Hiking with kids isn’t always easy, but in my experience it is worth it. Sure, there are more breaks along the way, and more snacks to pack; but, the benefits outweigh the negative. My family started hiking together in 2020, as a free, outdoor activity we could enjoy together. Since then, we’ve covered many miles and made countless memories.
The five hikes below fit my criteria for a “kid-friendly hike.”
- Must have an end destination. I find that if I tell my children, for example, “we are walking to the creek,” or “we will stop at the large rock,” they don’t continuously ask, “How much longer?” or “When can we stop?”
- Restrooms. There doesn’t necessarily need to be a restroom on the trail, but somewhere at the park. This is one of my non-negotiables for hiking with kids.
- Wide trail. If you’ve ever hiked with a toddler on a narrow trail, you know how anxiety-inducing it can be! The wider trail leaves space for them to run freely, and for an all-terrain stroller, if preferred.
Five kid-friendly hikes in Richmond, Virginia
Dogwood Dell Hiking Trail
For younger children, this is an ideal hike as it has multiple stops along the way. Starting near Barker Field Dog Park, follow the paved path to Pumphouse Park, where there is a huge “rock slide.” My kids never tire of going down this huge slide. The slide is immediately to your right when you enter the park. Note: Pumphouse Park itself is not a toddler-friendly park, as there are several water areas without handrails. After sliding, head through the wooded trail to the Carillon Tot Lot, a fenced playground with a large climbing web, standing see-saw, and musical instruments. Pack a picnic to enjoy at the tables just outside the playground. Round out your adventure at the Ha’Penny Stage, close to the playground. My children love to run on the stage and put on impromptu performances!
Forest Exploration Trail
Located at Pocahontas State Park, the Forest Exploration Trail is true to its name: a space to feel like a real forest explorer. While I have not covered the entire trail, I recommend hiking to Split Rock, a huge boulder that kids love to sit on, slide down, and where they can enjoy a snack. In addition to Split Rock, you’ll also see waterfalls and a tree identification trail. To access this portion of the trail, park at the boat landing, and take a left immediately after crossing the bridge.
Forest Hill Park
For a stroller-friendly hike, head to Forest Hill Park and park in the large lot on 42nd St. Following a paved path, you will eventually reach Forest Hill Lake, where we often see turtles, and herons. In addition to walking the lake loop, you can go past the water spill, and play in the creeks. The creek area is clean and safe, but I do suggest bringing water shoes if you plan on water play. This is not a strenuous hike, and is about 1.5 miles round trip.
Leakes Mill Park
This quiet park is home to one of my children’s favorite hikes. At just over 1 mile round trip, and finishing at a pond, this hike is both doable and exciting for young children. Throughout the hike, there are various ways to incorporate fun, like climbing the large hills, and running through the mountain bike park. Additionally, trees are labeled by species and there’s also educational signage along the way. Pack a change of clothes for little ones who can’t resist splashing in the pond.
Pole Green Park
Located in Hanover, Pole Green Park offers a fun hike where kids can really use their imaginations. We like to start at the large picnic pavilion and cross the bridge. After crossing the bridge with rails, turn right. In this large area, kids can use tree branches to make their own bridges, find rocks, leaves, and even splash in the water. My kids thrive in the open space here, and have spent hours building their own dam. This is a shaded hike, so it’s perfect to try in the summer.
Richmond is full of outdoor fun, including kid-friendly hikes. Be sure to check out our five favorites with your family!