With hiking season quickly sneaking up on us, now’s the time to think about planning your first trips this fall. If you’re a parent, have you taken your kids backpacking?
There’s no better way to let them fall in love with the outdoors than to walk out into the woods and spend the night there. On a recent episode of How to Do Florida, TV host and outdoor adventurer Chad Crawford shows you what it’s like to get out there as he takes his daughter Kasey on an overnighter from Clearwater Lake to Alexander Springs on the Florida Trail. Here’s a peek.
The Florida Trail through the Ocala National Forest makes for an excellent first-time backpacking trip for families. Since random camping is permitted – except during general gun hunting season, when hikers must use established campgrounds and sites – you can walk along and let the kids pick out a high, dry spot under the pines wherever they like. Just make sure you haul enough water in for everyone!
If a little bit of comfort makes a difference, certain portions of the Florida Trail have an abundance of designated primitive campsites that provide very basic amenities like benches or a picnic table and a fire ring. Along the Suwannee River and most of the Orlando section, you can just hike in and claim a site for your own. Along the Kissimmee River, Green Swamp, and Eglin sections, permits are required in advance for these campsites.
Don’t forget trail shelters, too. These are like little cabins in the woods that you can sleep in. Most of them are open to the elements: two along the Blackwater section, one in Osceola National Forest, and one in Seminole State Forest. However, two pretty little shelters in Northeast Florida attract a lot of weekend campers: the “Rice Creek Hilton” at Rice Creek Conservation Area, and Iron Bridge Shelter at Etoniah Creek State Forest.
Before you head into the great outdoors, make sure you know how to prepare for a backpacking trip in Florida. Here’s a checklist of the basics you should take with you. Involve the entire family in gear selection and food preparation before you leave. Planning is part of the fun of backpacking!
How to Do Florida features outdoor adventures for the entire family. Take a look at more video clips of activities you can share with the entire family, as well as this insightful talk by Chad on how to create an outdoor culture in your family.