02 Sep Way to Go!
Encouraging kids to take outdoor fun to the next level
For children, summer is about riding bikes, exploring neighborhoods and climbing trees. With plenty of free time and good weather, summer is also the perfect time to encourage kids to take that neighborhood stroll or bike ride to the park up a level and try mountain biking, backcountry hiking or rock climbing. A few tips, along with some encouraging words, and your child will be accompanying you to your favorite trails in no time. Here are some expert thoughts on kids taking on three of Central Oregon’s finest outdoor activities: hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing.
“Encouraging kids to ride trails is as easy as giving them a bike and getting out there.” -Chuck Thomas, Mt. Bachelor Ski Education Foundation (MBSEF) Cycling Program Director
Teaching a child the two-wheeled freedom of riding a bike is a quintessential moment in any parent’s life. You may have shown them bike lanes and the route to school, but now it’s time to show them what Central Oregon is known for—mountain bike trails.
Our hundreds of miles of singletrack mean there are plenty of places for your child to learn to ride dirt. Internationally-known Phil’s Trail area, thanks to the hard work of the Central Oregon Trail Alliance, provides the perfect conditions to learn trail riding on nontechnical routes and short hills. Choose from Marvin’s Gardens, Ben’s Trail or the lower portion of KGB. The small jumps at the track near the trailhead are also a big hit. For a ride with a view, look to the Deschutes River Trail between Dillon Falls and Benham Falls.
Peer motivation and a general desire to be with friends mean that kids are happier and more encouraged to learn new skills when they are with other kids. Take your children out yourself but also consider the group summer and after school programs geared toward youth that MBSEF and the Bend Endurance Academy offer.
Tips for mountain biking from Chuck Thomas, MBSEF Cycling Program Director
• To encourage riding in a straight line, get kids to look ahead and not down at the front wheel. No zigzags!
• Teach them the benefits of using their gears. Learning to shift makes hills easy.
• Show them to use both front and rear brakes for better control on descents.
“We believe that fostering your children’s connection with the outdoors should start at a young age.” -Pacific Crest Trail Association
Finding a kid-friendly Central Oregon hike is easy; there are many flat trails to choose from. Before you set out with your kids, it’s important to remember that a parent’s reason for hiking, such as exercise or mental rejuvenation, can differ greatly from a child’s. While adults may look forward to the panoramic view, children prefer the world under their feet. Including your child in decision-making aspects of the outing, from choosing a trail to allowing them the freedom to leisurely focus on the rocks, leaves and bugs on the trail, can help open up your child’s natural curiosity and make the hike more fun for them.
The Deschutes River Trail, Smith Rock and Shevlin Park are great places to hike, as well as take breaks to fish, climb on boulders, gather sticks and rocks and search for animal tracks.
Tips for Hiking with Kids fromPacific Crest Trail Association
• Involve your children in the planning and packing. Don’t forget their favorite snacks.
• Try bringing a field guide and binoculars. Help your kids discover what’s in the woods.
• Bring a few of your child’s friends. The encouragement of a trail buddy can encourage your child to have more fun and hike further.
“Kids love climbing on things and it comes naturally to them.” -Mike Rougeux, Bend Endurance Academy Climbing Program Director
For most children, their climbing experience ends with the backyard tree or neighborhood jungle gym. Luckily, Central Oregonian kids have a 21,000-square-foot, indoor climbing gym in the Bend Rock Gym, where they can learn climbing basics from a professional before moving on to the real thing at one of Central Oregon’s many outdoor climbing areas.
Indoor climbing gyms are a great way for a child to learn how to climb in a controlled environment. Most gyms, like the Bend Rock Gym, have a kid’s area and trained professionals available to offer advice. Camps and after-school programs are offered by both the Bend Rock Gym and the Bend Endurance Academy. Tackling natural, outdoor climbing on your own is fun, too, but be aware of safety and your own limitations.
Tips for Climbing from Mike Rougeux, Bend Endurance Academy, Climbing Program Director
• Because legs are stronger than arms, make sure kids keep arms mostly straight and climb primarily with the legs.
• Climb quietly like a ninja. Have the kids slowly and methodically place their feet on the footholds without using too much energy.
• When taking kids climbing outdoors for the first time, use a guide professionally trained by the American Mountain Guides Association.