Close to home, not too challenging, and featuring ample opportunities for education and entertainment: These are all ingredients that can help get kids excited about the outdoors. Fortunately, there's no shortage of great spots here in the Northeast—and AMC authors have highlighted many of them in the new book series Outdoors With Kids and at AMC's Kids Outdoors online community. Here's a small selection from among the dozens of locations included in their new books about Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia.
Sebago Lake State Park | Casco, Maine
Though perhaps best known for water sports, Sebago Lake State Park also has several interesting and mostly flat hikes. The 1.5-mile Songo River Trail is a waterfront route good for hiking and biking. The 3-mile Woodlands Trail passes inland through the forest. Both lead from the park's day use area out toward the shore of Sebago Lake, where some shorter trails and a campground are situated. The 1,400-acre park opened in 1938 and is one of Maine's five original state parks.
Distance: 3 to 6 miles
Info: Outdoors With Kids Boston (AMC Books); maine.gov
Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge | Newington, N.H.
Great Bay, located just north of Portsmouth, N.H., was added to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's national refuge system in 1992. The former military base is now a valuable habitat for bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and numerous other critters. Two trails provide access to the property's diverse habitat. The Ferry Way Trail (2 miles round-trip) passes through forest, around a beaver pond, and ends at an overlook of Great Bay. The half-mile Peverly Pond Trail provides an opportunity for kids to explore a variety of wetlands.
Distance: 0.5 to 2 miles
Info: Outdoors With Kids Boston (AMC Books); fws.gov/northeast/greatbay
World's End | Hingham, Mass.
World's End was once considered as a site for the United Nations, and later for a nuclear power plant. Now it's owned by The Trustees of Reservations. Within its 250 acres, World's End boasts marshes and beaches, forest and meadows. Dirt roads and trails lead hikers over the property's gently rolling terrain. A 1.5-mile walk from the parking area will take you to the outer end of the property. Other options include exploring around a tidal marsh and wandering out onto the shore on Rocky Neck. Children are admitted for free, while adults must pay a small fee.
Distance: 3 miles out and back
Info: Outdoors With Kids Boston (AMC Books); thetrustees.org/worlds-end
Governor Alfred E. Smith/Sunken Meadow State Park | Kings Park, N.Y.
This park boasts a wealth of opportunities for kids, including a beach, recreation center, and nature sanctuary complete with educational displays highlighting the sea life and birds common to the area. A 0.75-mile boardwalk and the 3-mile beach are fun to explore. The park is also the northern terminus of the 33-mile Long Island Greenbelt Trail. This dirt path connects Sunken Meadow to Heckscher State Park via a coastal route. User fees vary throughout the year.
Info: Outdoors With Kids New York City (AMC Books); nysparks.com
Inwood Hill Park | New York, N.Y.
Located at the northern tip of Manhattan, beneath the Henry Hudson Bridge, Inwood Hill Park provides a rare glimpse of what the island used to look like. The park is home to the last natural forest and the only salt marsh in Manhattan. Shaped largely by glaciers, this ancient landscape has barely been altered by humans. A dense network of trails and paved paths winds through the forest, out to the waterfront, and to the park's nature center. The nature center was closed following Hurricane Sandy, so check the park's website for updated information before you go.
Info: Outdoors With Kids New York City (AMC Books); nycgovparks.org/parks/inwoodhillpark
Palmyra Cove Nature Park | Palmyra, N.J.
The Delaware River Trail leads hikers along the 1.6-mile waterfront and out to a footbridge that connects to the Cove Trail, which circles inland along Pennsauken Creek and Palmyra Cove. This route provides views across the river to Philadelphia and a chance to view many of the 250-plus species of birds that have been seen here. Additional trails wind through the inland areas of the park. Palmyra Cove's Environmental Discovery Center, located near the entrance, was designed for kids.
Info: Outdoors With Kids Philadelphia (AMC Books); palmyracove.org
Peace Valley Park | Doylestown, Pa.
Peace Valley Park offers a wide variety of activities for families, including hiking, biking, and boating. A 6.5-mile paved path circles Lake Galena, and 14 miles of nature trails crisscross the forest on the lake's northeastern end. Kids will particularly enjoy the Pooh Loop, a short hike (about 1 mile round-trip from the parking lot on Chapman Road) that leads to a giant hollow sycamore that they can climb into. A nature center, guided nature walks, and a bird blind are among the many education opportunities available.
Info: Outdoors With Kids Philadelphia (AMC Books); peacevalleynaturecenter.org
Contributors: Susan Charkes, Cheryl and William de Jong-Lambert, Kim Foley MacKinnon