#OptOutside @NHStateParks – Bring Your Family Hiking on Black Friday!

In addition to the wonderful feast that will be spread out before our friends and family this week – there’s another tradition just as important: opting to get outside on Black Friday!

Opting for a family hikeon black friday at Bear Brook in 2015
Opting for a family hike at Bear Brook on Black Friday

After indulging in the wonderful foods of Thanksgiving and sharing warm conversation with loved ones – something different (and entirely special) happens when you move your celebration outdoors. The open space of the woods and tranquility of nature can provide a new perspective on what it means to be grateful.

Bring the whole family - from great-grandma to grandchildren!
Bring the whole family – from great-grandma to baby grandson!

Out here, dialog shifts easily from the details of our own lives to the all-encompassing oneness that can be accessed through nature. For me, sharing the outdoors with my family helps me connect with them on a deeper level. Making it a multi-generational experience further deepens this feeling too since nature can be universally appreciated by 2 year olds and 92 year olds alike.

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This Black Friday, look to our New Hampshire State Parks to take refuge with your family and opt outside. Find a state park (or state forest) near you and map out a family-friendly hike to enjoy with your family. Whether you live near the coast, mountains, lakes or city – chances are good that there is a park closer than you think that would make an ideal spot for your family outing.

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Niece and nephew running down Pitch Pine Trail

Below is an example of one such hike – experienced last year with my own family on the day after Thanksgiving –at Bear Brook State Park.
Among the 40 miles of trails that can be accessed at Bear Brook – many are family-friendly and easily accessible. Considering that my family ranged in age from 8 months to 90 years – we chose the relatively short, flat and easy hike out to Smith Pond on the Pitch Pine Trail (from Campground Road).

Here is the link to the trail map pdf for printing or download: http://www.nhstateparks.org/uploads/pdf/Bear-Brook_Trail-Map.pdf
Short Smith Pond Loop highlighted above. Here is the link to the full trail map pdf for printing or download.

To do this hike – follow Deerfield Road to Podunk Road in Allenstown, NH. There is ample parking in the hiker/biker lot or you can turn down the Campground Road and find parking closer to the trailhead. We were able find a space near the junction of Pitch Pine and Campground Road.

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Family hiking along Pitch Pine Trail at Bear Brook

From here it is a little over a half a mile to walk out to Smith Pond. The trail is wide and flat allowing the kids to race along through the woods easily while the grandparents can take as much time as needed. This section of trail consists mostly of hardwoods – and a lot of sunlight shines down through the bare trees.

The more family you bring...the more shoulders to ride on!
More family means more shoulders to ride on!

At Smith Pond there is an old CCC shelter built in the 1940s and a wooden staircase with terraced sitting areas for getting close up views of the pond or sitting in quiet enjoyment with your family.

View of Smith Pond from above.
View of Smith Pond from above.
Log stairs leading down to Smith Pond.
Log stairs leading down to Smith Pond.

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For a change of scenery on the way back – take Broken Boulder Trail to Campground Road. When you get to Campground Road cross the street and check out the incredible bear sculpture carved into a pine tree stump. We found it a good spot to stop for a few pics.

Bear carving at the junction of Broken Boulder Trail and Campground Road
Bear carving at the junction of Broken Boulder Trail and Campground Road

After that we made our way back to the car by walking down Campground Road.

Walking back along Campground Road
Walking back along Campground Road

Again – this park offers many, many options for easy hiking loops so check out the full trail map if you want to try something different.

Here’s another look at Smith Pond from a rainy day hike earlier in the fall:

Additional Suggestions for Black Friday Family Hikes:

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Grant Klene

Digital Marketing Manager for New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation

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