Door County offers even the youngest hikers plenty of trails to explore. The Sentinel Trail in Peninsula State Park is an example of a kid-friendly hike with its relatively flat, open terrain and interpretive markers along the route. Photo by Sara Rae Lancaster.
I’ve only been in the parenting business for a few years, but the other night I had a moment that assured me that despite all the things I could be wrong, I had done something right. . As we drove past Peninsula State Park, my 2½ year old son, Jack, asked impatiently from the back seat, “Mom? Shall we go hiking? My mother’s heart filled with pride.
The benefits of hiking with kids is something I don’t lose sight of. From learning to ‘leave no trace’ to instilling a sense of adventure, there were good reasons my son’s baby registry missed out on things like received blankets and baby swings and listed, instead, a hiking baby carrier and a portable crib for use inside a tent.
Raising a family in Door County—which seems to have a trail at every turn—means we learn to instill the values and skills learned through hiking on a regular basis. But even if the peninsula is your home away from home for the season or just a weekend getaway, reaping the benefits of a family hike is just steps away.
Door County is home to five state parks – Potawatomi, Whitefish Dunes, Peninsula, Newport, and Rock Island – and they’re all worth visiting. A daily park pass will allow you access to the first four; a trip to Rock Island requires a separate fee and two ferry rides: one to Washington Island and a second to Rock Island.
In Peninsula State Park, the Sentinel Trail is a favorite for its wide path and relatively flat, dirt terrain. (We easily maneuvered our BOB stroller on the trail.) It also goes entirely through the woods, allowing you and the kids to get away from the sun.
Interpretive trails are always a hit, with the White Cedar Trail at Peninsula and the Brachiopod Trail at Whitefish Dunes being two popular choices. As you hike the White Cedar Trail, be sure to explore the nearby White Cedar Nature Center, which reopened last summer after two years of expansion and renovations.
Ephraim Preserve at Anderson Pond
10118 Moravia St. in Ephraim
While it may not top our list at the height of mosquito season, Ephraim’s Preserve at Anderson Pond—part of Door County Land Trust—offers a gentle one-mile loop . Located just off Highway 42 between Fish Creek and Ephraim, the easy-to-access parking lot makes this a great stop for kids who need to get out of the car to burn off some energy.
As you weave your way beneath hemlock, white cedar, and hardwood forest, sights include wetlands, Anderson Pond, the Niagara Escarpment, remnants of the historic Anderson Family Farm, and an array of waterfowl that inhabit the area.
Furry family members are welcome, but must be on a leash at all times.
Ridges Family Discovery Trail
8166 Hwy 57 at Baileys Harbor
The Ridges Sanctuary has so much to offer children and adults alike that it’s a must-visit destination for any nature-loving family. The Family Discovery Trail in particular should be added to your hiking itinerary.
It’s open seasonally from dawn to dusk, when you can choose between a self-guided or naturalist-guided hike. In addition to being outdoors, kids can enjoy 13 activity stations along the way. Catch butterflies in the meadow or frogs in the stream; practice building a bridge; dig for bones; or build a fort out of sticks.
A $5 fee for adults (kids under 18 are free) lets you enjoy all the trail has to offer.