Are you looking to hit the bike trail with your little one, but not quite sure how to find family-friendly trails? Check out these general tips for getting started and finding baby and family-friendly bike trails near you. As a bonus, we have included a printable sheet to help you keep track of the bike trails you would like to explore with your little one(s) in tow.
Choose a Mode of Child Transportation
Here are two great options for biking with little ones in tow. Just keep in mind that neither option should be used with young babies. The general rule for both methods is that a child should be able to sit upright unassisted and hold their head up while wearing a safety helmet. This usually occurs when they are around 1 year old. Also, kiddos should ALWAYS wear a well-fitting bike helmet when riding in either a bike seat or trailer.
This is a great option if you have a single kiddo riding with you and you prefer to keep them close by to witness their delight as they take in the scenery. There are a variety of seats to choose from with both rear-mounted seats on the frame or a bike rack and front-mounted seats below the handlebars.
If you’re looking for something that will haul your kids along with a decent amount of gear while also allowing you to get some mileage in on variable terrain, a bike trailer is the way to go. They also have the advantage of protecting kiddos from both rain and sun exposure while they enjoy the ride. With options for single or double riders, you can haul the whole family on your next biking adventure. As a bonus, some bike trailer options (such as the Burley Honey Bee) can easily convert from a bike trailer to a double stroller without having to unload the kids!
Riding around with a bike trailer or seat attached to your bike will take some getting used to for both you and your little one(s). Start with some short rides around the neighborhood or nearby paved trails to get used to the feeling. This allows you to work out any kinks you may encounter, and it gets your body used to hauling the extra weight. You can gradually build up to longer distances and rougher terrain as you all get accustomed to the setup.
Know Before you Go
Mother nature has a way of surprising us when we least expect it. Be sure to check both current weather conditions and trail conditions right before you set out on your biking adventure. This helps you avoid getting caught in an unexpected storm or diverted by a last-minute trail closure. I like to check All Trails and other sites for recent comments and reviews on trail routes before I go. Recent visitors often put alerts when trail conditions are poor, or trail closures have occurred that may not be listed elsewhere. Also, when choosing an unpaved trail, research ahead to make sure the trail is wide enough to accommodate your set-up (especially when using a bike trailer).
There’s an App for that
There is an app for just about everything these days and finding bike trails and routes are no different. You may even discover that some of the apps you use for other outdoor activities (such as those listed below) offer route information for biking as well. Here are just a few popular apps for finding routes that fit the needs of your family and tracking your progress along the way
I use AllTrails often when out hiking, but they also have options for finding bike routes as well. Simply open the app, click on the filters button located on the top right (directly next to the search bar), and scroll down to activities. This will allow you to see the stats for trails in your area along with recent reviews from other visitors. This is a great way to determine if the trail is maintained and appropriate for your family.
This app relies on crowd-sourced information and includes conditions reports, live tracking, and even points of interest along the way. The maps can be downloaded to your device for offline use in case you venture into an area with low reception.
This popular app is widely used to track and analyze your route for hiking, biking, running, etc. However, it can also be used to explore new routes listed by other users, connect with friends and family to share your adventures, and even join fun challenges to reach your goals. It has saved me multiple times when I got turned around on a route since I could track my location and follow my way back to the start if needed.
Choose Fun Scenery or Destinations
Looking to build anticipation or provide motivation for your next family bike ride? Here are some options that are sure to make even the youngest riders excited to strap in.
- Ride to the Playground or Park: Most littles will jump at the chance to strap in with the promise of a playground visit or a fun picnic at the park.
- Explore a Nature Trail: Live fairly close to some fun nature trails? Strap the family in and bike there! You can let the kiddos explore the trail and tire themselves out before hopping back on the bike for the ride home.
- Visit the Library or Local Museum: Parking lots can be horrendous, especially during the summer months. Take a ride to your library to check out some new books or stop by the local museum to explore the exhibits without battling other visitors for a spot in the lot.
- Stop for a Treat: Ice cream or hot chocolate? Yes, please! Work in a stop at a local ice cream parlor, coffee shop, or general store during your ride to add a sweet surprise to your family biking adventure.
- Bike to the Beach or Pool: Finish a long ride with a refreshing swim at the beach or local pool. Don’t forget the sand and pool toys!
Don’t forget to keep track of your biking adventures! Here is a handy sheet you can print out and stick to the fridge to help motivate you to hit the bike trail with your kiddos as much as possible.
Photos by Jessica Human & Michelle Pearl Gee.