Several months ago I heard about a new local branch of Hike it Baby – a parent-run organization focused on getting families out into nature together – and I’ve been meaning to try it out since. Hike it Baby provides a simple, organized way for parents to connect and meet up for hikes, nature walks and nature play. Volunteer hosts arrange a time and location and everyone sticks together during the meetup.
There are several chapters throughout the Hudson Valley including the Capital Region, Catskill/Woodstock, New Paltz, Rockland, Columbia County, Middletown and Westchester.
When I saw a Hike it Baby trip planned for Shaupeneak Ridge in Esopus, a park that had been on my bucketlist for a while already, I knew it was destiny (or convenient timing).
But before I tell you why Hike it Baby is so awesome, here’s how it works:
- Register your family online ($10 per year)
- Check the Hike it Baby calendar or Facebook groups for hikes near you and choose one to attend.
- Sign the one-time digital waiver through the website (takes about 30 seconds)
- Show up!
Really, it’s that easy. And in case you fall in love with the whole idea, members are welcome and encouraged to host a hike themselves. Just talk to your chapter’s branch leader and they’ll give you the low-down on what to do (spoiler alert – it’s simple).
11 Reasons to join Hike it Baby:
To make friends. This goes for kids and parents. You already have at least one thing in common with your group: everyone enjoys getting out into nature. Your little ones have instant playmates for the walk and you have the perfect opportunity to get to know new people. This can be particularly helpful for parents of infants who might feel secluded in new-baby-land and be craving some adult interaction.
To unplug. Most of us could use a little more unplugged time. With spotty service being common out in the woods, there’s a good chance you’ll be forced to (not that you’ll mind).
Learning experiences. So many unexpected learning opportunities happen in nature. At Shaupeneak Ridge, both my 9 and 2-year-old walked away from the hike having learned something. We got up close and personal with two frogs and a snapping turtle (not TOO close to the turtle!), talked about navigation, tree types, colors, lily pads and lots more.
Exercise for everyone. Active families make for happy families! Quite literally, actually, since exercise reduces risk of depression, improves mood and can even help us sleep better.
Energy exertion leads to great naps. On that note, guess who’s likely to take a nice snooze after an exciting trek through the woods? Toddlers, that’s who. Count it as a bonus break.
Adventure. Meeting up with a group is great motivation for exploring new places, and we’re lucky enough to live in an area where there is no shortage of trails. Scenic Hudson maintains an impressive amount of parks throughout the Hudson River valley along with New York State Parks trails and countless others. Many have historic or ecological significance to learn about, too.
To enjoy the Hudson Valley’s beauty….
You don’t have to hike alone. One of the main missions of Hike it Baby is that groups stick together. We all know that kids are the embodiment of unpredictability. Hike it Baby promotes a supportive, flexible atmosphere where it’s understood that things happen, little legs move slow and sometimes parents just need an extra hand. If the group needs to take a break because one baby needs a diaper change, it’s no biggie. Also, I personally feel more comfortable hiking with my kids when there’s at least one other adult with us.
Moving at a toddler’s pace is normal. Your group is only as fast as it’s slowest member, which in our case was my two-year-old son who thought every stick and stone combo was a fantastic opportunity to rock out (no pun intended). We enjoyed exploring at our laid-back pace and it was relieving to know that that’s so often the case. Every hike is different based on the location, the group members and the host’s choices. If a host decides the hike will be at an adult pace (babies/kids in carriers) then you’ll know before joining and you can decide whether it’s something your family is up for.
It’s incredibly inexpensive and there’s no commitment. Join the hikes you can make, skip the ones you can’t. No pressure, obligations or monthly expense to worry about.
It’s fun for kids AND adults!
Have you tried Hike it Baby? What did you think?
About the author: Sarah Coppola is a wife, mom of three, Hudson Valley native and adventure-seeker. She founded Family Friendly Hudson Valley to discover and share all the great stuff for families found in our own backyard.