1. The Bibbulman Track, Western Australia
Ahh, this is where we cut our walking teeth! Stretching 1000km from Perth, Western Australia, to Albany, the Bibbulman is probably a bit lengthy in its entirety for little legs. Fortunately, it lends itself well to short weekend jaunts.
A great section to try with the kids is the 62.6 kilometre stretch from Walpole to Denmark. This takes in the giant Karri trees of the southern forests, the award wining tree-top walk, and if you time your walk right, whale-watching at Conspicuous Beach. You’ll also be lucky enough to stay at Frankland River hut, with its shady balconies and tranquil river frontage voted best campsite on the Bibbulman Track.
2. Shenanoah National Park, USA
If your family hasnt the time or stamina to attempt a thru-hike on the famed Appalachian Trail, how about trying one of the easier sections such as the Shenandoah National Park stage? A family could easily walk this section in two to three weeks, and with its relatively flat terrain and abundance of nearby shops and hot showers, its sure to be a hit with the littlies.
The Shenandoah Valley is renowned for its pristine beauty, which has provided rich fodder for many a wistful cowboy song. Just don’t forget to pack the bear-proof food canisters!
3. Cape to Cape Track, Western Australia
Okay, perhaps I am guilty of being slightly biased in including two Western Australia here. But who wouldn’t want to soak up such an amazing coast line as ours? Trekking doesn’t always have to be about mountains and rugged terrain, after all. This trail is a great choice if you and your kidlets are after more of an opportunity to camp out rather than depend on Bibbulman-esque mod cons like huts and picnic tables. Running the length of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge through coastal scenery, sheltered forests and pristine beaches, the Cape to Cape track is 135km long and is located 250 km south of Perth.
4. The Camino de Santiago, Spain
While this is technically a pilgrimage rather than a hike, you don’t need a religious or even spiritual bone in your body to embark on the Way of St James. One traditionally begins the Camino in St Jean Pied-de-Port, walking across the north of Spain and finally arriving 800km later in the hallowed city of Santiago de Compostela. Families with children may choose to skip the difficult Pyrenees sections and begin in Pamplona (we did).
The Camino is probably one of the most interesting and enjoyable treks that a child could possibly go on, ironically enough for reasons that would deter most adults. With potential icecream and food stops every few kilometres and the huge amount of guesthouses to stay in all the way along, one need not cover more than 5km in a day, nor carry more than a few kilograms of weight.
Generally, kids don’t seem to take to the whole ‘going hiking to get away from it all’ thing as enthusiastically as adults do, and most will resultantly love the highly sociable nature of a walk on the Camino. They will undoubtedly be fussed over and admired by their fellow pilgrims, which will be a huge confidence booster, and the flashy ‘Compostela’ certificate awarded to them on completion of the journey is the perfect icing on the pilgrimage cake.
5. The Overland Track, Tasmania
Some may raise their eyebrows at the idea of taking small ones hiking in the Tasmanian wilderness, which is known for its extreme weather condition and rugged terrain. Touted as Australia’s premier Alpine Walk, the relatively short length (65km)of the Overland Track makes it an achievable challenge for most older children. Keep in mind that you’ll need an adult along who is capable of carrying up to 30 kilograms in weight. There are no resupply points during the six-day hike and children are unlikely to be capable of carrying their own food supplies.
6. The Abel Tasman Track, New Zealand
This is a 60km, 5 day long hike through the Abel Tasman National Park, located on the north coast of New Zealand’s beautiful south island. But more importantly, the walk actually passes a rock pool with a naturally-formed, moss-lined water slide! With places like these, who needs Wet N Wild?
With its golden, sandy beaches, lush coastal native bush and tidal estuaries, there are so many swimming opportunities on the Abel Tasman that your children might as well just walk in their bathing suits all day. Many trekkers also choose to combine walking and kayaking, making this trail the holy grail of childrens’ treks. Did we mention the water slide?
7. The Dolomite Mountains, Italy
The Dolomites are a UNESCO world -heritage listed mountain range in North- Eastern Italy. Known to adrenalin junkies as a Mecca for mountain climbing, base jumping, paragliding and skiing (I see those eyebrows raising from afar again!), the Dolomites actually have a surprising number of family friendly trails, as well as gondolas/ cable cars a-plenty if your charges aren’t up to tackling the bigger hills.
If you are looking for the challenge of a multi -day hike without the added stress of lugging food and camping ger, the Val Gardena valley is the perfect location to establish a hiking base-camp for your family. With only a day pack and picnic lunch, you can hit the trails all day and collapse into a hot shower and cosy beds by night.
8. The Kepler Track, New Zealand
Like the Abel Tasman Track, the Kepler Track is one of New Zealand’s nine official Great Walks. These are well-formed, premier trails that are easy to follow and take the walker through some incredibly diverse and spectacular scenery. While the Abel Tasman Track is more conducive to beach-bumming, the Kepler track takes hikers along the forested shores of Lake Te Anau and up and over the mountains to the Mt Luxmore Hut, ascending over 750m in one day.
Despite the rather dramatic ascent, creeks are bridged and board walks cover potentially boggy areas. The well-placed steps make the steeper bits much easier to bear, making it a great choice for kids who are ready for their first real taste of bonafide mountain climbing.
However, the alpine section in the middle can be a little tricky for families with younger children. You may prefer to walk to Luxmore hut, let the kids check out the awesome limestone nearby caves nearby on the second day, then return to the car park on day three.
9. The Coast to Coast Walk, UK
Stretching 309km from the Irish Sea on the west coast to the North Sea on the east, the Coast to Coast track is the longest ‘footpath’ in the world. It largely following public rights-of-way and access land. The terrain is thought to be physically easier to manage than England’s South West Coast Trail, which frustratingly rises and falls with every river mouth.
In 2004, The Coast to Coast was voted the best long distance walk in the world and takes the walker through the scenic Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors.
10. The Ancascocha Trail, Peru
The Ancascocha is being touted as the new alterative to Peru’s highly trafficked and commercialized Inca Trail.
Traversing 56km in 5 days and ending at the fascinating Machu Picchu, the Ancascocha is probably the trail to try now before everyone is on it. Your children will doubtless be enthralled by the glimpses they will get into the incredible story of the Incas, as well as the rich history and indigenous cultures of South America.
However, due to its high altitude and fairly rugged terrain, it may pay to avoid this walk if you are travelling with younger children. On the other hand, it is a challenge that teenagers could really sink their teeth into!