Guide to Winter Hiking with Kids in the Finger Lakes in 2021

Taughanock Falls State Park in the Winter

The Finger Lakes area of New York is pretty large region that encompasses a lot of great hiking. We traveled up there in December and stayed in Keuka Park, New York, close to Keuka Lake. 

A few things I learned about traveling to the Finger Lakes region of New York during the off-season:

  • MANY restaurants are closed in the off-season (and likely even more than usual due to the pandemic)
  • The different lake towns are further apart than I realized – many of the hikes we did were about an hour away from our Airbnb. 
  • Some of the popular trails are closed during the winter. We skipped Watkins Glen State Park altogether because only the overlook spots were open. 

That being said, it was amazing to experience the beauty of the Finger Lakes with a winter landscape. It made for unique pictures and interesting experiences. My son is a huge cold weather kid, so he loved all of the ice and snow. 

Here are some of the hikes that we did up in the Finger Lakes area of Western New York:

Best Hikes in the Finger Lakes: Taughannock Falls

Located in Taughanock Falls State Park, this is located close to Ithaca and Cayuga Lake. The only trail open in the winter to the falls is the Gorge Trail. The trail itself is very easy – it’s basically just a flat path – but it leads to a gorgeous view of the waterfall. 

Seeing the falls in winter was extraordinary. The mist from the waterfall created an icy covering over the plants nearby. This was my son’s favorite. 

In the main season, there are rim trails available that look more challenging. For updated information, check the State Park website here

Taughanock Falls State Park in the Winter
Frozen Landscape at Taughanock Falls
Frozen River Bed at Taughahock Falls
Taughanock Falls State Park Scenic View
Frozen River Bed

Winter Hikes in the Finger Lakes: Onanda Park

This park is located near Canandaigua Lake, which is to the left of Keuka Lake. We were able to get a (freezing cold) view of the lake as well as explore some trails in the park. The trail itself is about 1.4 miles and has a few overlooks. We stopped to explore near the creek as well. 

For more on Onanda Park, click here.

Snow Covered frozen creek at Onanda Park
Animal Prints in the snow on a log
Canandaigua Lake in the Finger Lakes
Frozen Leaves and Branches at Canandaigua Lake

Winter Hikes: Finger Lakes National Forest

One of my goals in our trip was to do one hike through Finger Lakes National Forest. We hiked the Burnt Hill Trail Loop, which is about 3.8 miles roundtrip. 

This hike was beautiful and very quiet – we saw only one other group. It was relatively flat terrain with not too much incline. It was very icy, though, so we had to walk very carefully.  

For more on the Finger Lakes National Forest, hikes and current conditions, click here. 

Snowy field and tree in Finger Lakes National Forest
trail at Finger Lakes National Forest
Racoon prints in the snow

Best Winter Hikes in Western New York: Chimney Bluffs State Park

Chimney Bluffs State Park is technically located on one of the Great Lakes (specifically Lake Ontario), but it’s only about an hour from the area of the Finger Lakes we were staying. It was freezing and super snowy, which made for a really beautiful landscape. 

We opted for the loop trail down to the beach. This gave great views of the bluffs from above and below. It’s super windy on the coast, so be sure to bundle up and make sure you have the appropriate gear if you’re planning to do the hike! 

For more on Chimney Bluffs State Park, click here.

Snowy Hike through the Forest
Chimney Bluffs State Park overlooking Lake Ontario
Caution sign covered in grafitti at Chimney Bluffs State Park
Chimney Bluffs State Park in the Winter
Warning Sign at Chimney Bluffs State Park
Steps leading up at Chimney Bluffs
Snow covered beach on Lake Ontario
Lake Ontario Beach in the Snow
Snowy Scene at Lake Ontario
Lake Ontario Beach in the Winter
Wintery Lake Ontario Beach
Fallen tree at lake ontario beach

Looking for more winter hiking destinations?

See my posts on:

Best National and State Parks Near Philadelphia

Pennsylvania State Park Guide

I’ve been doing a lot more local adventuring in Pennsylvania due to COVID-19. Throughout the summer, I cancelled pretty much all of my travel plans that required air travel and focused on drivable destinations (like Acadia National Park). We’ve spent some time exploring some of the local state and national parks in and around Philly.

It’s important to note that it’s best to avoid these areas on busy days, such as the weekends. Depending on the popularity of the park, I try to get up as early as possible to beat the crowds. We bring masks out of respect to other hikers and for our own protection, but the earlier we get there, the less people we see so the less we have to use them.

Here are some of my favorite spots in northeastern Pennsylvania. All of these spots are accessible from Philly – either for a day trip or overnight/weekend trip. Make sure to check the park’s website before going for current conditions and COVID closures.

Valley Forge National Historic Park

Valley Forge National Historic Park is located about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia ( but probably closer to 45 with traffic). In addition to their historical exhibits (which are currently closed due to COVID), they have a TON of trails that you can explore, including a paved loop trail that’s great for bike riding.

For more on Valley Forge trails and current conditions, closures and available services, visit the National Park Service website.

Field at Valley Forge National Historic Park

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

This beautiful spot is on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. You can catch some beautiful views of the mountains and Delaware River. The only downside to this beautiful spot is it gets a bit crowded, so plan ahead and get there early!

For more, see the Delaware Water Gap website.

Delaware Water Gap View
Acorn close up in fall

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

I’ve written about John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in detail on past posts about hiking in and around Philadelphia. This is our go-to during our usual summer, however, if you’re traveling during COVID, make sure you go early and on the week day. It tends to get pretty crowded during the weekends, making it hard to social distance. The main trail at John Heinz takes you across a boardwalk – which is AMAZING – but a little tricky if you’re social distancing with kids.

Check the John Heinz website for current closures and services available. At this writing, the visitor center and parking lots are closed, but the trails are open.

marsh at john heinz national wildlife refuge

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge (Delaware)

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is located about an hour outside of Philadelphia in Delaware. It’s a bit of a drive, but worth it. The refuge has a number of trails along the marsh and is very spread out. You can drive through the roads of the park to various different trailheads to hike. The Refuge has a map that you can access here.

Currently, the visitor center is closed due to COVID. Before you go, check the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge website to see exactly what services are available when you visit.

Marsh at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge

Ridley Creek State Park

This park is about 20 minutes outside of Philadelphia, but it feels like you’re in a whole other world. During the week, the crowds aren’t too crowded. We’ve checked out the Hocking Hill trail loop as well as the Orange Trail and the White Trail. There are lots of trails to try. We usually go with a plan, but if for some reason the lot is full or it looks crowded, we switch it up and try something new.

For more on Ridley Creek State Park, visit the State Park website.

Trails at Ridley Creek State Park
Creek at Ridley Creek State Park

Hickory Run State Park

We did our first camping trip at Hickory Run State Park in the fall. There are lots of great trails, but the coolest part about the park is Boulder Field. It is literally a MASSIVE field of Boulders. I had seen pictures, but it was definitely MUCH cooler to see in person.

There’s a full trail you can do to access Boulder Field. You can also access it from very easily from the parking lot and do some exploring from there (which is what we did).

For more trails and information on the park, see Hickory Run State Park’s website.

Boulder Field Hickory Run State Park
Fall Foliage Red Leaves
Tree Growing in Boulder Field

Other Pennsylvania State Parks to check out:

These two cool spots are on my travel wish list:

  • Rickett’s Glen State Park: This spot is known for it’s beautiful waterfalls! See more here.
  • Cherry Springs State Park: This is Pennsylvania’s very own DARK PARK. It’s the only one on the east coast as well. From here, you can get an amazing view of the stars. This trip requires some planning, as the weather conditions have to be right and ideally you go around the new moon. It’s about four hours away from Philadelphia, so it’s probably ideal to stay there overnight. See more here.

Want more on hiking in Pennsylvania?

See my posts on:

Kid-friendly Hikes in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park Jordan Pond

We made our first visit to Acadia in August and completely fell in love. I’d planned so much travel for 2020, and like everyone else in the world this year, I had to cancel all but our Acadia trip. 

I’ve been to Maine before, but never as far north as Bar Harbor. I loved the scenery of Maine – the cliffs reminded me of Hawaii a little bit, albeit with different foliage and FREEZING cold water. 

Here are our favorite spots for hiking and swimming in Acadia National Park. For current conditions at the park, check the Acadia website before you go!

Swimming in Acadia: Sand Beach

Sand Beach is the main beach access within the park. It’s also the trailhead for Ocean Path and Great Head Trail (more on that below). The beach is BEAUTIFUL, but the water is freezing. This did not bother my seven-year-old, who dove straight in. This was his favorite part of the trip by far!

Just FYI, the parking lot here fills up fast, so plan to get here early. They are also rolling out a reservation system. Get updates on that here.

Sand Beach Cliffs and Shore line
Sand Beach in the Early Morning

Swimming in Acadia: Echo Lake Maine

You’re not able to swim in all of the lakes/ponds in Acadia. Many are part of the drinking supply, so swimming is prohibited. But Echo Lake is one of the areas where you are allowed to swim. The water was slightly warmer, if that makes swimming in Maine any more appealing! 

You can also access the Beech Cliff Ladder and Canada Cliff Trailheads from the Echo Lake parking lot, making the lake a fun spot to cool off after a hike. 

Kid-Friendly Hikes in Acadia: Ocean Path to Thunder Hole 

This is one of the more popular hikes in Acadia. You can access this from Sand Beach or you can park at Thunder Hole and walk back toward the beach. There are some spots where you can step off the trail and onto the rocks and do some exploring. This was my sons favorite part – it was definitely more exciting for him than walking the path.

Ocean Path continues along toward Otter Cliffs, but depending on your kid’s endurance, you might want to just do a portion of the trail. The trail itself is super easy, but there’s minimal cover from the sun, so by 10am, this trail was HOT. 

Cliffs and Evergreen Trees in Acadia
Cliffs and Ocean in Acadia
Cliffs and Rocks in Acadia National Park
Yellow Wildflowers in Acadia
Birch Tree Bark in Acadia

Acadia with Kids: Great Head Trail

We did this trail on a cloudier day, so the views weren’t as clear, but it was still amazing. There was a range terrain – including some fun spots to scramble over rocks. You get some beautiful views of the cliffs across the water! The full hike is 1.8 miles. 

Great Head Trail is also accessed from the Sand Beach parking lot.

Trees and Rocks along Great Head Trail
Trees along Great Head Trail Acadia
Tree Stump and rocks along Greart Head Trail
Rocks on Great Head Trail
Pine Cone and Needles Close e up
Foggy Landscape in Maine
Foggy Cliffs along Great Head Trail
Foggy field with mountain in the background at great head trailhead
Ferns and Trees in the Forest Acadia
Algae Close Up in Acadia
Birch Tree on Great Head Trail

Acadia National Park with Kids: Jordan Pond Loop

This was one of my favorite hikes of the trip! Jordan Pond is absolutely beautiful. You can’t swim or go in the water, as it’s part of the drinking supply. But the views are amazing. We did the full loop, which is 3.4 miles. There’s a variety of terrain – parts of it include walking over rocks, which was a lot of fun. 

Jordan Pond Landscape
Jordan Pond Acadia
Jordan Pond View
Jordan Pond Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park Hikes: Beech Cliff Ladder and Canada Cliff Trail 

This was a great trail that was on the quiet side compared to some of the other more popular trails in Acadia. Parts of the trail had steel ladders that you had to climb. We made the mistake of going clockwise around the loop instead of counter clockwise, so we had to climb DOWN the ladders. If you’re hiking with kids, it’s probably easier to climb up. 

There are some great views of Echo Lake and the ocean from the top. This trail is accessed from the same parking lot as Echo Lake, so you can cool off after your hike with a trip to the lake!

Trees along Canada Cliffs Trail
Steel Ladder on Beech Cliffs Trail
Rock Wall on Beech Cliffs Trail
Granite Rock on Beech Cliff Trail
Granite Rock in Maine
Echo Lake in Acadia National Park
Echo Lake View from Beech Cliff

Kid-Friendly Hikes Acadia National Park: Day Mountain Trail 

Day Mountain Trail was another quiet trail in Acadia. It’s 2.6 miles out and back up and over Day Mountain. The elevation gain is only 564 feet, so it’s a fairly mellow trail, with some uneven terrain. We did this on our last day and paired it with a short trip to Hunters Beach.

View from Day Mountain Hike in Acadia
Day Mountain Peak in Acadia
Boardwalk on Day Mountain Hike

Acadia with Kids: Hunters Beach Trail 

This is a short path to a beautiful beach. We did this after doing Day Mountain Trail. The walk down is only .3 miles, and the beach itself is gorgeous. We did some walking on the rocks. The wet rocks are super slippery, so be very careful! 

Rocks at Hunter Beach Acadia
Rocks on Hunter Beach Acadia
Hunter Beach Acadia National Park

Traveling to Acadia National Park?

For more Acadia, stay tuned for my post Vegan Acadia (coming soon!). 

For more on New England, see my posts on:

Family Fun in Ohio: Cuyahoga Valley National Park

cuyahoga valley national park travel with kids ohio

We drove from Philadelphia to Chicago to visit family. The drive was long – 13 hours when all was said and done – and we did an overnight stop just outside of Cleveland near Cuyahoga National Park. We wanted to burn off some energy before we drove 6-7 hours the rest of the way to Chicago.

yellow wildflower in cuyahoga national park

Fun Things to do in Ohio: Cleveland’s National Park

We headed to Cuyahoga Valley National Park mid-morning to squeeze in a quick hike and get some time in nature. Since we only had a few hours to explore and my son loves spotting animals, we decided to hike to Beaver Marsh and try to spot some birds and beavers from the boardwalk overlook.

One thing that I found really interesting about Cuyahoga Valley National Park is that the park is really spread out. To get from one area to the other, we drove through some areas that were residential and didn’t seem connected to the park. I’ve never experienced that before and found it really interesting.

grass leaved goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia)

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Trails: Beaver Marsh

We parked at the Ira Trailhead and walked along the Towpath Trail until we got to Beaver Marsh. It was an easy hike that’s great for all ages, but especially younger kids. The path is flat and it’s a pretty quick walk (depending on the pace of your kiddos).

Once you get to the boardwalk, it crosses the marsh and you can look and spot all kinds of turtles, fish and frogs. There are also birds like great herons and other water birds. Unfortunately, we did not see any beavers as we’d hoped, but we did see their dam and various trees that had been felled/chewed by them, which was cool.

There’s also beautiful water lilies and lily pads, which I think are so cool to see!

We hung out for about an hour and walked back and forth along the boardwalk looking for turtles, fish and frogs. After that, we headed back to the car to get on the road to finish our road trip to Chicago.

beaver marsh at cuyahoga national park
beaver marshcuyahoga valley national park
purple calico aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum) at Beaver Marsh
lily pads at beaver marsh
lily pad and flower in beaver marsh
blue heron in Beaver Marsh at Cuyahoga Valley

Want more on our trip to the Midwest?

See my posts on:

9 Outer Banks Activities for Kids in 2020

Outer Banks Activitise for Kids

The Outer Banks is a fairly popular summer destination. I’m from the Jersey shore (near Ocean City, NJ), so I’m no stranger to east coast shore towns. My perception of the Outer Banks before we visited was that it was similar to what I’d experienced in New Jersey and not worth the drive down. However, I was totally wrong and I completely fell in love with the Outer Banks when we did finally visit.

sand and rocks on beach in kitty hawk North Carolina

Outer Banks for Kids: When to Go

The summer months are the obvious choice, especially if you have kids in school. However, if you have a more flexible schedule, I’d recommend going down in the shoulder season.

We went twice in September and it was gorgeous. It’s always a gamble with hurricane season, but we lucked out with decent weather both trips. The prices on home rentals are significantly cheaper and the crowds are minimal, but it’s still busy enough that the majority of smaller stores and restaurants are still open.

kid walking and footprints in the sand at kill devil hills beach

Where to Stay in the Outer Banks with Kids

There are a lot of places to stay along the islands of the Outer Banks. We stayed in Kitty Hawk on our first trip and Kill Devil Hills on the second. This put us close to lots of stores and restaurants, which was great.

If we went back, I’d probably try staying in Nags Head, which is south of Kill Devil Hills. It would put us closer to the beaches of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

sand dune and blue sky in outer banks

Things to do in OBX: Outer Banks Activities for Kids

There’s so much to do in the Outer Banks besides the beach. Here are my favorite things:

Things to do in OBX: Cape Hatteras National Seashore

My favorite thing to do, in general, is to go to the beach. We ventured down past the beaches of Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head to the protected areas that fall under the umbrella at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It’s WORTH the drive for sure.

The beaches are more secluded, so you’ll to bring a picnic if you’re planning to stay all day. But to be honest, that’s what I loved about it. There were fewer people on the beach with us, so we really got to enjoy the peace and beauty of the ocean.

We went to Coquina Beach, but I imagine there are lots of great beaches to explore along Cape Hatteras National Seashore!

For more on Cape Hatteras National Seashore, click here.

child walking on grassy beach path
sand dunes on cape hatteras national seashore
shells and pebbles from outer banks beach on a towel.
outer banks for kids cape hatteras national seashore
Cape Hatteras beach
ghost crab on the sand in the outer banks
sand piper on the beach

Outer Banks Activities: Wright Brothers Memorial

The famous Wright Brothers took their first flight in Kitty Hawk. We visited the Wright Brothers National Memorial on our first trip to the Outer Banks. It was definitely cool to see – they have a memorial at the top of the hill and markers that show the actual distance of some of the first test flights.

There was a model of the first plane and some interesting exhibits. However, I’d recommend saving this activity for a rainy or cloudy day, as there’s NO tree cover outside so it was super hot when we did the walk around.

It’s definitely worth a visit though, if you have some extra time, your kids are studying history at school or you’re just a major flight enthusiast!

For more on hours and admission, see the national park service’s website.

wright brothers first flight monument
Wright Brothers First Flight distance demonstration
wright brothers glider

Outer Banks Activities for Kids: Nags Head Woods Preserve

This forest preserve is part of the Nature Conservancy. We found it while we were looking for something to do on a cloudy day it was awesome.

There’s trails through the forest and a boardwalk trail through the marsh. You can spot some cool birds and frogs in the marsh!

For more, see the Nature Conservancy website.

tree bark in nags head woods
nags head nature reserve
tree landscape in nags head woods
trees in nags head woods
nags head woods

Outer Banks for Kids: Jockeys Ridge State Park

Jockey Ridge State Park has the tallest active sand dune on the east coast. It’s a really cool place to explore – and it’s free of charge! They have an interactive visitor center, where you can learn about how sand dunes are formed as well as some of the history of the islands.

After the visitor center, you can walk along the boardwalk trail to the sand dunes. You can hike up the dunes and get some really beautiful views from there. It’s a great place for kids to explore.

For more on Jockeys Ridge State Park, see their website.

sand dunes at jockeys ridge
jockeys ridge state park
trees growing in the sand dunes at jockeys ridge state park
jockeys ridge state park
sand dunes at jockeys ridge
sand patterns at jockeys ridge state park

OBX Activities: Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center

This is technically the visitor center for the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, but they have lots of information about the other refuges in the area. This is located on Roanoke Island, and it’s worth a trip to visit, even if you don’t visit the any refuges! It’s free, and they have a TON of interactive exhibits about the wildlife of North Carolina.

child playing with a replica single engine plane at alligator river national wildlife refuge visitor center
wolf exhibit at alligator river national wildlife refuge visitor center

Things to do in OBX with Kids: Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge was a bit of a hike. We went to try to see black bears. There’s a small paved trail and a drive you can do through the refuge. Sometimes, you can see black bears walking around. We were not so lucky, but it might be worth checking out if you’re interested in black bears!

It’s inland, so you have to drive from the Outer Banks to Roanoke Island and from there, drive across another bridge to the mainland of North Carolina. In hindsight, I’m not sure if it was worth the drive, but it was definitely an adventure!

For more, see the Alligator River website.

alligator river national wildlife refuge

Outer Banks for Kids: Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is part of the Outer Banks and it’s about 30 minutes south of Kitty Hawk. They have cool beach trails and an interactive visitor center.

For more, see the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge website.

Outer Banks Activities for Kids: Elizabethan Gardens on Roanoke Island

This beautiful garden is located within the borders of Fort Raleigh National Historic Park on Roanoke Island in Manteo, North Carolina. It’s reasonably priced and makes for a beautiful walk!

It’s not geared toward kids, but it’s definitely kid-friendly. It’s a fun thing to do if you need a break from the beach or the weather isn’t great.

For more, see the Elizabethan Gardens website.

elizabethan gardens
elizabethan gardens on Manteo island
child looking at the ocean from a gate at elizabethan gardens
coast at elizabethan gardens
elizabethan gardens

Outer Banks for Kids: Visit Duck Donuts

This Donut shop originated in Duck, North Carolina (part of the Outer Banks), but it’s now a chain with many locations. It still makes for a unique and fun breakfast experience.

The donuts are made to order – you can pick your glazes and toppings and they make it right in front of you. (Note: These are not vegan)

For more on locations and hours, see the Duck Donuts website.

Want more east coast family-friendly destinations?

See my posts on:

outer banks sunset at nags head beach

Best Winter Views in Vermont: Green Mountain National Forest

winter vermont - green mountain national forest winter hiking trails

Winter hiking is one of those things that I WANT to do more of, but I feel a little intimidated by. I’m determined though to step out of my comfort zone and do more of it.

One of the things I’ve learned – as someone who is ALWAYS cold – is that I need to be wearing appropriate gear. This means, if I’m doing a hike in the winter, I’m likely wearing snow pants, layers, warm socks, gloves and a warm hat. Before I made the trip to Vermont, I invested in a pair of warm, water resisstant hiking boots that proven itself to be a worthwhile investment!

Connecticut river in Vermont

Green Mountain National Forest: Where to Stay

We stayed in Wallingford, which is really close to the White Rocks National Recreation Area, which is where we hiked. There’s not a lot to do in Wallingford in terms of supermarkets or restaurants, which led us to drive to Rutland to visit the Rutland Area Food Co-op for groceries.

Rutland is super cute – there’s shops and restaurants and an awesome food co-op. We took a walk around and saw all kinds of murals throughout the city. If I came back to Vermont, I would definitely opt to stay in Rutland over Wallingford.

Rutland Vermont street and shops
elephant mural in rutland Vermont

Green Mountain National Forest Hiking: White Rocks National Recreation Area

We opted to try out one of the trails in the White Rocks National Recreation Area, which located in the Green Mountain National Forest. There are two trails in White Rocks, the White Rocks Ice Beds Trail and the White Rocks Cliffs Trail. We opted to try the White Rocks Ice Beds Trail.

You could probably do both trails in one day, but we took our time on the Ice Beds Trail and hung out at some of the vistas, so we opted to do only one.

forest at white rocks national recreation area

Best Views in Vermont in the Winter: Hiking the Green Mountains

The Ice Beds Trail was really great. We walked about .2 miles and were able to get some great views of the Green Mountain National Forest.

green mountain national forest
brown pine cone-type plant
moss and snow
white rocks national recreation area
green mountain national forest
green mountain national forest

We continued along the trail to the ice beds. It was a beautiful walk. We saw the ice beds, but since it was snow covered, we couldn’t really see much. The full trip is 1.8 miles if you go all the way to the ice beds.

ice beds at white rocks national recreation area
wood pecker holes in the trees
tree bark
trees and sky at green mountain national forest
tree bark in the green mountains

Green Mountain National Forest: Hikes for Kids

All in all, this is a great hike for kids. The vistas were close enough that small kids could walk to it, but there were also longer trail options for older kids.

I’ve never tried this trail in the summer, but it was pretty empty in the winter, which was awesome. You could really enjoy the silence of the mountains!

Want more trip ideas for New England and the Northeast with Kids?

Check out my post on our day trip to Block Island, Rhode Island with kids!

For more winter hikes, see my post on my four favorite winter hikes in Philadelphia.

4 Best Winter Hikes in Philadelphia

hiking trails in philadelphia wissahickon valley park

I love hiking in the winter. First of all, it’s usually not crowded (unless it’s an unseasonably warm winter day). Second, there are no mosquitos. And third, it always feels so good to breathe some fresh air after spending so much more time indoors during the colder months of the year.

Philadelphia has pretty accessibly hiking trails, depending on where you are located in the city. Here are some of my favorites, that I’ve visited time and time again. They make for great winter hikes!

Hiking in Philadelphia: Walk the Wissahickon

Wissahickon Valley Park is by far my favorite section of trails in the city. The main trail is forbidden drive, which runs along Wissahickon Creek. There are many different trails with many different entrances that run through the surrounding forest and feed into Forbidden Drive.

Our favorite entrances are at Ten Box (quick access to forbidden drive), Bells Mills Road, Valley Green Inn (you can feed the geese and eat at the nearby restaurant) and the Mount Airy Trail entrance.

You can see a map of the park and the various entrances at the Friends of the Wissahickon website.

stone bridge over the wissahickon creek
mushrooms growing on a tree in wissahickon valley park
wissahickon creek in winter
pond frozen in the winter
dried flowers in the winter at wissahickon valley park
wissahickon creek
stones on the shore of the creek and a piece of broken pottery
graffiti under a bridge in the wissahickon
tree with snow around the roots in front of a creek
reflection of trees in a puddle
red covered bridge in wissahickon valley park

Nature Near Philadelphia: John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

This wildlife refuge is on the south side of the city, very close to the airport. It’s considered America’s first urban wildlife refuge.

There’s a visitor center with some great exhibits for kids. We usually spend a little bit of time in there before heading out to the trail. Bonus: there are also bathrooms here.

Our favorite trail at the refuge is the boardwalk trail. A pretty short walk will lead you to a boardwalk that stretches across a freshwater tidal marsh. It’s beautiful during all seasons – and depending on when you’re there, you’ll see various birds and mammals.

For more on the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, click here.

Hiking in Philadelphia: Carpenter’s Woods

Carpenter’s Woods is like a little oasis of forest in the midst of the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia. It’s considered America’s first bird sanctuary and is part of the old growth forest network.

There’s ample street parking and plenty of entrances to the park. It’s a great place to take younger kids who might not have the stamina to walk long distances. You feel like you’re deep in the forest after a few minutes of walking.

Click here for maps and more information on Carpenter’s Woods.

trees along a hiking trail
snow drop flowers (Galanthus nivalis)
winter forest landscape

Nature Near Philadelphia: Morris Arboretum

Morris Arboretum is in northwest Philadelphia. Morris is an arboretum (which is a collection of trees) and a public garden, so you can expect to see some really interested and well-maintained plant life on your walk. There’s a paved loop that goes through the arboretum. There’s admission to get in, but there are also gardens to enjoy and an indoor fernery – which is a super warm building filled with all kinds of ferns.

For kids, there’s a really cool tree top area with a life-size nest complete with giant robin’s eggs and an area where they can climb like squirrels.

For admission and hours, you can visit the Morris Arboretum website.

winter sedums
winter sedums
yellow witch hazel ( Hamamelis mollis)
witch hazel variety ( Hamamelis vernalis 'Quasimodo')
red flower bud winter bloom
red berries and leaves

What are your favorite hiking trails in and around Philadelphia? Comment below 🙂

Block Island Day Trip with Kids: How to Get to the Mohegan Bluffs

Block Island with Kids Mohegan Bluffs

Block Island has been on my bucket list for a long time. Block Island is an island off the coast of Rhode Island. A large percentage of the island is wild/protected, which is pretty cool.

I had been nervous to go to Block Island during the summer months, because it seemed to be a very popular destination in New England during the summer months. However, this particular year that we went, my son’s spring break fell on the last full week in April, so we decided to attempt a day trip to the Block Island to our New England spring break trip itinerary. The main thing I wanted to see on Block Island were the Mohegan Bluffs.

Block Island and Mohegan Bluffs: How to Get There

Our full trip was about a week long – we did four nights in Boston (see my post on great winter activities to do in Boston, because it basically rained our whole visit) and two nights in Narragansett.

We chose Narragansett because it was only a short 5 minute drive to the ferry port in Galilee. I scheduled our Airbnb for two nights, so we would have one full day dedicated to exploring Block Island. We found a great location, right on the bay that had its own private dock to enjoy the view.

pier leading to the bay
piers on Narragansett Bay

Narragansett Beaches

Because we were there during the shoulder season, there wasn’t a lot of restaurants open in Narragansett. We were able to visit Salty Brine State Beach, which was a short drive from our Airbnb with lots of parking. The water was FREEZING, but my son still played in the waves.

Narragansett RI
Salty Brine Beach Park Narragansett
Salty Brine Beach Park Narragansett

Ferry to Block Island

We took the ferry from the Point Judith port in Galilee. The ride takes about an hour each way. During the high season, starting mid-May, there is a high-speed ferry that takes about 30 minutes each way, which I would recommend.

You can see the current ferry rates and schedules here. We left around 11 AM and came home on the 6:30PM ferry, which gave us about 6 hours to explore the island. There’s a discount for same day return tickets.

I booked our tickets online. I didn’t have access to a printer, so I had to get there early to get our tickets printed at the ticket window. 

There are parking lots near the ferry. There’s no street parking to leave your car.  Most places are cash only.

For the ferry: if you’re going to ride on the deck (which my son insisted on for the trip there), bring a wind-resistant jacket. The ride is beautiful, albeit windy. 

Block Island Ferry Docks
Narragansett RI beach

Things to do on Block Island: Block Island Taxi, Car and Bike Rentals

As soon as you dock on Block Island, I would head straight to the visitors center. We went there and there was a very informative person working who told us exactly which restaurants were open (since it was off season, many were closed) and gave us great recommendations on different routes to get to the Mohegan Bluffs and what we could see along the way.

We also got information on taxi cab companies, as there’s no Uber or Lyft on Block Island. You can also get bike or car rental information.  

Mohegan Bluffs: How to Get There

We opted to walk to the Mohegan Bluffs and take a cab back to the ferry port. It was a bit of an ambitious walk for a 5-year-old, but it made for a fun day.

If I had to do it again, I’d probably take a cab straight to the Mohegan Bluffs so that we could spend more time enjoying the beach. But the walk was really nice too.  

block island coast
block island beach
block island coast
block island coastal landscape
block island jetty

Block Island Points of Interest on the way to the Mohegan Bluffs

Block Island Things to Do: Abrams Exotic Animal Farm

This was recommended to us at the visitor center. It’s on the way to the Mohegan Bluffs and was a fun (and FREE!) stop along the way.

You can learn more about the animal farm here.

emu on block island

Things to do on Block Island: Seal Watching

The woman we spoke to at the visitor center showed us a point on the map where there are seals. April is a shoulder season for seals – they’re more common in the winter. We saw one, single seal, which sounds like it would be a letdown, but it was still VERY exciting for my son.

This is a great article on seals and safe viewing tips on Block Island.

seals at block island

Block Island Beaches: The Mohegan Bluffs

This was the main reason for our visit. Once you get to the parking lot, there’s a long staircase that leads down the trail to the Mohegan Bluffs. You can get some stunning  views, just from the top of the stairs. 

Because we were there in the shoulder season, there were very few people there, so we really got to enjoy the peacefulness and beauty of this location. We probably spent an hour or two playing on the shore and stacking rocks. It was a bit chilly by the end of the day, but the solitude of the shoulder season is definitely a huge perk. 

Mohegan Bluffs Block Island
Mohegan Bluffs
Beach at Mohegan Bluffs
Rocks and sand at Mohegan Bluffs Beach
Mohegan Bluffs Trailhead
Beach at Mohegan Bluffs
Mohegan Bluffs Block Island

Block Island Ferry: Heading Back to Narragansett, Rhode Island

We walked a little down the road until I could get cell service. Then we called a cab to take us back to the port to catch our ferry. The cab was a little pricier than I expected and cash only, so plan accordingly! It was worth it though to get some extra time to enjoy the Mohegan Bluffs. 

Looking for more on traveling to New England with kids?

See my posts on:

What to see in Haleakala National Park with Kids

What to see in Haleakala National Park with Kids

One of the things I wanted to do on this trip was to take my son to the Haleakala Summit. I was here on my first trip to Maui in 2000 and again in 2017 with my sister where we came early for the sunrise, which was beautiful (post coming soon!). This time around, I was hoping to do a little hiking. I wanted to stay nearby to minimize the drive to get up the mountain. 

Makaweo Upcountry Maui: Where to Stay if you’re visiting Haleakala National Park

After a little research, I decided to stay in Makaweo in Upcountry Maui. It flies a little under the radar due to the fact that it’s not on the beach. However, it’s up the mountain and about a 20 minute drive from the coast. So, once we arrived, I realized it’s actually really convenient to the beaches on both sides of the island as well as Haleakala National Park. 

From Makaweo, we could easily get to:

  • Kahului and all the shops nearby
  • Paia and Ho’okipa at the start of the road to Hana
  • Baby Beach and other local beaches along the coast
  • Maui Ocean Center (which we did not make it to because we ran out of time)
  • Haleakala National Park 
surfboard gate

What to see in Haleakala National Park

Kid-Friendly Hikes in Haleakala: Leleiwi Overlook

From Makaweo, we made the drive up to the summit at Haleakala National Park. It’s about an hour drive from Makaweo along a winding curvy road. At one point, we literally drove through the clouds so visibility was low, which was a little treacherous. But at long last, we made it!

We made a stop at the , a scenic point, on the way up. There’s parking and it’s an easy 5-10 minute stop. 

Haleakala Leleiwi Overlook
Haleakala National Park Leleiwi Overlook
Ōhi`a lehua at Leleiwi Overlook

Get Acclimated at the Haleakala Visitor Center

When we arrived at the summit, we made a stop into the visitor center to get recommendations. It’s worth noting that the summit visitor center closes at 12:30pm, because the park opens before sunrise. So if you have questions, or want to get your national parks passport stamped, plan to get there early! 

Kid-Friendly Hikes in Haleakala: Pā Ka’oao overlook

They gave us some tips and we did the (very) short hike to Pā Ka’oao overlook.

Haleaka Crater
Haleakala crater
Haleakala National Park Summit view
Haleakala hiking trails
Ōhi`a lehua

Haleakala Summit

After that we drove to the summit (10,023 feet above sea level). 

At the top, you can see the Hawaiian Silversword plant (Argyroxiphium sandwicense subsp. macrocephalum). This plant ONLY grows at the summit and can live up to 90 years. It’s important to respect the park and NOT pick or take the silversword plants. They’re rare and take a long time to grow. You can learn more about them here.  

Haleakala Summit
Haleakala National Park Summit
Hawaiian Silversword Haleakala

Altitude Sickness at Haleakala National Park

Unfortunately, despite hydrating throughout the drive and eating a big breakfast, as SOON as we got to the summit, my son started complaining about a headache. I had done enough research to know that he was experiencing altitude sickness, so we immediately headed back down the mountain to eat lunch and hydrate.

I’d recommend doing some research into altitude sickness if you’re planning to visit, or talking to your doctor who can give professional medical advice (I’m not a doctor). I had done some research prior to our trip to learn that the symptoms can be subtle and come on quickly.

Haleakala Crater with Kids

The park entrance visitor center is only located at 7000 feet above sea level. So that might be a good place to stop and acclimate a bit before heading to the top. We stopped on the way out to get my son’s national park passport stamped. In hindsight, I would have made this my first stop! 

Despite our abrupt exit, the views we experienced at the top were amazing and worth the two hours round-trip drive. 

For more on Haleakala National Park, you can read my post about our visit to the coastal portion of Haleakala and our hike along the Pipiwai Trail.

Maui with Kids: Best Stops on the Road to Hana

Road to Hana with Kids Maui Family Activities

I’m a nervous driver. I get nervous on the highway, I get nervous over bridges and I get nervous on narrow roads. So driving the Road to Hana was a HUGE step out of my comfort zone. 

We flew in from the Big Island and headed right to Hana. I planned to explore the coastal portion of Haleakala National Park, so I wanted to stay two nights in Hana to spread out the driving we would do each day. Even still, it was a LOT of driving compared to the other islands. 

The road to Hana is twisty and turny and NARROW. We stopped at a few spots along the way. I had driven the road before, so I didn’t want to stop at every place along the way – and, since we had time, I wanted to split up our stops so we stopped at a few on the way there and a few on the way back.

Kid-Friendly Road to Hana Tips:

Road to Hana Guide: You don’t have to stop at every stop on the road. 

There’s a point, where every trail, every hike, every overlook, every waterfall starts to look the same. To keep kids engaged and interested, sometimes it’s better to pick a few highlights and spend some time exploring and enjoying them rather than try to see everything.

Road to Hana Guide: Watch out for crowds!

Depending on the time of the year you are traveling the road to Hana, some of the stops can be crowded and the parking lots fill up fast. It’s good to be flexible about where you stop, especially on the drive there. You’ll waste time waiting for spots to open up, when you could be enjoying another – quieter – spot along the Road to Hana.

Road to Hana Guide: Fill up your tank before you leave!

Gas is also crazy expensive in Hana, so fill up your tank before you head out on the road to Hana!

Road to Hana Guide: If you’re staying the night, plan ahead and bring some food!

If you’re staying in Hana, there aren’t a lot of restaurants or stores. I’d recommend buying groceries in either Kahului or Paia if you have a kitchen/fridge where you’re staying in or near Hana. I did not do this and I wish I had!

Road to Hana Stops for Kids

Kid-Friendly Beaches in Maui: Ho’okipa Beach Park (Mile Marker 9)

This is right at the start of the Road to Hana. We skipped it on the way out, but visited on our way back. It was one of my favorite spots. You can park either at the lookout and walk to the rocks and get a great view. If you’re ambitious, you can walk around on the rocks and check out some of the little tide pools (I don’t know that they’re actually tide pools by definition, but my son loved this!). 

You can also park down by the beach. There is snorkeling (which we did not partake in) and there were five or six sea turtles on the beach. 

The ambiance here is amazing. I’d recommend making this stop at some point on your trip.  

Hookipa Beach
rocks and fence at Ho'okipa Lookout
cows in a field and rainbow
waves at Ho'okipa beach

Maui Hikes with Kids: Waikamoi Ridge Trail (Mile Marker 9.5)

If you’re looking for a quick trail to break up the trip, this is a great stop along the way. There are two loop trails with some nice views. It’s definitely worth a stop if there’s parking. 

quiet trees at work sign
person next to a huge tree

Maui Hikes with Kids: Kaumahina State Wayside Park (Mile Marker 12)

I’ve driven the road to Hana twice and stopped here both times. It’s got decent bathrooms and a beautiful view. There are trails in case you want to do a little exploring, but I have not had the opportunity to explore them.  

kaumahina state wayside park
tree at kaumahina state wayside park

Black Sand Beach in Hana: Wai’anapanapa State Park (Mile Marker 32)

This is my favorite spot along the road to Hana. We stayed the night in Hana town and got an early start the next day, so we were some of the only people on the beach.

There are a lot of different things to do here, but each time I’ve gone I’ve just come and enjoyed the black sand beach. My son jumped waves and (tried to) skip stones into the ocean. If you’re more ambitious, you can hike some of the trails, explore caves and even see pictographs and other interesting artifacts. 

The nice thing about this spot is there’s a ton of parking, so you don’t have to fight (too much) for parking spots.

black sand beach at waianapanapa state park
black sand beach and green palm trees
clouds and tropical beach
waianapanapa state park
black rocks at beach

Eat in Hana: Maui Food Trucks

We stayed overnight in Hana town, so we had some time to explore. There’s not a lot to do in Hana – many of the restaurant shut down early. There’s a food truck spot, but many don’t have definitive hours. They close down when the food runs out for the day! 

We ate mostly at the food trucks. In the morning, they had coffee, banana bread and smoothies and I was able to get a vegan bean burrito from a food truck.

(Stay tuned for my post on vegan restaurants in Maui!)

Kid Friendly Beaches in Maui: Hana Beach

We also stopped at Hana Bay Beach Park a few hours before sunset. The water is pretty calm so my son was able to jump some waves and we enjoyed the sunset before heading home!

hana beach park
footprints in the sand
hana beach at sunset

The Red Sand Beach in Hana: Something to Note

One of my “must-do” items for the trip was to see the Red Sand Beach in Hana. However, after a conversation I had with a Hana resident, I opted to skip it. Why? 

The beach is actually very dangerous to access, and a number of tourists have had to be rescued. With that information, I decided that it was not appropriate for us to visit the Red Sand Beach. I’m including this, because I hope other people will take that information into consideration when planning their trip!

Hawaii with Kids

Want more on Hawaii with kids?

See my posts on:

Road to Hana with Kids: Kid-friendly Beaches in Maui + Family Activities