Tom Jones Lean-to, Harriman State Park, NY
Take a deep breath, mom and dad. Actually, don’t. You won’t need it on this easy, 1-mile out-and-back along a quiet footpath to an even quieter backcountry hideaway. Between the gurgling brooks and unending birdsong, there’s enough to hold Junior’s attention while you stroll beneath a canopy of mixed hard- and softwoods.
Link the Victory and Ramapo-Dunderberg Trails .5 mile to the Tom Jones lean-to (first-come, first-serve). For more solitude, pitch your tent in the grassy area above the shelter.
Trailhead Victory (41.230311, -74.140031) Permit None Season May to October Contact
Franconia Falls, Pemigewasset Wilderness, NH
The only problem with this trip is that it might spoil backpacking for your kid when he learns that not every trip ends in a 20-foot water slide. That’s a shame because you’ll probably never see your tyke hightail it to camp faster.
Take the flat, 3-mile Lincoln Woods Trail to the first-come, first-serve Franconia Brook Campsites (there are 20), which are a quarter mile below the natural water park. Set up, then it’s off to take your pick of pools, falls, and chutes in Franconia Brook.
Trailhead Lincoln Woods (44.063666, -71.587971) Permit None Season May to October Contact
Chimney Pond, Baxter State Park, ME
Calling all mini mountaineers: This trip promises a taste of the heady stuff, without all the commitment. Basecamp at an alpine lake in an amphitheater of Maine’s tallest peaks, then let your kid choose what to do, be it summiting any of the parapets around you (Katahdin is just a 1.3-mile, class 3 scramble via the Cathedral Trail), trying to withstand the icy water, or crawling through the Pamola Caves (.7 mile east of camp).
Climb the Chimney Pond Trail 3.3 miles, ascending 1,400 feet, to the nine lean-tos ($21/night; reserve in advance).
Trailhead Roaring Brook (45.919666, -68.857353) Permit None Season June to October Contact