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Start a Scout Hiking Program
Hiking Program for Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Girl Scouts
One of the things I love about scouting is being outdoors. I am very lucky that my Cub Scout Pack has a very robust hiking program. So much so that I decided to become the Hiking coordinator when the position became available.
This page is about setting up a hiking program within your Cub Scout Pack, Boy Scout Troop, and Girl Scout Troop. Where do you find places to hike within your community, and what are the rules of the hike.
Why start a scout hiking program?
There are many reasons to start a scout hiking program, however, the best one is exercise. The more kids are outdoors and exploring with their parents and leaders, the more they are likely to continue the love for the outdoors. I sometimes wonder if scouts these days know that there are places to go and visit within their area, that doesn't have concrete and the scouts can actually walk on dirt. Scout awards like a hiking stick when you get to 50 miles keeps the cub scouts coming back month after month.
So come on, get the scouts away from the TV, Wii, Nintendo DS, Ipod, and stop them from texting and get them to the great outdoors!
Model Hiking Programs
- Scouting Magazine - October 2007
An Illinois pack's monthly hiking program helps younger boys become more confident and comfortable outdoors, making for an easier transition to Boy Scouting.
Boy Scouts of America Hiking and Packing Book
How to start a boy scout or girl scout hiking program
Cub scouts love hiking too
Starting a hiking program takes a bit of planning and research before you can just say, meet me at the nearest forest preserve.
The very first thing you must do when starting a hiking program for your boy scouts is to get buy in from the scout leaders. The scout leaders will need to be informed when the hikes are and it is very important to have a uniformed scout leader on every hike.
The second thing your cub scout pack, boy scout troop, or girl scout troop must do is find out your council's rules and regulations. For example, in our council, you must register every hike with the council as this provides you with insurance in case someone gets hurt during a scouting event, and the council requires a uniformed leader on every hike. The uniformed leader has gone through the basic training required by the council to ensure the safety of the scouts.
The third item is to select a hiking coordinator. The hiking coordinator is normally registered with the cub scout pack, boy scout troop, or girl scout troop and is responsible for coordinating the hikes and providing awards during your pack or troop meetings.
Finally, the hiking coordinator and scout leaders need to determine how often to conduct a hike. If you are just starting out, I would suggest every other month. Currently, we have some type of hiking event scheduled for every month of the year.
How long was your last hike?
Where to hike?
Find places to hike in your community
So you've decided to start a hiking program for your cub scouts, and you've come up with a schedule. For variety, visit a different trail for each date on the schedule. Vary the time of year you walk, vary the miles you walk. Schedule longer hikes in the fall and spring, you don't want to get caught on a long hike in extreme cold or heat. 2-4 mile hikes will take 1-3 hours, 5-7 mile hikes will take 3-5 hours. And be sure to account for drive times to the trail.
Do your research, find out about each site before you go. Is there a good trail, does it make a loop, or does it go out to a destination and then back along the same trail. How far is the trail? Are there any hills, stairs, etc. that need to be accounted for?
Here are some ideas:
1. County Forest Preserves
2. State Parks and Forests
3. National Parks and Forests
4. Urban Hikes - I know of one pack who took the train to downtown Chicago and hiked to the Millennium Park and Lake Michigan and then back to the train station.
5. Parades - We walk 1-2 miles in the Fourth of July Parade in our local neighborhood.
6. Local Parks
7. Business and College Campuses - Get Permission First
8. Campgrounds - We schedule a hike during our family campouts
9. Be creative and most of all be safe.
10. A local Zoo
Rules of the Hike
Hike safety is always a priority
So your ready for your first hike, now what?
1. Find a common meeting place before going to the trail. This allows the hike coordinator to know which cub scout, boy scout, or girl scout will be hiking that day, everyone knows how to get to the trail, and you can carpool. We meet at our local elementary school.
2. Each scout and parent is responsible for their own water and snacks on the hike. For longer hikes, pack a lunch and plan to eat it about halfway through the hike. This allows for a rest and to get some energy back.
3. The hike coordinator or uniformed leader should bring a first aid kit.
4. At the trail head, count the number of cub scouts, boy scouts, or girl scouts on the hike, and if needed, count the siblings, and count the parents. This will ensure a scout doesn't get lost or left behind.
5. During the hike someone is assigned the Leader, and no one goes in front of the leader. We let the cub scouts be the leader so they can learn to read maps and gives them experience of being in control and responsibility. For longer hikes and on certain trails, a parent may be a leader for a while. For example, when we take a cub scout den into the city, a parent is normally the leader.
6. During the hike a parent is assigned the Caboose position. This person does not allow anyone to fall behind them. This way if someone stops to tie their shoe, the caboose will always stop and wait.
7. During the hike, stop every so often to let the Caboose catch up and do a head count to make sure everyone is still within your group.
8. If someone leaves early during the hike, they must notify the uniformed leader or the coordinator.
9. Take a break about half way through the hike to eat a snack or catch your breath.
10. Watch for items along the trail that can teach your scouts. Learn about different animal tracks or scat. What does Poison Ivy look like or Poison Oak. Did you hear a bird or another animal? Read the signs along the trails, they are usually very informative about the natural wildlife and anything interesting in the area.
11. Wear good walking shoes or hiking shoes. Strollers are probably not a good idea unless your on a paved path.
12. Have fun and be positive. If your having fun on the hike, chances are so are your scouts.
Don't forget the water - Water is one of the most important things to carry with you.
Whether you are hiking for 1 mile or 25 miles, or you are hiking in heat or cold. Drinking plenty of liquids will help get you through the hike. These items will help you carry water on your hikes and not leave you with a cramp 5 miles from your destination.
Scout Hiking Awards
Incentives to keep a scout hiking month after month
As you start the program and get it going, you will want to think about tracking the miles the scouts have hiked and the awards to hand out.
Tracking the miles is easy, a simple spreadsheet with each scouts name as rows, and the hiking events as columns. Track who attends each hike and enter the miles in the spreadsheet. Our pack also tracks miles for the leaders and parents.
We hand out the following awards as scouts reach certain milestones and as leaders and parents hit milestones over 50 miles.
10 miles - segment patch
20 miles - segment patch
30 miles - segment patch
40 miles - segment patch
50 miles - hiking stick with leather wrap indicating scouts name, date they achieved the 50 mile club, and the name of the pack.
Every 10 miles, different color feathers, claws, and arrowheads.
For our pack, when a scout receives their hiking stick, all other members of the troop that also have their hiking sticks bring them to the meeting. A tunnel is made with the sticks and the newest member walks through the tunnel to receive their hiking stick.
These are all great motivators to keep interest in the hiking program.
A good pair of Hiking Socks is a must - everyone always needs hiking socks
What else do you need to protect your feet on a hike, a good pair of hiking socks. I look for pairs of socks that are comfortable and of course waterproof. Don't forget to pack an extra dry pair. Here are some great options at Amazon.
Wear a good pair of Hiking Shoes - a good pair of hiking boots is essential for hikes
Whether you are going on a 2 mile hike or will be hiking for 3 days in the mountains, a good pair of hiking shoes is essential for all hikes. Hiking shoes should be waterproof as you never know when you are going to run into early morning dew or a torrential downpour. Hiking shoes or boots should also support the ankle to help prevent an injury. Check out the great hiking boots and shoes at Amazon.