Toddlers. They can make or break a family outing. The best way to set your family adventure up for success is to choose locations that are toddler-friendly while also being enjoyable for the whole family.
The trails I’ve suggested here are easy to find, close to I-40, and the trailhead is next to the parking area. This means you might actually make it back home in time for your toddler’s afternoon nap. If you want to bring your dog along, they’re welcome on the trails as long as they’re on a leash and you clean up any droppings.
Before you go, remember to pack:
- More water and food than you’ll need
- Extra clothing layers
- And maybe a downloadable version of the trail map
3 Toddler-Friendly Trails
1. Travertine Falls
Logistics: If you are a destination hiker with small kids, then you’ll love this trail! It’s an easy walk with not much of an incline and you can actually reach the end of the trail with a toddler (warning: you may have to carry them on the way back). This is a 1.6 mile, there and back trail. The drive is easy. Simply follow the directions on Google–you’ll drive through a small neighborhood before you get to the trailhead.
About the Trail: Don’t let the name “falls” fool you– Travertine Trickles might have been a better name. Essentially, water from the water table seeps out of a small cliff, trickles down the rocks, then flows for a few feet before it seeps back into the ground. Even though it’s not a “fall” per se, it’s still beautiful because it provides a small oasis for plants and animals in the East Mountains.
Things to See: About halfway down the trail you’ll see a huge ponderosa pine on the left. It’s a great place to rest and eat a snack. While you’re there, ask your kids to smell the bark and tell you what it smells like. Most people think it smells like vanilla or butterscotch.
2. Powerline Trail
Logistics: This trail is very easy to get to which is one of the reasons we love it so much. To get there, you drive a short distance down HW337, turn left on FR462, and the parking lot is on the left. The trailhead is marked by metal posts. Be warned that this is a popular mountain bike trail so keep your ears and eyes open.
About the Trail: This was our favorite family trail for a while, at least the first mile of it. Overall, it’s an easy hike with both open and shaded areas. The trail is wide enough that you can walk side-by-side holding your child’s hand. It’s a there and back trail that branches off and joins other trails, so just watch the signs as you go.
Things to See: We have seen so many great things on this trail–the lower jaw bone of a coyote, lots of velvet ants (be warned, they are wasps with a terrible sting!), and we even saw a cicada working its way out of its shell one day.
3. Coyote Trail
Logistics: This trail is a 7.9 mile loop, but the first mile or so is great for kids. To get there, you drive a short distance down HW337, turn left on FR462, then follow the dirt road until you run into a parking lot that’s marked for Coyote Trail. The trailhead is just a short walk up the road (past the parking lot).
About the Trail: I haven’t hiked further than a mile or so in, but the first section is a great place for toddlers to explore. It’s wide and open where they can find insects and smell wildflowers. As you get further down the trail, I’m told there are a lot of small trails that branch off from the main trail. Because of that, most people suggest downloading a map before you go, just in case. AllTrails is a great app for trail maps.
Things to See: We saw a lot of insects and wildflowers on this trail!
Happy trails to you! If you need more hike ideas, check out this family-friendly hike in the bosque, and these hikes that are great for pregnant or postpartum mamas.
Originally published October 2018.
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