Five Best National Parks for Family Biking

We spent a lot of time biking on our National Park to Park Highway tour this year, so I feel like I know which parks have good family biking options. Each of these top five picks┬áhave dedicated paved trails (pretty flat too) so you don’t have to bike on the road with young kids.┬áNot to mention they’re all beautiful and the bike trails take you to visitor centers, scenic overlooks and fun places to explore.

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Biking the Hiawatha Trail with Woom

I’m new to the world of mountain biking, but from what I’ve tried so far it may be my next favorite thing. When I told my family and friends we were biking at parks on the National Park to Park Highway several people suggested we try out the Route of the Hiawatha.

While this trail is not in a National Park, it does run through US National Forest land. The fifteen mile rails-to-trails bike path follows an old mining railroad, complete with tunnels and tressles through wooded beauty.

Managed by Lookout Pass ski resort, the Hiawatha bike trail is located on the border of Montana and Idaho. It’s a must for any bike enthusiast, and great for families. Mostly downhill, the Route of the Hiawatha begins with a 1.1 mile ride through a mountain tunnel (bring your flashlights). From there you travel through forests, over trestle bridges more than 100 feet high, and along a path with beautiful views of mountains. The cost to ride is $10 for adults, $6 for kids, but you’ll also want to take the shuttle so you don’t have to bike back up. That’s $9 for adults and $6 for kids.

The Route of the Hiawatha was really fun and only made possible by one of our favorite trip sponsors, Woom (pronounced Voom). Woom builds bikes specifically designed for kids. They are lightweight and high quality, and have been awesome to ride. On the Hiawatha trail, Big E rode the Woom 4. With 20 inch tires, eight speeds, a shifter integrated into the handle, and a pre-installed bell and kickstand, it was perfect for him.

Watching him ride the 15 miles, it was hard to believe that he was still on training wheels this spring. When he was first learning to ride we started him on a bike with training wheels that I bought for ten bucks at a garage sale. Not only did Big E outgrow that beginner bike before learning to ride without training wheels, it weighed as much as my bike did, if not more. I think it was part tank. When Woom sent the Woom 4 to try out we transitioned away from training wheels, adopting the balance bike mentality.

I love that Woom’s philosophy is to start kids with a balance bike – no pedals, no problem. Without pedals to worry about, kids learn the basics of balance first. Speed and control are already ingrained in your kid. By the time they’re big enough for a real bike with pedals, they already know the mechanics of riding. Balance bikes allow the kid to use their feet to stop and go.

With Big E we had a bit of backtracking to do. When we took of the training wheels, he got super frustrated, not a good start to learning something new. So we decided to make the Woom 4 a balance bike by removing the pedals and letting him learn balance, speed and control with his own two feet.

The results were miraculous. After one ride we put the pedals back on and he raced away like he’d been biking for years. As a mom, watching your child accomplish something they’ve worked hard for is a payoff moment. I couldn’t have been prouder.

The only drawback of Woom bikes is the price. At $449 for the Woom 4, these bikes are not cheap, especially for something your child will inevitably outgrow. That’s where Woom’s Upcycle System comes in. When your child outgrows their Woom bike you can send it in for a 40% discount on the next size up. I love when companies really think about how people use their product.

Watching Big E ride the Route of the Hiawatha was a proud mama moment for me. The 15 mile trail was at the edge of Big E’s abilities and he rode without complaining, except for at the end when a flat tire halfway through the mile long tunnel left him scared and tired. Riding the Route of the Hiawatha was one of the highlights of our National Park to Park Highway tour and it would not have been possible without Woom.

Woom gave me the items above for review. My opinions are my own. This post also includes affiliate links. See all of our National Park to Park Highway Sponsors here.

What To Do with Kids at Crater Lake National Park

Our trip to Crater Lake National Park was spectacular. Those views! That water! Some scientists believe Crater Lake is the largest, clearest, cleanest body of water on earth. We already know it’s the deepest in the US at over 1,900 feet deep. Oregon’s only national park sure is a good one, but what can you do there with kids?

Hike – The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses into Crater Lake National Park and many through hikers camp at Mazama campground at the park’s entrance. When we were there a wildfire closed part of the PCT so many hikers were forced to change plans. I wouldn’t attempt the massive 2,650 mile scenic backpacking trail with my three tots, but I would try the six mile alternate hike with views of Crater Lake.

Drive – The rim drive is the highlight of any Crater Lake visit. Even the original National Park to Park Highway tour had the chance to drive around this beautiful blue, since building a road around the rim was a top priority when the national park was first formed. It’s a beautiful scenic drive, but be aware that parts of the road are closed until mid to late June every year because of snow.

Bike – The 30 mile ride circumventing Crater Lake was well beyond my family’s abilities, but it’s definitely something I’d like to try in the future. While the road is open to cyclists all season long, you may not enjoy the small shoulder, heavy traffic experience. Well, you’re in luck! Twice a year Crater Lake hosts vehicle free on the East Rim Drive. It’s a perfect chance to get out without all the car traffic. This year the vehicle free days are September 17 and 24, 2016.

Swim – Jump in the bluest water this side of the Caribbean, only don’t expect it to be that warm. The water in Crater Lake comes solely from rain and snow melt and surface temperature averages only 55 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. The only access to the lake is via Cleetwood Cove trail, a steep 1.1 mile hike from the rim. Even so, we HAD to swim in Crater Lake. It was too beautiful to pass up and I highly suggest you make the effort to jump in. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the trail is closed for maintenance from August 2016 through summer 2017.

Ski or Snowshoe – With over 500 inches of annual snowfall, Crater Lake is a great place for winter recreation. Parts of the rim drive are closed to vehicles in the winter, but cross country skis and snow shoes are allowed in those areas. Strap some on and see Crater Lake in a whole new way.

Boat – Private boats are not allowed on Crater Lake, but craterlakelodges.com offers lake cruises or tours of wizard island. This is the only legal way to experience Crater Lake by boat, but be aware that children under three are not allowed.

Camp – Mazama campground at the southern entrance of Crater Lake National Park has over 200 camp sites, a camp store, laundry and nearby restaurant. There are also backpacking campsites available, but permits are required. Check out all the camping options here.

Crater Lake was so beautiful, I kinda wondered why it wasn’t as popular as Sequoia or Yosemite. Now that I’ve been there, I think it should be on the list of every outdoor traveler in the US. Why not visit the deepest lake in the US? It’s pretty amazing.

Have you ever been to Crater Lake? What was your experience?

Baby Safety: Hiking and Biking

Thanks for following the Owlet Baby Care Baby Safety Month Blog Hop! Every day in September a new blogger will post on a baby safety topic and give you a chance to enter Owlet Baby Care’s Baby Safety Giveaway with BIG PRIZES (see below)! Did you catch Amy’s crafting baby safety tips from TheHappyScraps.com from yesterday?

Alright. Let’s talk baby safety in the outdoors. Baby L has hiked, biked and swam with us through our entire National Park to Park Highway tour. It’s only been possible thanks to being prepared. Here’s what we do to keep our baby safe while hiking and biking.


Hiking

The American Hiking Society recommends taking these ten essentials on every hike. Bringing baby along means you’ll need these essentials as well.

Baby Carrier

  • For kids under six months – Use a wrap or front carrier designed for young babies. Newborns lack muscle coordination in their head and neck so it’s important to provide support. Babies this age should not face forward as the jostling involved with walking can be dangerous for their developing necks and spines, and if the baby falls asleep there’s a danger of airway obstruction. Also, a baby carrier with leg support is recommended since legs dangling for too long can affect spinal development and circulation. Some brands include Baby Bjorn, Moby Wrap, Tula, or Boba.
  • For kids over six months – If baby can hold their head up on their own you can carry them on your back with either a soft sided carrier like Ergobaby, LILLEbaby or Onya Baby or a framed hiking pack like the Kelty Pathfinder, Osprey Poco or Deuter Kid Comfort. Those little ones get heavy so a pack is important. Our favorite baby carrier reviews can be found here as part of the great baby wearing project from TalesofaMountainMama.com.
Other Baby Hiking tips
  • Bring drinks and food for everyone in your group. A bottle or breast milk for baby and food for you give you both energy for the hike.
  • Keep it short, keep it happy. It’s physically demanding to carry a baby while hiking so start by doing hikes of three miles or less. 
  • Know where you’re at and where you’re going and always tell someone where you’ll be and when you’ll be back.
  • Here are more tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics A Minute for Kids.

Biking

Although it may be tempting, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend biking with kids under the age of 12 months. Younger babies don’t have the neck strength to support their head wearing a helmet, and as tempting as it might be to bike with a baby in one of the carriers listed above, it is not safe for you or the baby. Maneuvering a bicycle with a baby strapped to you is awkward, not to mention the added weight increases braking time.

Baby Bike Seats

  • Child Bicycle Trailers – The American Academy of Pediatrics states that it’s preferable for children to ride in a bicycle-towed child trailer. Trailers are lower to the ground so in the case of a crash the child would not fall as far. We’re a fan of our Burley D’Lite, but whatever bike trailer you choose, make sure it meets ASTM standards for safety. Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a Burley Solstice Jogger!
  • Rear Mounted Bike Seats – If you prefer a rear mounted bike seat make sure it attaches securely, has spoke guards to protect hands and feet and a high back and sturdy shoulder harness that will support a sleeping child. 
  • Cargo Bikes are not recommended for carrying children.

Helmets

  • Babies should be at least 12 months old and able to hold their head up well. Always put a helmet on baby when biking.
  • Get your child a well fitting helmet that meats CSPC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) guidelines. Follow these recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Never buy a used bike helmet. Do not use bike helmets that were involved in a serious bike crash.
Other Baby Biking Tips
  • Plan a safe route. Riding on the road with baby on board may not be the best idea. Look for bike paths and smooth pavement for traffic free biking.
  • If you must ride on the road ride with the flow of traffic, stay to the side and wear bright colors for visibility.  
  • Don’t ride with kids at night. Reflective clothing and bike lights may not be enough for cars to see you.

    Now that you know how to keep baby safe hiking and biking get out there and have some fun! But before you do enter the giveaway below and don’t forget to visit TastefullyFrugal.org for tomorrow’s baby safety tips.

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    This post is sponsored by Owlet Baby Care makers of the Smart Sock which is designed to alert parents if their baby lacks oxygen. Other items mentioned in this post were given to me to review. This post also includes affiliate links. Burley Design is a sponsor of our National Park to Park Highway tour.