Research shows that spending time outdoors has many benefits for people of all ages, including better overall health, and lower stress levels. One good way to realize those benefits and connect with nature is to go on a hike. Whether it’s planning a stroll through a local park or exploring a new hiking trail further afield, we have resources for every age that can help you make great choices and get excited about spending time outside.
While heading out with little ones may seem challenging at first, choosing places and activities that they will enjoy makes it easier. Where possible, be inclusive during the planning process. Allow children to study trail maps and guides if they are interested. Even if they are on the younger side, they will feel empowered when asked some basic preference questions such as “Should we walk by a river? Or, would you like to climb on rocks?”
There are numerous guides that offer suggestions for hikes at varied skill levels- from easy to difficult- in the Richmond area and surrounding region.
Guidebooks and Trail Maps of the Local Area:
Hiking Virginia: A Guide to the Area’s Greatest Hiking Adventures by Bill and Mary Burnham
60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Richmond: Including Williamsburg, Fredericksburg, and Charlottesville by Nathan Lott
Best Easy Day Hikes: Richmond, Virginia by Johnny Molloy
Virginia Rail Trails: Crossing the Commonwealth by Joe Tennis
Henrico County Department of Recreation and Parks – includes maps of individual parks, trails, and facilities in Henrico County.
The Virginia Capital Trail Foundation – provides access to free, printable maps of the Capital Trail- a 52-mile paved pedestrian and bicycling trail connecting Richmond and Jamestown.
For some youngsters, anticipation of an outdoor adventure is part of the fun, while for others being mentally prepared for a new challenge is important. To help each member of your group get ready to hike, try talking about plans and previous experiences in advance. See the list below for books featuring information about hiking, and characters who hike and enjoy nature, to build enthusiasm.
Planning Resources for Adults:
Families on Foot: Urban Hikes to Backyard Treks and National Park Adventures by Jennifer Pharr Davis
Hike it Baby: 100 Awesome Outdoor Adventures with Babies and Toddlers by Shanti Hodges
Get Your Kids Hiking: How to Start Them Young and Keep It Fun by Jeff Alt
Nonfiction for Kids:
Let’s Play Outdoors! Exploring Nature for Children by Carla McRae
Cool Parks and Trails: Great Things to Do in the Outdoors by Katherine Hengel
The Young Adventurers’ Guide to (Almost) Everything by Ben Hewitt
You can also check out one of our Nature Backpack Kits. These kits are designed to help kids explore Virginia’s State Park system. Each backpack has been provided by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to Henrico County libraries and may be checked out. They also include fun resources, books, identification guides, magnifying glasses, and a free parking pass to a Virginia State Park of your choice. Note: The Virginia State Parks website allows you to locate a park, view and print trail guides free of charge at: dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/find-a-park
If you’re planning a trip further afield, we would be happy to help you find guides and resources! Just use the “Ask a Librarian” tab on the right-hand side of your screen or give us a call.