Hiking to Clingmans Dome. Image by Jeaneane Payne.
GATLINBURG, TN -- Grab the kids and take part in some new programs designed by Great Smoky Mountains National Park specifically for families and are based on the park's existing Hike the Smokies and Adopt a Trail.
The new program is child-friendly and encourages families to hike shorter, less-strenuous trails in the park. Hikers will also be able to record the number of miles hiked in a booklet designed for the the program. The booklet also has a spot for family members completing 10 and 40 miles to display special stickers awarded for achieving those two milestones. Special "Hike the Smokies-For Families" lapel pins are awarded to those completing 25 and 50 miles. For more information about Hike the Smokies, visit www.nps.gov.
The new Adopt a Trail program gives parents and children an opportunity to help maintain a short, kid-friendly park trail. As trail adopters, families help preserve the beauty of a park trail by keeping it trash-free. Adopters also help by removing small branches from the trail and reporting larger maintenance needs to the park. After five maintenance trips, families receive a special certificate and lapel pin in recognition of their work. For more information on Adopt a Trail, go to www.nps.gov.
Two family-oriented work days will be offered this summer as part of the Adopt a Trail program. Both days were designed with kids in mind. The first work day is Saturday, June 30th on the Pine Oak Nature Trail in Cades Cove, on the Tennessee side of the park. The second work day will be held on Saturday, August 4th on the Balsam Mountain Nature Trail, on the North Carolina side of the park. To participate in one of the trail work days, contact Christine Hoyer at 828-497-1949 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Today's children are tomorrow's leaders and stewards of our National Parks," says Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. "Family volunteer opportunities in the Smokies are not only a great way to get young people involved in our National Parks, they're a wonderful opportunity for families to spend quality time and enjoy the outdoors together."
The Park also continues to offer traditional ranger-led hikes. Many of these hikes are opportunities for children to complete fun activities, as well as to learn about the park's plants and animals. Some hikes also incorporate learning how to properly prepare for hiking in the park's backcountry. Schedules for ranger-led hikes may be found in the Smokies Guide, which is available at any park visitor center or by calling 865-436-7318.
The new programs are supported by the National Park Foundation, The Coca-Cola Foundation, and the Great Smoky Mountains Association.