Five Questions with Hike It Baby Roanoke

Small child hunts for nature leaves and rocks for a nature scavenger huntYear after year, the Roanoke Region is recognized as a great place to raise an outdoor family. However, hiking with a baby, toddler, or young kid can seem daunting for those who’ve never done it. That’s why we asked the local experts, Hike It Baby Roanoke, to give us some tips and tricks for getting outdoors with kids!

What is Hike It Baby?

Hike It Baby creates opportunities and removes barriers to access so families with babies and young children can take their first steps outside. We believe all families have the right to connect with nature, benefit from spending time outdoors, and be inspired to have a lifelong love of nature.

There is no shortage of great hikes in our region, but I can’t imagine taking a toddler somewhere like Dragon’s Tooth. Can you give us your favorite kid-friendly hikes in the region?

  • Fishburn Park: the Stream Trail that forks off Murry Run Greenway is a perfect beginner trail. It is short (less than a mile), pretty flatTwo adults and four children walk along a trail in the woods on a sunny day (great for little legs), and provides lovely scenery along the way (trees, rocks, and the stream). There’s also a really cool bridge to cross, and kids usually love walking in the stream to cool off or search for wildlife. There are also bathrooms, which is a big plus!
  • Explore Park: This is an extensive trail network, but there are several options for short loops or out-and-backs, and there are lots of opportunities for exploring close to the parking area. There’s also Treetop Quest’s Chick Pea course for kids as young as four if you want to spice things up! There are restrooms as well as a little restaurant and shop on the grounds for a post-hike meal and hang.
  • Roaring Run: This 1.7-mile, round-trip hike outside of Eagle Rock in Botetourt County is really fun! You start at an old iron mill (super cool structure for kiddos to check out) and enjoy a pretty mild hike along the river while encountering many waterfalls along the way. In the warmer months, for those who can swim, there’s a portion of the river where people like to slide down the rocks and swim in the water!
  • Mill Mountain: There are a variety of hiking trails on Mill Mountain, so you have a lot of options to fit your kiddos’ hiking abilities. For the small ones, you can stick to the greenway path and check out the Mill Mountain Star, the overlook, the trees, and even the playground. There are some hills, so it’s a good spot to start introducing some elevation change. The Mill Mountain Discovery Center is also there! It’s free and offers a lot of educational activities (and wildlife) for kids to enjoy. And if you’re up for it, you can end your day at the Mill Mountain Zoo!

We asked for the best tip for parents who want to start hiking with little ones. Hike It Baby did us one better and gave us a list of things to bring/tips to try!

  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Dressed in appropriate clothes for the type of outing & weather
  • Extra clothes if theirs get wet
  • Proper baby carrier if needed
  • Know your child’s limitations and set reasonable goals
  • Having a buddy
  • Make it fun and play-based! (Count bugs, collect rocks and sticks, and do an outdoor treasure hunt)
  • Bribery/Whatever it takes!

You mentioned that dressing appropriately is important. How do you dress your kids for hikes?

First, use proper layers for cold days (base layer, mid-layer, and outerwear). Second, dress kids for the coldest temperature. It’s always fine to take off layers if it gets too hot. While tempting, avoid flip flops or crocks in the warmer seasons because they are slippery and don’t stay on little feet very well. If it rains, wear a rain jacket, rain bibs, and rain boots. Last, choose good-fitting gear that allows for plenty of freedom of movement.

For those of us who would like to have some other parents and kids to tag along with on hikes, how does someone learn about your upcoming meet-ups and/or get involved with Hike It Baby?

The best way to learn about our upcoming hikes or ask s questions is to visit our Facebook page. You can also find our contact information and learn more about our organization at the Hike It Baby website. We’re always here to help folks and kiddos get outside!

Group of several parents and young children outside, smiling for the camera