Outside with Charlie: Starting young

By From page A11 | June 07, 2013


Since we live in an area that has more trails than one can possibly count, you may wonder what is needed to introduce a young child to the joys of hiking.

When your little one is capable of walking around most of the day, without having to be carried too much, it’s probably time.

There are two places that are very good spots for your first outings on a forest trail. Both are in El Dorado County, and easy to get to.

Sly Park Lake has 8.5 miles of trails to explore that meander through the forest: flat, nothing technical and well-marked.

You can choose a portion of one of the trails to suit your little hiker’s stamina and stability. One of the best  is the Park Creek trail that takes you to the waterfall at the back of the lake.

Learning to hike is a lot like learning to ride a bicycle. Make sure that your little hiker is comfortable, and be generous with the stops and hugs.

Hiking at Sly Park has some real advantages. It’s close in, the trails are easy, there is always someone else hiking too, and there are services here, mainly water and toilets.

Your day on the trails here can be short, or take most of the day. Start small, and work your way up.

The next place to head to when those little boots have a few yards on them is up to Silver Lake, on Highway 88.

Above Silver Lake a mile further is Granite Lake, an absolute beauty of a small mountain lake. It’s all uphill to Granite, but it is a gentle uphill.

There is a big difference between hiking here and at Sly Park. You really are out in the forest here with no services, water faucets or toilets and more gear to carry.

The trailhead is just below the old Minkalo scout camp. You get there by turning into the road that goes to Kit Carson Lodge. Drive past the lodge and at the first fork in the road, bear left. At the second fork in the road, bear right.

In a short bit you’ll go over a small bridge, and just beyond that, after a very short uphill, is a parking area. The trailhead itself is just at the beginning of the uphill, on the mountain side of the road. It is marked, and this is where you start.

You’ll go over fantastic granite, through a small meadow or two, and weave around the forest. The trail follows Granite Creek, fed by Granite Lake, most of the way.

About half way there, at this time of year, you’ll hear the waterfall before you see it. Just a few yards farther and you’ll cross a bridge that spans the creek. Off in the distance you’ll see Pyramid Peak.

Not long after that you’ll arrive at Granite Lake. Little hikers will love putting their feet in the cool waters. In summer, they’ll love splashing about in the lake.

When your day there is over, it’s back the same way you came.

Sly Park first, Granite Lake second, a perfect way to get your little ones started on hiking. Get outside!

Charlie Ferris

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