If you’re fortunate enough to live near one of the thousands of scenic biking trails in the United States, then you’ve got a perfect way for the whole family to get out and enjoy some exercise and sunshine. Even kids who still ride with training wheels can enjoy the many paved biking trails that are probably within a short distance of your home. Not only can you get outdoors for some active time with the family, but it can be a lot of fun and even educational for kids.
There are thousands of biking trails that are anywhere from 15 or 20 miles long to 50 miles. And there are even some famous trails, most in the Midwest, that go on for thousands of miles. The longest, the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail stretches over 4,000 miles from Oregon to Pennsylvania, cutting across 10 states. But many smaller routes are much more suited for a family outing.
At first, look for trails that are primarily flat and well-paved, far off from road traffic, especially if you have small children. Make sure the kids understand the rules of the road and how to fully control their bikes before you set off on the trail. You might not have to cross a road or ride alongside traffic at all, but in the event that you do you’ll want the kids to be prepared. Best yet, if you come to a shared roadway, everyone should get off their bikes and walk them until the trail splits off again.
You don’t have to pack down like you’ll be biking in the wild for three days, but anyone with little kids knows that their needs and wants can sometimes be unpredictable. It’s not hard to have a few bottles of water and a few snacks in a backpack or a bike bag, just in case. You can also have a cooler in your car, if you’ve driven to the location, with a waiting lunch or cold drinks and snacks for after the ride.
Make sure all kids have the proper biking safety gear. Everyone should wear a helmet, and you may want to put knee and elbow pads on the kids. If you have a cell phone, carry it. However, feel free to turn it off! You don’t want annoying phone calls interrupting your family time. It’s just a good idea to have it with you, in case of emergency.
Be sure you check the weather before you go. Carry extra water if it’s supposed to be a particularly hot day, or even schedule the biking trip for a slightly cooler afternoon or one in which there’s no chance of rain, if that’s the weather forecast. If you want to brave the elements, make sure to carry raincoats and hoods.
And finally, be prepared to stop often. Kids are curious, and many trails are known for their scenery. A quick stop to look at flowers along the trail or to watch a squirrel can make the biking trip much more fun for kids.