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Introducing your little ones to hiking when they’re young is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Ready to hit the trails with the kiddos in tow? You’ll find lots of fun trails in the Eastern Townships—perfect for your adventurers-in-training.
Starting at age four, children can start actively participating in family hikes. In Sutton, there’s plenty for tiny trekkers to explore along the Village-Montagne trail, including the Marmite aux Sorcières trail. From Stoke, you can try Grotte de l’Ours, an easy segment of the Sentiers de l’Estrie hiking trail network. Finally, in Baldwin Mills, Mont Pinacle offers plenty of kid-friendly hikes with an alluring reward: Lac Lyster and its lovely beach.
Another must-visit for kids (and everyone else, for that matter) is Parc de la Gorge de Coaticook and the ever-popular Foresta Lumina, which offers four kilometres of pure magic sure capture the imagination and delight the senses.
Finally, the Marais de la Rivière-aux-Cerises, in Magog, as well as the Centre d’interprétation de la nature du lac Boivin, also have excellent hiking trails for youngsters. The terrain is relatively smooth and home to all kinds of interesting critters thanks to a diverse flora and fauna.
If your little ones have a bit more stamina, or starting at around 7 years old, Mont Ham, in Ham-Sud, boasts at least four easy hikes and as many intermediate ones. On Mont Orford’s Ruisseau-Des-Chênes trail, you’ll find a small waterfall about 1 ½ kilometres from the trailhead (located at the intersection of Chemin North and Autoroute 112, in Austin). Especially alluring on a hot summer day! Note that while the trail is technically rated difficult, it’s worth trekking out to the waterfall, even if you turn around and come back down right away.
Evidently, this list isn’t exhaustive. The Eastern Townships region is a vast playground for hikers of all abilities. Note that all four of the region’s national parks (Mont-Orford, Mont-Mégantic, Frontenac and Yamaska have beginner-friendly trails. Visit their websites for more information.
• Bring plenty of snacks.
• Don’t forget bottles of water.
• To keep your child engaged, give him or her a mission: Find a certain type of bug, tree, rock, etc.
• Stop for breaks regularly.
• Tell your child a story or ask him or her to tell you one while you’re hiking.
• Make sure your child is well versed in hiking safety rules. (Don’t stray too far, watch your steps, stay away from cliffs, etc.)
• When choosing a trail, remember that a child can walk a number of kilometres equal to his or her age, approximately. Check the distance before you set off—and don’t forget to calculate the return distance if it’s not a loop!