What's the secret to winter hiking with kids?
It’s simple: Hot chocolate and hiking poles.
My own family made this discovery on a winter break trip to Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park.
We booked a vacation cabin with plenty of toys (including Ms. Pacman, a pool table and a swing set), as I worried only hard-core adventurers were up for braving Shenandoah’s mountains in the snow. But, as it turns out, my kids, who are 6 and 9, liked snow hiking better than walking through the muggy summer heat.
The small amount of snow that had fallen in Washington, D.C., was no match for the Shenandoah mountains, where it was thick on the ground. Only part of the park was open, but that included the kid-friendly Stony Man hike. We bundled the kids into their snow suits and boots and eagerly set off into a forest where the trees sparkled with dangling icicles (we were as apt to see a trailside snowman as we were a deer).
My daughter loved tromping off-trail through the deeper fluff, balanced by the wooden walking stick we snagged from our cabin at the last minute. My son raced ahead, and then plopped down right in the snow, content to read his book and wait for us.
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Walking over slick patches of ice was funny — not scary — and the cold wasn’t bothersome with hot, sugary beverages in hand.
The 1.6-mile trail leads to a rocky outcropping with a breathtaking view of the entire Shenandoah Valley. My husband eagerly snapped photos, but the kids didn’t care to pose.
Instead, they just wanted their hot chocolate reward.