How to start


Clouds are a playground for the imagination — all you need to enjoy them is something comfortable to lie on.

Step 1

On a partly cloudy day, grab a towel or a blanket and head out to your backyard or forest.

Step 2

Pick a nice, open area with a clear view of the sky.

Step 3

Lie down on your back and start talking with your child about what they see. Do they spot any particular shapes? How about animals? What are the animals doing?

Step 4

Sometimes it helps to jumpstart your child’s imagination if you begin talking about something you see — the more imaginative and outrageous the better.

Step 5

You may end up seeing a lot of things that aren’t clouds, such as airplanes, birds, or bugs. If that happens, even better — there’s no right or wrong way to cloudgaze.

Step 6

Learn more about different types of clouds through the following websites: Types of Clouds and Decoding Clouds.

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Exploration Ideas

  • Draw the clouds

    Bring a pad and pencil out and ask your kids to try drawing a few of the clouds they see. Jot down descriptions of what they might be doing — for example: “Camel, wearing a cowboy hat, about to board a gigantic ship.”

  • Make up a cloud story

    Using the drawings, and the descriptions, try making up short stories about the clouds (your child can finish the story or expand on it when they get home). All you have to do is start asking “why” — why is the camel wearing a cowboy hat? Why is he getting on a gigantic ship? Where is he going?

What to Bring

  • Plenty of water, even for short hikes — a gallon per person per day is a good guide
  • Snacks such as fruit or trail mix and empty bags to collect any garbage
  • Sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Lightweight rain jacket

Safety Tips

  • Before you get on the trail make sure you have the local Forest Service Ranger District’s or Supervisor’s Office phone number with you. If someone gets hurt this should be the first number you call.
  • Always let someone know where you're going and what time you expect to be back.
  • Avoid going if a thunderstorm is in the forecast. Seek shelter in a car or house if you’re caught in a thunderstorm. If you're caught outside, the safest place to be is crouching in a cluster of trees — not in a clearing, out on water, or next to a lone tree.
  • Be mindful of the sun. Use sunscreen, seek shade, and drink plenty of water — even in the winter.
  • Animals have their own natural food supply so please don’t feed them.
  • Fruits and mushrooms can look tasty, but some are poisonous. To be safe, do not eat anything you find growing in the forest.
  • Railroad tracks are for trains only. Keep to the side and stay off the tracks.
  • Set a turnaround time when heading out that gives you plenty of time to get back before it gets dark. Expect to spend at least the same amount of time hiking back as you did hiking out.
  • Bring a small flashlight or another source of light with you if you'll be out close to sunset.
  • Remember to be mindful of cars when you’re in a park near a road. Wear bright colors for extra visibility.