Backcountry Made Easy

Family Hut-to-Hut Trips
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White Mountains in New Hampshire
White Mountains in New Hampshire (iStockphoto)

Is it possible for families to venture into the backcountry with ease?

Last summer, the four families in my son's playgroup decided to find out. We've been meeting since our kids were two and three years old, sharing sandboxes, swing sets, picnics, and assorted outings. Now that we have older kids—kindergarten graduates ready for first grade—we decided to spend a weekend at an Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) hut in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Huts are a wonderful way for families to experience the backcountry without all of the hassles, not to mention the labor, of hauling backpacking gear. The hut provided us with a multicourse dinner and breakfast—which meant we didn't have to haul much food or any cooking equipment—as well as bunks, blankets, and pillows—which meant we could leave the sleeping bags and tents at home and instead tote only sheets or a sleeping bag liner. Any parent who has hauled the family's backpacking gear for any distance knows that leaving all of this behind is pure bliss.

Our destination was Lonesome Lake Hut; at about 2,700 feet elevation, a pleasant 1-mile hike from the trailhead. This short hike would be rewarded with spectacular scenery—an alpine lake with a dock for swimming and boating surrounded by stunning views of the Franconia Ridge peaks. Our group consisted of six adults and six kids ranging in age from two to eight. With a broad range of ages, hiking and camping experience, and personalities, we four moms were excited, yet worried. Could we pull off this "wilderness weekend"?

We needn't have worried. I'm happy to report that the weekend was indeed blissful for both me and my son. I loved being surrounded by mountains and forest, with no cars or campgrounds in site. The rest of the group fared well too—with a few minor problems—so we've agreed to make this an annual event.

So, what exactly is a backcountry hut trip? What kind of experience might your family have? Where can you find them? Here's an idea of what to expect and tips for planning your own trip.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 12 Feb 2013
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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