Hi, my name is Brooke Froelich , I'm the newest addition to the Ski Utah team. Join me and my 2.5-year-old son Huck and our many adventures outside—all season long. Sometimes it's one step forward, two steps backward, but the process is all in the journey.
This spring it became painfully obvious (backbreaking, really), that my 2.5-year-old son was ready to start pulling his own weight along the trail. Huck has actually been begging to hike for a few months, shouting "I walk by MYSELF" into my ears from the back of his child carrier pack. Although it may feel daunting to let your toddler find their own rhythm along the trail—yes, you will move MUCH slower—encouraging independence builds confidence.
As you introduce your little one to hiking there are several moves you can take to make the experience positive. You will want to choose short, easy trails that pack a high reward to effort ratio. Selecting trails that the whole family can enjoy is the first step to help your toddler to love hiking.
If you plan to head to Snowbasin Resort for the Blues, Brews & BBQ series with your family this summer, stop and hike the Green Pond trail along the way. The Green Pond trail is a great first hike for young children. Because the trail is nearly flat, your child will be able to easily enjoy stopping to look at the wildflowers and giant fern leaves along the shaded path. After less than a mile, you’ll see a “picnic area” sign on the left. As your family hikes up the trail towards the picnic area sign, you’ll find a beautiful mountain pond tucked within a meadow. Stop to catch water striders, skip stones, and enjoy a family picnic. The Green Pond trail is perfect to start fostering independence on the trail, without committing to a big day of hiking.
Donut Falls is one of the classic family friendly trails in the Wasatch. Find the trailhead 9 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon, just past the Jordan Pines Picnic area near Solitude Mountain Resort and Brighton. The trail winds through aspen and evergreen trees while rolling up and down with mild elevation changes. Even the littlest hikers will be able to independently hike most of the trail. That being said, you will need to plan to help young hikers with the last 50 yards of the trail, navigating over slippery rocks and logs, and traveling through moving water as you cross the bottom of the falls. Most parents will want to bring a child pack to be able to carry toddlers and use their hands to hold to rocks for balance. Donut falls is a short hike, but you can easily spend a whole afternoon photographing the falls, collecting pinecones, and spying on chipmunks.
Cecret Lake has been called the most beautiful trail to observe wildflowers in the Wasatch. The trail begins at the Albion Basin Campground above Alta, and moderately climbs towards a beautiful alpine lake at the bottom of Sugarloaf peak, Mount Wolverine, and Devil’s Castle. Starting from the campground, head west up the trail. Little hands will want to pick the beautiful wildflowers, but instead, parents can use this hike as an opportunity to teach children about respecting the delicate ecosystem. Interpretive signs about the trail have information about the geology and ecosystem of the area. Be prepared to see some crowds on the Cecret Lake trail during peak wildflower season- there is a reason this is one of the most popular trails in the Wasatch.
Stewart falls can be a great goal for your family, with a BIG reward at the end near the beloved Sundance Mountain Resort. Your children will be talking about the astonishingly tall waterfalls for weeks. The trail weaves back and forth through aspens, evergreens, and thick foliage. There are several exposed sections of sun—be sure to wear sunscreen. Although the trail seems to have only mild elevation gain, be warned that the majority of the hike out is a climb. While this is a trail that the whole family will enjoy, this is not a great FIRST hike for toddlers. For children younger than 3 years old, consider bringing a child pack to give little legs a rest on the way
out. This can be a good goal to build up towards as a family throughout the season. The reward of the towering waterfalls is something your family will always remember.
If your family is craving a road trip down south to ski Brian Head Ski Resort, be sure to cruise over to Leeds for a day to explore the Red Cliffs Area. Skiing AND hiking the desert trails during the winter is one of the unique perks southern Utah has to offer! Beginning at the Red Cliffs Area campground in Leeds, the Red Reef trail travels through the beautiful desert terrain to a small waterfall. Although the trail is fairly short and relatively flat, you’ll want to plan a few hours to explore the water pools and red rock features along the way. The Red Reef trail has minimal elevation change, and is perfect to get everybody's wiggles out during a road trip.