Are you looking to spend more time outdoors? Perhaps you are hoping to become more active? Or explore new places close to home? If you answered yes to one or all of the above, consider trying a hiking challenge!
Why Are We Doing a Hiking Challenge?
Our family loves hiking! Especially when we are exploring new places. However, until recently, unless we were traveling, we simply weren’t going hiking very often. On social media, I was in awe of families who spent so much time outside: hiking, biking, any number of fun outdoor activities. But as a growing family, we were spending less time outdoors and more time indoors attending to the mundane tasks of daily life. After the arrival of our fifth child, I made the goal of getting our family outside and into nature more often.
There is a great quote, “a goal without a plan is just a wish”. While I had the intent for our family to spend more time outdoors, I had to no plan. That is until I came across the concept of a hiking challenge. Basically, a challenge is a commitment to go on a certain number of hikes during a certain period of time. The challenge essentially is the plan for achieving the goal of spending more time outside. Yes, you could certainly do this without participating in an organized challenge, but oftentimes we need that commitment in order to hold us accountable. I know that I do!
What Does a Hiking Challenge Involve?
While there are a number of organized hiking challenges available, for our family I chose the 52 Hike Challenge. The hiking frequency of a hike every week is feasible and the challenge can be started at any time. One simply hikes weekly, for an entire year from their personal start date. A hike is considered “getting outdoors” for a minimum of 1 mile of distance each week. Additionally, if you fall behind, you just go on an additional hike the next week to catch up. It really couldn’t be any easier.
That said, I initially questioned the ease of completing such a challenge based upon what I perceived to be a lack of nearby hiking locales. I naively considered a “hike” to be on a dirt trail at a state or national park. Not the case! A hike can be a stroll at a local park, a walk through an urban green space, a trail run at a nature preserve, or a hike up a mountain. The options are limitless. Trails can be repeated. Expanding the definition of a hike means that you are able to explore so many, new places, local parks, nature preserves, etc!
Useful Tips for Participating in a Hiking Challenge
All in all, this format has been 100% doable for our family of seven, even when hiking with a baby and toddlers. Which means that it can be achieved by almost anyone! We do, however, have a few useful tips that ensure you will have the most success with the challenge:
Tip #1: Schedule Your Hikes
You’ve probably heard the famous quote “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”. This most certainly holds true regarding hiking when the weather is less than desirable. Without planning, you might end up hiking in the rain, snow or extreme temperatures. We recommend checking the weather forecast 5-7 days in advance to determine which day is best for hiking.
Our family began the challenge in late summer. During the fall, it was easy to go for a hike after school or work, on a weeknight. But during winter, it has been nearly impossible. Less daylight and cooler temperatures provide fewer options for taking hikes. If we don’t schedule our hikes for weekend afternoons, during the warmest portion of the day, they generally don’t happen. While this requires some advance planning, we’ve found that it has given our family’s outdoor time whole new priority. Previously, we might spend a cold, winter weekend entirely indoors. Whereas now we are outside for a good 1-2 hours, if not more!
Tip #2: Don’t Stress Distance & Difficulty
When hiking, it can be tempting to focus on a trail’s distance and difficulty. After its name, the most common information provided about that trail is typically its length and difficulty level. Don’t stress these! Remember, a “hike” doesn’t have to be on a trail and only requires a minimum of 1 mile of distance.
If you are new to hiking, have physical challenges or are hiking with children, we recommend starting out with short, easy hikes. Our younger kids have a maximum hiking distance of 1.25 – 1.5 miles. I’m not going to lie, at the beginning of the challenge I found this to be very frustrating. I enjoy going on much longer hikes, say 3-5 miles. While these distances are manageable for our older kids, they are not feasible for 2 and 3-year-olds who insist upon hiking themselves, rather than in a hiking carrier. Accepting their hiking speed and slowing down has allowed me to enjoy hikes from a new perspective. One that is less focused on covering a certain distance or challenging myself with a certain level of difficulty. But rather, one that provides a better connection with nature and those that I’m hiking with – my family!
Over the past 5 months, we have completed 22 hikes for a total of ~36 miles as part of the 52 Hike Challenge. Which, to be honest, hasn’t been that much of a challenge because it’s been so enjoyable. We hope that you follow along as we continue to update this post!
|1||Fort Harrison State Park – Lawrence Creek Trail||Indianapolis, IN||1.45|
|2||Flat Fork Creek Park||Fishers, IN||1.25|
|3||Warren Dunes State Park – Blue Jay Trail||Sawyer, MI||1.30|
|4||Heritage Park at White River Trail||Fishers, IN||1.15|
|5||Central Park – East & South Woods Trails||Carmel, IN||1.20|
|6||Summit Lake State Park – Campground Trail||New Castle, IN||1.75|
|7||Fort Harrison State Park – Harrison Trace Trail||Indianapolis, IN||1.75|
|8||Fort Harrison State Park – Fall Creek Trail||Indianapolis, IN||2.50|
|9||Camp Helen State Park – Beach & Oak Canopy Trails||Panama City Beach, FL||1.50|
|10||Nonie Werbe Kraus Nature Preserve||Fishers, IN||3.15|
|11||Fort Harrison State Park – Lawrence Creek Trail||Indianapolis, IN||4.25|
|12||Hoosier Woods||Fishers, IN||1.00|
|13||Mounds State Park – Trails 1 & 2||Anderson, IN||1.60|
|14||Cheeney Creek Natural Area||Fishers, IN||1.00|
|15||Flat Fork Creek Park||Fishers, IN||1.00|
|16||Turkey Run State Park – Trails 3 & 10||Marshall, IN||1.30|
|17||Ouabache State Park||Bluffton, IN||1.45|
|18||Fort Harrison State Park – Treeline Trail||Indianapolis, IN||1.00|
|19||Flowing Well Park||Carmel, IN||1.30|
|20||Holliday Park||Indianapolis, IN||1.30|
|21||Geist Park||Fortville, IN||1.00|
|22||Fort Harrison State Park – Harrison Trace Trail||Indianapolis, IN||1.30|
|23||Heritage Park at White River Trail||Fishers, IN||1.30|
Fall 2019 – An update on our completed hiking challenge can be found here.
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