Best winter walks (and more) with children: Delaware Valley

For the past several weeks, AMC volunteers and staff have shared some of their favorite winter walks, hikes, and other outings for families throughout the Northeast. We started in the White Mountains, inscribed a suburban semi-circle around Boston, and traversed Connecticut from eastern shore to western slope. For the last post in this series, we explore the Delaware Valley and its winter offerings for families.

Two AMC Delaware Valley Chapter members are our guides. John Urick, Delaware chapter trip leader, took his son on many hiking trips and now goes hiking with his granddaughters, ages 13 and 9. Not surprisingly, Urick takes the long view on hiking with children. If you want kids to grow up as hikers, he believes, you want them to enjoy their hikes as children. And that is especially important for winter hikes — where one cold, miserable day can ruin a kid for a whole season or more.

Delaware Valley Chapter member Linda Dallas has moved to two different towns in eastern Pennsylvania in recent years with her young family. Both times, she’s found herself in an unlikely role for a newcomer, that of an outdoors ambassador, encouraging other families to come hiking with her and her children.

Both Dallas and Urick place a great deal of importance on proper clothing for winter hiking with children. “The key to winter hiking is adjusting layers,” Urick says. “It’s harder with young kids, because they don’t really know how to keep from over-heating or getting cold.” Dallas, who has introduced many of her children’s friends to the pleasures of winter hiking, keeps a collection of kid-sized outdoor gear and hand-warmer packs on hand, and makes sure to bring hot chocolate along on outings.

Here are some of their favorite winter outings with children, all of them in east-central Pennsylvania.

Hawk Mountain, Kempton. Urick recommends Hawk Mountain as a hike in any season. The raptor sanctuary and nature center maintains 8 miles of trails and a visitor center that often offers programs geared to young naturalists. “The trails are well-maintained and not too tough on children,” Urick says, and the mountain’s spectacular 360-degree views of the Delaware Valley make it a prime spot to watch spring and fall raptor migrations.

Tekening Trail, Martin’s Creek. “My husband loves to hike on this trail in the winter,” Dallas says, “because we don’t have to worry about ticks on us or our dogs.” It’s also easy to create point-to-point trails that suit the weather and the family’s schedule, whether they plan to hike one mile or one of the longer loops. The trail follows the Delaware River along one side, and the family often sees ducks bobbing on the water, even in the winter.

Ricketts Glen State Park, Benton. The park, which is especially known for its many waterfalls, closes some of its 26 miles of trails during the winter months. But Dallas has learned that many of the falls are only a short distance in from the road (as little as 50 feet) and make for easy winter walks. The icicle-laden falls never fail to delight. The Bear Walk and Old Beaver Dam Road trails, both about 1 mile roundtrip, also offer fairly level trails for hiking or cross-country skiing.

Promised Land State Park, Canadensis. The higher elevation on the Pocono Plateau means that the Promised Land is often snow-covered. The park contains a number of glacial ponds, which are shallow and freeze solid in a good winter. The Dallas family sometimes hikes in to one of the ponds carrying ice skates. “If you hit it right, it’s like skating on glass, and all around you is forest,” Dallas says. “It’s magical.” The last time Dallas took her children to the park, she pointed out the cross-country skiers and promised, in keeping with its name, “That’s where we’re going to go next year.”

This post ends our “winter walk” series, but we hope you’ll tell us how your family spends time outside during the winter, regardless of where your outings take place.

Learn more

- Read 5 tips from AMC family trip leaders for winter outings.
- 3 “Best Winter Walks” in the White Mountains
- 5 “Best Winter Walks” in Boston’s western suburbs
- 4 "Best Winter Walks" in Connecticut

Image: Iced waterfall at Ricketts Glen State Park.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

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