View Full Version : 2 Week Hike with 13 Year Old Son

10-25-2011, 20:31
I am hoping to do a 10-14 day hike next May or July with my 13 year old son somewhere in the middle of the AT. I am just working out the logistics but wanted to get some thoughts from the folks on WB. I am working my way north with small sections starting 2 years ago at Amicalola and now just short of the NOC in NC. I would consider picking up from there but getting to and from the trailheads and the restrictions in the Smokies make me think twice. My son joined me for 4 days last year and did great in pretty adverse conditions. We are both ready to go for a little longer time and further distance. I am thinking about the Shenandoah section starting near I-64 and ending at or near Harpers Ferry, WV. Or vice versa. Airports for us (and my wife and other son who would meet us when done) seem very convenient (Charlottseville and Dulles). The terrain looks very easy compared to N. GA or S. NC. I guess I am looking for some confirmation that this is a good section for us to tackle from the people that have done it. If not, any other suggestions would be appreciated.



Papa D
10-25-2011, 21:40
I spent many years running wilderness programs for 13-15 year olds - mostly boys - kids can often do a lot more than you think they can - If you can stand it and outfit them both, let him take a friend - they will push each other. Another thing, under no circumstances should kids hike wearing boots in the summer - they don't need the "support" - neither do most adults and kids don't understand what breaking stuff in really means - they absolutely will do much better with trail runners (or just running shoes) and smart-wool socks. Trust me on this - PM me if you need more - I think the Grayson Highlands - just north of Damascus or maybe the Roan Mts - just North of Irwin TN would be great- the hiking can be hard but there is a lot to see - hiking through what kids perceive as a "green tunnel" forever bores them - hit high points, lakes, creeks to swim in in the summer, etc.

Wise Old Owl
10-25-2011, 22:02
You nailed something very close to my heart. Papa D is very close to what needs to be done. - first make sure its a ten or less. Second - kids are impressionable and it going to be a longer hike than he thinks and you also need a TON of patience.

1 stop at streams and show what is under rocks - get your feet wet. (no cotton socks)
2 suddenly stop and point out poison ivy or a salamander.... (my son found a baby non-poisonous snake)
3 discuss drinking water with an added flavor - keep them hydrated
4 pick up a rock and tell him how old it is - even if you are wrong...
5 ask him to remember a bird - so you and he can identify it later.
6 don't put a pack on him till later - ask him to carry his "personal water"
7 ask him if he would like to include a freind on the hike.
8 Hard Candy Yes Sugar! and Jerky!
9 Slower pace.
10 Key - show him a map ask him what he would like to plan or see.
11 ALWAYS find a ice cream store on the way home and praise him, even if U have to bail. (always have an second plan)

Miami Joe
10-25-2011, 22:14
Great advice here. Thanks for the thread.

just dad
10-26-2011, 19:34
I agree with Papa D on Roan Mtns. to Grayson Highlands section. That was some great country. We hiked northern Virgina this summer including Shenandoah. The trail in Shenandoah was generally easy, but be warned that the views from the AT were not very good. Storms, fires, and insect damage have taken a toll on the trees in the park. I understand that the park is much prettier once you get off the ridge. Plus crossing Skyline Drive every couple miles gets very old very quickly. In my opinion the terrain outside of the Shenandoah park is not very easy compared to the GA/NC terrain. Virginia has long ups and long downs with flat ground in between. My kids and I averaged about the same mileage in both Virginia and NC.

Papa D
10-26-2011, 19:53
I've been out with 13 year olds who found a 5 mile day grueling - I've also been out with a 13 year old girl (she is now 15) who did a 40 mile day - in about 20 hours - she did the Long Trail with me last year in 20 days too and styled it - anyway, this is just to say that it really all depends on the kid

lemon b
10-26-2011, 20:11
Ya all have fun. The key is keeping him warm.

10-26-2011, 21:45
Might consider hiking from Carlisle, PA (US 11) south to Harpers Ferry, WV. Both ends are very accessible. I did that section in ten days averaging 11 miles/day. I'd consider a late May/early June time frame when water is plentiful and temps aren't in the danger zone.

Might read my 2010 MD-PA section hike TrailJournal entries (http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=313800).

10-26-2011, 23:56
This last summer, I did the Shenandoah with my 12 year old, another 13 year old, and his mom.

We went NB from Rockfish Gab to Front Royal (just over 100 miles).

The kids LOVED the treats along the way!!! (cheeseburgers at Big Meadows, breakfast at Skyline, Shakes at ElkWallow).

Although we have only hiked the Maryland section of the AT, we found the SNP to have great views.

____Several have suggested further south. Is the heat worse down there in July? How does it compare difficulty-wise with SNP or Maryland?

10-27-2011, 11:19
I have had groups of Indiana Boy Scouts on two seperate trips one from Roan Mt. to Kincora (hiking North) and one from Hurricane campground to Damascus hiking south. Both trips were great. The boys were generally 13 to 16 year olds. Given the amount of time you have, I might start at Roan Mt. and hike North of Hurricane campgroud. There are places like Mt Harbour and Kincora to do food drops, and Damascus is a nice visit. Also, there are shuttle services that can get you end to end. The Roan Highlands and Grayson Highlands are both really cool places to hike with lots of views, great camp sites and during my late summer trips good water (your experience may very). Some of the hiking is a little hard (for flat-landers) but noting was too hard for even the youngest boys (its really the fat old dads that have a hard time). Have fun.

Papa D
10-27-2011, 11:29
Yes - agree with rpenczek - I have guided many father / son type groups - more often than not, the out of shape, wannabe tough Dads are the problem

just dad
10-27-2011, 20:36
Yes - agree with rpenczek - I have guided many father / son type groups - more often than not, the out of shape, wannabe tough Dads are the problem

A couple years ago when we hiked the Grayson Highlands we came across a Boy Scout troop that had huge dad participation. When I was speaking with one of the dads I commented on how nice it was to see so many dads with their sons in the woods. The dad replied "we thought it would be fun."

Wise Old Owl
10-27-2011, 20:54
Shame there is not more interest in this thread with kids/

10-28-2011, 17:36
Thanks for the responses. It sounds like there will be more to see in the N NC, NE TN and SW VA than in the Shenandoah area. So, the next question is, what is the best point to fly into/out of? We are coming from Florida. Can anyone provide me with contacts for shuttle rides? Thanks

Based on our trip last May for 4 days in the rain, my son should have no problem with distances. We kept his pack light last time (I carried the 2 person tent) and did not get carried away on mileage. We covered 37 miles in the 4 days (noon Friday to noon Monday), going from Dicks Creek Gap to Rock Gap. That was some good up and down terrain and he was very into it. I think he likes the challenge.

just dad
10-28-2011, 19:55
I drove to Damascus from Sarasota, FL, although that was a long drive. I understand that the tri-cities airport in NC is convenient to that section of the trail. The folks at Mt. Rogers Outfitters in Damascus (276-475-5416) can arrange a shuttle. They shuttled us twice when we hiked through that area. Great people. I generally ship all the gear that I can't carry on the plane to the person who is shuttling us. Then we just carry our packs on board. The ATC shuttle list is also a good source for finding shuttles: http://www.appalachiantrail.org/docs/default-document-library/ATShuttlesParking101311.pdf?Status=Master the list is under "find a hike" on the ATC website. The folks at Mountain Harbour B & B and Hostel also treated us very well. They could possibly shuttle from the airport to the southern end of your section. Let me know if you have more questions.

10-31-2011, 19:54
Thanks Just Dad. Tri Cities looks to be very convenient and the shuttle you suggest is reasonable; as is air fare, surprisingly. I am now leaning towards going from Damascus south to Erwin. The profile looks very reasonable. Based on how we are doing we will end there or continue on with a stretch goal of Hot Springs. That airport is also convenient for my wife and other son to fly into and meet us in either town or some road in between. From there we will head to our cabin in Blue Ridge, GA. So that would work out far better than further north in SNP.

Papa D
10-31-2011, 20:50
Fly into Asheville, NC -- easy access to the Trail in Hot Springs up to Erwin, TN and really, all the way up to Damascus - really not much driving -- lots of the hostels will shuttle you -- P/M me - if I'm in the area, I'll shuttle.

Rain Man
11-04-2011, 09:28
... I am now leaning towards going from Damascus south to Erwin. ...

If you do that section, you will get to cross the dam at Watauga Lake, and hike around the lake. I'm told views of the lake from Vandeventer Shelter can be awesome, but I only saw fog. You can even camp and/or swim in the lake. I think kids love "water," so to me that would be an added bonus that some sections don't have. You'll also hike past Laurel Falls, an iconic AT photo spot.

Show him the oldest remaining shelter on the AT on McQueen Knob. A run-down, tiny, almost spooky place, no longer used nor listed as a shelter.

And I'd "second" a stay at Mountain Harbour B&B/Hostel. GREAT place. Lots of horses. Be sure to get the breakfast. YUMM.



11-04-2011, 13:57
When I had my Boy Scouts on the South Section Roan Mt. hiking north to Kincora, we stayed at Mountain Harbour and at Kincora. Since it was "off season" we were the only ones at both hostels. Had their been other hikers, we would have not monopolized either place and would have "camped" near by. Bob at Kincora will shuttle you as well. To say Bob has lots of information on the trail in that section would be an understatement. My Scouts loved talking with Bob and he shared with us lots of insight. He can describe every turn in the trail. For us, both places were very welcoming and a welcome break from camping in the rain. (Bob shuttled us to Roan Mt. and we hiked back to his hostel).

It is a shame you will not hike in the Grayson Highlands, my Boys really really loved it there. We south from Hurricane Campgroud to Damascus. A local Boy Scout troop shuttled us for this trip. Grayson will hold a boys attention with the wild ponys and the views. For this trip, Lone Wolf (on this board) was a wealth of information.

Finally, check the threads here about hiking around the lake (south of Damascus), I recall reading at least one post (from Chaco Taco I think) about bear problems at some sites along the lake because of trash, etc. left by boat-in (assumption) campers. Bob at Kincora would also have the skinny on any bear activity in the area.

Have fun.

11-04-2011, 15:07
James river footbridge north to swift run gap(SNP). That would be a traverse of the Pedlar Ranger District, Great high spots, a bald, and of course spy rock..my favie camping spot. great creeks with waterfalls, and also some of the nice flat in SNP to finish. I know when i was the age of your son(not much older now) it wasn't camping without a fire. and through SNP no fires permitted except at the huts..not much to see in SNP in my opinion. unless you like hearing the roar of motorcycles all times of the day. my two cents.
Happy Trails!

11-05-2011, 22:02
I too am considering a hike with my 13yo son next yr, in May right after school gets out, before it gets too hot. Unsure of distance, probably start with around 40 and then play by ear, up to max possibly of about 90 if no problems, foot issues, etc. If it quits being fun, we will stop. As long as he is having fun, Ill be willing to keep going.

11-27-2011, 12:52
I have a 13 year old son and we have hiked over 400 miles on the AT together. He is very fit though and 5 feet 11, so he's very capable and I often find myself struggling to keep up with him, myself being 42. I've seen him do 20+ miles day pretty constantly, and he carries his fair share (about 20-25 pounds usually). So don't underestimate your son, and have a great hike!

11-27-2011, 13:49
First off, congratulations. This sounds like a great time in the making. My kids have been backpacking with me since they were five or so, and they love it. Having done trips with your son already, you have some sense of what he's up for in terms of mileage & what he can haul. Good ...

I'll second (or third) the Roan Highlands suggestion; my memory of the southern trail isn't that great (20 years ago) but that and the Laurel Fork were a couple of highlights for me -- and if you're out for two weeks you can certainly hit both. In fact, it seems to me you could probably string together those spots and the Mt. Rogers / Grayson Highlands stretch -- another standout -- and make a really great trip out of it.

Shenandoah is nice, and super easy, but not as nice as those stretches further south.

Of course, if you've got two weeks, and especially if you're going in July, you could do the longer drive and come up to New England. There's some stuff to do here, especially in the Whites or in Maine, that neither of you will ever forget, and it's a heck of a lot cooler.

11-27-2011, 16:38
I also encourage the OP on this! My son (9 at the time) did 109 mile AT hike. He was big for his age but he carried his sleeping bag, ground pad, clothes, and daily snacks. I think by letting him carry that stuff he was more "into the hike," feeling some responsibility. Our biggest day was 13 miles during a rainy day (just felt like keeping moving . . . both of us). It was a special time of bonding with him that I'll NEVER forget! ;)