Bogs and orchids. Cascades and ledges. Swamps and lakes. Every hike has particular highlights. At the right time of year, when flowers bloom or snowmelt rages over waterfalls, these attractions are all the more dramatic. The following hikes, selected from AMC’s new Outdoors with Kids book series, lead to all kinds of natural wonders. They’re short in distance and accessible for kids. They’re also fun for kids at heart.
Rhododendron State Park
New England’s largest rhododendron grove takes up just a small portion of the 2,723 acres of this park, but it provides a compelling destination for families. From the parking area, follow the half-mile Rhododendron Trail to the Laurel Trail and loop back on the Wildflower Trail. All three are well maintained and can accommodate strollers. July is the prime season to visit, when the plants will be bursting with pink and white blooms. AMC once owned this land, but gifted it to New Hampshire in 1946.
Distance: 0.75 mile
Info: Outdoors with Kids Boston (AMC Books); The New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation
West Roxbury, Mass.
This 90-acre forest abuts a busy parkway, yet offers a surprising escape from its urban surroundings. Allandale is Boston’s second-largest unfragmented woodland, and represents the area’s original ecosystem. Its streams, marshes, hills, and stone walls provide a varied hike through the small trail network. From the church parking area off the VFW Parkway, follow the Ridge Trail to the Rock Pond Trail. Side trails provide paths through marshes and past old farm remains.
High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary
Mass Audubon’s High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary covers 600 acres of wetlands and woodlands. The Sanctuary Road Trail leads directly through the property to the eponymous ledges where you can see across the Deerfield Valley to Mount Greylock. Loop back on the Waterthrush Trail to pass through an orchid swamp. Twenty different orchid species are known to grow here. Or, to extend your hike and to see a variety of other wildflowers, continue onto the Dutch and Mary Barnard Trail. High Ledges, as the name suggests, features exposed, steep cliffs and is recommended for older children.
Powder Mill Ledges Wildlife Refuge
Located on 120 acres in Smithfield, R.I., Powder Mill Ledges’ trail system provides a quick escape from the surrounding development. From the visitor center (headquarters of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island [ASRI]), the Orange Trail offers loops of 0.45 or 0.85 mile. The Blue (1.25-mile loop) and Yellow (1.5 mile out-and-back) trails provide options for extending your hike. Check the ASRI website for education programs run out of the visitor center.
Penwood State Park
Lake Louise, a popular picnicking site, is located at the heart of 800-acre Penwood State Park. A paved 3.5-mile loop road provides walk-in access from two parking areas. For more traditional hiking, several trails radiate out from the lake. The blue-blazed Metacomet Trail bisects the park and passes along the eastern side of the lake. To hike from the park entrance to the lake, follow the Metacomet Trail—part of the New England National Scenic Trail—north for 1.63 miles. Another 1.25 miles of the trail stretches beyond the lake before exiting the park.
Distance: 3.3 miles round trip
Info: Outdoors with Kids Boston (AMC Books); State of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
Long one of the Catskills’ prime tourist attractions, Kaaterskill Falls is located just a short hike from Route 23A. From the parking area, follow 23A for a short distance to the trailhead. The half-mile hike to the falls is steep, climbing over some boulders and up steps. The two-tiered falls—at 260 feet, it’s among the highest in the Northeast—provide a dramatic backdrop for a picnic. The falls were wildly popular in the 19th century, drawing large numbers of tourists and inspiring members of the Hudson River School art movement. The falls are now part of an 18,000-acre state-owned wilderness area.
Double Trouble State Park
Tucked between the Garden State Parkway and the eastern edge of the Pine Barrens is 200-acre Double Trouble State Park. Once home to a cranberry company, the park now features trails that wind through cedar-pine forest and around the property’s many bogs. A 1.5-mile nature trail begins at the entrance; another 2.25-mile loop lies just beyond that. A network of sandy roads also provides ample opportunity for additional exploration by foot or bike.
Distance: 1.5 to 3.75 miles
Info: Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books ); State of New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry