How to start


Hiking can happen no matter where you live. It’s a great way to explore a new place, and get some exercise while you’re at it.


Look up nearby trails using the Discover the Forest location finder.


Be mindful of the weather. Before you head out make sure you’re aware of the temperature or potential rain.


If you live in a city, try urban hiking. Read this article on how to plan your urban hike.


Whether you’re hiking on a trail or in the city, make sure you wear the right shoes and bring water and snacks.

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Exploration Ideas

  • Play the rainbow hunt game

    As you’re hiking, ask your children to find things in “rainbow order” (so, starting with red, then orange, yellow, etc). Feel free to include non-natural items (especially if you’re in a more urban area). You can either tell each other as you find things, or keep a list and compare notes at the end.

  • Keep a hiking journal

    Take along a notebook and encourage your child to write down things they find interesting on the hike. Take a break to sketch a tree, bridge, or some other landmark. You can also use your journal to take note of interesting plants you come across, so you can look them up when you get home.

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
  • Warm layers and a lightweight rain jacket
  • Travel size first aid kit
  • Map of the area you’ll be exploring and your emergency contact numbers
  • A small flashlight and batteries


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.