done any yet) to try to gauge their willingness and ability for multiple day hikes. They are pretty resilient but I am obviously a biased father. I just did not want to run into any dangerous situations (the worst I've read is possibly fording fast and high streams?).

Lemon, just one experienced adult. Thanks for the advice.

Teacher & Snacktime
08-11-2014, 11:06
You can check FarmerChef's trailjournal; he's been sectioning his family for the past couple of years and has been through all of NE. As we speak, they're finishing up and should be summitting Katahdin in another week. The kids are ages 8 - 13 currently. but started when they were 5 - 9


And of course, there's Buddy Backpacker, they youngest AT thruhiker who is currently on the PCT



08-11-2014, 12:56
If you're planning on taking them out by-yourself (i.e. only 1 adult)... you need to plan for the possibility that you become incapacitated. The odds are obviously low... but people have disappeared on the AT, you can never rule out having a heart-attack in the back country, and there are tons of ways that you could fall or otherwise get hurt.

For starters, you'll obviously need to leave a detailed itinerary with someone so that if you don't come out of the woods on time, authorities can be quickly contacted. Of course the longer the period of time you plan to stay in the woods, the more difficult it can become to set and follow a fixed itinerary.

You also need to teach the kids what to do if they do find themselves in the woods alone. They need to be taught that its usually going to be better to 'shelter-in-place' and wait for help to come to them at that age than risk walking on alone in search of help. They will need to be able to setup shelter so that they can keep themselves warm and dry. They need to also always have some water on them so that they do not need to wander off in search of water while waiting for rescue.

For those truly paranoid, or to help calm the fears of a worried parent, you could purchase something like a SPOT (http://www.findmespot.com/en/) or an emergency beacon.

So far, my travels with children have been relatively short (two night trips) generally in fairly well populated areas (GSMNP... hard to go more than a day in even the most remote areas without coming across at least one person). So I haven't elected to fork over the money required for a SPOT or emergency beacon. But I have taught them about sheltering in-place if something happens to me... as well as all the rules about stranger danger are pretty much thrown out the window if they find themselves in a back-country emergency.

08-11-2014, 16:30
The Kallin family is currently thru-hiking the AP with an 8 year old girl and 9 year old boy. Their blog can be found at:

08-11-2014, 16:48
Two local girls Alex and Sage, did all the 4000 footer in NH at age 6 (as day hikes) http://www.trishalexsage.com/. Alex did the 4000 footers in winter.

Their Mom wrote a book " the Adventures of Trish and Alex" . She also carried the majority of the gear plus plenty of emergency gear. The children of the former AMC white mountain guide, Gene Daniels had at least two children who did the 100 highest mountains of New England under the age of 7.

This pretty well establishes day hiking ability but maybe not the durability of children that age to do it day in and day out with no long term issues. I personally know of two adults that did competitive running when growing up and both have long term joint issues attributed to "too much, too soon" They were self motivated so it wasn't like they were pushed into it, but in theory that's what the adults are supposed to be keeping them from doing long term damage.

With regards to the adult becoming incapacitated, the mother of the Trish and Alex reportedly found out soon after finishing mostly solo winter hikes with her daughter, that she had a medical condition that could have left her suddenly incapacitated. No matter what planning and training occurred its doubtful how a 7 year old would react with an adult in serious medical condition.

08-11-2014, 16:54
The main problem with New England is many of the climbs were designed for people with long legs. Kids can make it up these climbs, but it takes extra work and energy.

For your first overnight hikes, I'd stick closer to home. North Carolina has a lot of nice hiking (north of the Smokies). The Whites have an additional challenge of very limited camping options which makes it expensive and/or logistically difficult to plan. The 100 mile wilderness also requires good planning. You need to arrange for a shuttle and if you don't want to carry 10 days worth of food, arrange for a food drop. This makes for a very expensive trip.

Plus you need to be very lucky with the weather. This has not been a good summer for hiking in the Whites. We've had a lot of afternoon thunder storms and the summits have been in the clouds more often then not.

08-12-2014, 06:47
Thanks all for your information. I greatly appreciate it all.

08-12-2014, 13:05
Last year I took my ex-girlfriend and her 9yo daughter with me to Mt Washington (Ammo up, Jewell down). She complained a lot, but did fine, she was only carrying a hydration pack, I carried the rest of her stuff.

Feral Bill
08-12-2014, 21:08
The children will get as much out of a trip without the danger and challenges of Main and New Hampshire. A good goal is to get them hooked on backpacking. You can ramp it up as their interest develops.

08-13-2014, 04:40
The Kallin family is currently thru-hiking the AP with an 8 year old girl and 9 year old boy. Their blog can be found at:
www.kallinfamily.com (http://www.kallinfamily.com)

Wow! I'm pretty sure we passed them in April when we did a short section near Hot Springs. I remember asking the kids' ages, and I think the girl was 7 at the time. Awesome to see how far they've gone. :)