Start Pedaling: Bikepacking with Kids

Settling into camp for the night in Vermont’s Northfield Mountains, we glanced into the trees at hearing the first of many barred-owl calls. The owl was unusually close, perched on a high branch less than fifty yards away. Moments later, in the fading light of a mild spring day, the melodic songs of wood thrushes reverberated through the forest, followed by even more owl calls. “Hoo, hoo, hoohooooooo.”

Our crew of two families had pedaled more than an hour from our home, along rolling dirt roads and singletrack trail, to reach this wild nook within an area of locally conserved forest land. Our bikepacking with kids trip delayed twice by a late spring snowstorm and then cold rain, we now found the weather gods smiling on us. A few pesky black flies tickled our ears, but they weren’t especially hungry. Our 3-year-old daughter, Maiana, worked with our friend Nick in starting a small campfire. And Lenora, our 10-month-old daughter, played with her friend Ophelia of the same age—gnawing on wood, crawling over moss-covered boulders, and simply doing what tiny humans on the forest floor do best.

We utilized a small cabin on the property for some meal prep and as a fun crawl space for the youngest girls. We set up our tents, however, in the surrounding forest beneath towering sugar maple, northern beech and white ash trees. Kristen, Ophelia’s mom, was thrilled to be off on her first bikepacking adventure with their little girl, and she and Nick were already scheming about a long weekend loop connecting several neighboring valleys.

This one-night adventure was just a warm up, and a good way to fine-tune the bikes and gear for the season ahead. After dinner, with a round of s’mores underway, a break in the owls’ calls gave way to the howling of a not-so-distant pack of eastern coyotes. Maiana was especially excited, believing that we might even get to see one. The rest of us simply couldn’t believe how full of life the forest was tonight. Just hours into our humble little pedal-powered adventure, we felt like we were already days from home.

Bikepacking with kids

After pedaling away from our home and rolling along a network of dirt roads for about an hour, Emily and Lenora navigate a lightly maintained trail leading toward our camp in the forest. Emily towed Lenora in our Thule CX1 trailer while carrying some extra gear in a set of rear panniers on her bike. Brian carried 3-year-old Maiana in an upright child seat, while towing a majority of the camping gear in a one-wheeled BOB trailer. Our friends Kristen and Nick had a very similar setup.

bikepacking with kids

Maiana gives her mom a hand pushing the bike through a short rough spot on the trail. While much of the trail was rideable, a few sections required some pushing of the bikes, giving us a chance to stretch out the legs and soak up the forest.

bikepacking with kids

After helping to start a small campfire, Maiana offers all the air her little lungs can muster to help inflate an air mattress.

bikepacking with kids

A rising moon, hooting barred owls and a warm fire ease us into a pleasant night in the forest.

bikepacking with kids

The next morning, amid an impressive symphony of songbirds, Maiana and Lenora help to pack up camp.

bikepacking with kids

Brian rolls along while Maiana enjoys the ride. “Daddio, can we bring my bike next time?” Yup.

bikepacking with kids

Maiana immerses herself in some cold and well-deserved watermelon upon our return.

What’s your favorite go-to outdoor family adventure? Share in the comments below.

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