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  1. #1
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    Default Hiking with my 13 and 11 year old

    I am looking for direction as to best direction to go for a very small backpacking trip of 15-20 miles with my 11 and 13 year old. I want to start at Clingmans Dome and go about 7- 10 miles in either direction. The other option is go north and do same distance to the top of Mount Washington or maybe something in Vermont. Any advice would be great. I am a seasoned ultra runner, my kids not so much.

  2. #2

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    FWIW, Unless the kids have been hiking for many years, one recommendation would be don't start them out on Mt Washington if you would like to have them join you in future backpacking trips! For most youngsters, keeping the route relatively easy with a few challenging sections and nice views and gradually increasing the level of effort over time is usually the best way to get them into a lifetime of backpacking.

  3. #3

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    I would avoid the whites for first backpacking trip, it might scar them for life . One option is book space at one of the AMC huts and do an overnight. Logistically its simpler and the kids pretty well can get away with daypack. Hard to beat a night up at Greenleaf, Lakes or Madison.

  4. #4

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    I get the desire to start of with some big elevation, it's awe inspiring. However, shin splints are a very real concern on an extended downhill trek. Kids very often don't have the specific muscle/tendon strength for repetitive motions like that. It may seem downhill is easier, but that's a bit misleading and can lead to some lingering injuries when you start off too aggressively. Downhill seems really easy, and you find yourself moving along at speed, but then the pain kicks in.

    Got to build up to the goals. Have fun wherever you decide to go.

  5. #5

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    My daughter (13 at the time) and I spent a weekend hiking a small section of the AT/Long Trail in southern VT. We had a great time. Firetowers, shelters, ponds, ec. It was a training trip for this past summer where my daughter (now 14) and I hiked 230 miles on the JMT/PCT. It was a trip of a lifetime! Having your kids outside with you is worth ALL the time, energy, expense and planning. Nice work!!!

  6. #6

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    I see lots of kids on trails in the Whites and climbing Mt Washington. But it all depends on thier level of fitness and agility. But the way to do that would be book at least one night at Lake of Clouds hut (that will run about $450 a night for the three of you, but joining the AMC will give you a discount).

    Southern Vermont is nice, but not many views. Mostly walking in the woods and threw the mud. Stratton pond area would be nice. There's a fire tower on Stratton for views.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  7. #7
    GSMNP 900 Miler
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    When are you looking at going?
    I ask because the road to Clingmans Dome was recently closed for the season.

    But even more important, if you're looking to do 15-20 miles in GSMNP, there's many great loops that you can do with that kind of mileage... would hate for you to do a simply out-and-back just to stay on the AT.

    And are you looking for one or two nights?
    A very simple loop I did this year for my 10yo daughter's 1st backpacking trip was to park at Gregory Ridge trail head, and hike to campsite #13 (one of my favorite in the park) via Parsons Branch road (currently closed to vehicle traffic) and Gregory Bald Trail for a distance of a little over 7 miles. Next day, we completed the loop by hiking over Gregory Bald (great views) and back to the car via Gregory Ridge trail for a distance of a little over 6 miles.

    If you want to show the kids a full range of what you might encounter in the back country, try the Forney Ridge/Forney Creek/Jonas Creek/Welch Ridge/AT loop camping at CS#70 and Silers Bald shelter.
    Specifically, park at Clingmans Dome parking lot and hike down to Andrews Bald. After you take in the views of the bald, back-track 3/4 mile to Forney Creek where you'll experience a water fall and 5 of the deeper creek fords GSMNP has to offer. After spending the night at #70, hike up Jonas Creek where you'll have 4 more creek crossings that might be a ford, might be a rock-hop depending upon water levels. Once you get to the AT, turn left to go up and over Silers Bald and spend the 2nd night in a shelter. The last day is a 4 mile hike to Cligmans Dome observation tower (not as easy as that sounds given you'll do an additional 1,500' of climbing after the 3,000' of climbing the day before), and then a 1/2 mile pavement/sidewalk back to your car.

  8. #8
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    Mt Washington going AT SoBo is not that difficult on the Crawford Path section of the AT. Generally downhill and fantastic views would be a great backpack for such children . NoBo offers more challenge but could be right for the right kids. Using the huts easy a lot of the hardships of backpacking.

  9. #9

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    In the GSMNP area, consider making a loop from Big Creek Campground to Walnut Bottom (night 1 at campsites 36/37), then up Swallow Fork trail to camp at Mount Sterling on night 2 (campsite 38). Excellent views and it's about 16 miles total. Swallow Fork trail does have a couple of creek crossings with no bridge, so keep that in mind when planning.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Soulman77 View Post
    I am looking for direction as to best direction to go for a very small backpacking trip of 15-20 miles with my 11 and 13 year old. I want to start at Clingmans Dome and go about 7- 10 miles in either direction. The other option is go north and do same distance to the top of Mount Washington or maybe something in Vermont. Any advice would be great. I am a seasoned ultra runner, my kids not so much.
    I agree that a loop somewhere scenic but not very high on difficulty is a good start. Tons of options all over the place for that

    If you go to Vermont, Killington from the US4 is a nice starter area. Some of it can be made a loop and there are a few other addons
    The trail is all up hill from the highway, but isn't that technically difficult. There are tons of views on the way up, but there are nice views at the pico area and killington peak itself. The inn at long trail they also might like

    Or... if they want something more technically challenging, but not very long, there are very nice shelters at mount mansfield and lots of route options. Many of the trails are very steep, but that can be fun if the kids are up for it. Just don't plan for much mileage if you go there because of the difficulty.

  11. #11
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    With kids that young, I'd honestly avoid the Smokies all together. In fact, I'd recommend starting at Max Patch and heading north to Hot Springs. Two reasons. First, avoid the Smokies. You will be required to get passes for the shelters you plan to stay in. If you are "off schedule" you are subject to a fine. That means no zero day if it's raining, you can't bypass a planned shelter stay if your kids are up to it, and if you don't make it as far as you planned you should count on being fined by the Ridge Runners. It is a litigious hell. On the other hand.....Max Patch is GORGEOUS. A great, inspiring place to start. It's 20 miles to Hot Springs with 3 shelters in between....so you can find your pace. The kids will love seeing Hot Springs down below as you descend to it....and they will love eating at the Smokey Mountain Diner when you come off the trail. A stay at Laughing Hart Hostel is both cheap and worth it if you need to overnight before getting a shuttle back to your car and heading home. (Or park at Laughing Hart and have them shuttle you to Max Patch to start).

  12. #12
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    Basically you want a hike with easy access to quick rewards. As such the Smokies falls short. It's something to appreciate for what it is, but does't have that quick payoff that kids crave. Mt Washington can be done, but it's hard and you will most likely want to do the huts at maybe $450 for the 3 of you per night.


    A good AT option is to the iconic Mcafee's knob and the lesser known but still impressive Tinker Cliffs, another great AT hike would be Salsbury CT to Jug End rd MA, unique terrain with many views and a great water feature in Sages Ravine, and some of the finest trail shelters on the trail. There are many more, but those come to mind.

    Another option if you want to lighten their load, there are 2 (that I know of) section that one can do about 10 miles a day for 3 days, each night, 4 nights in total, stay at some form of accommodations (besides the AMC huts). One is Northern MA and the other is I believe is in Shenandoah NP.

  13. #13

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    blazercoach is giving you a recipe for success here. Whatever you choose, you want the hike to be fun, scenic, challenging (but not too challenging) and "interesting". If they enjoy it, you can scale up the difficulty next time. And they will love Hot Springs, too.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Soulman77 View Post
    I am looking for direction as to best direction to go for a very small backpacking trip of 15-20 miles with my 11 and 13 year old. I want to start at Clingmans Dome and go about 7- 10 miles in either direction. The other option is go north and do same distance to the top of Mount Washington or maybe something in Vermont. Any advice would be great. I am a seasoned ultra runner, my kids not so much.
    The Killington Loop from Inn at long trail is worth considering. 9.4 miles and a good climb on the way up, but not technically difficult. You get a great 360 view at the top and there are nice views around Pico shelter as well. Pico is a nice spot to stay
    https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/v...n-extended?u=m

    You could add on some trail to make it longer, or go do something else in vermont or the whites, like a one day hike up Mansfield and stay at Taft lodge or Butler lodge

    I think they might enjoy that a lot more than just hiking one way from Clingman's Dome and doubling back.

  15. #15

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    This is also a cool loop that features Old Rag in Shenandoah. Kids usually love the scrambling there and great views. You could alter it so it was shorter
    https://www.alltrails.com/explore/tr...static-map&u=m

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