two boys exploring a pond
Explore & Recreate

Nature Exploration w/ Young Children

“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children's memories, the adventures we've had together in nature will always exist.”

― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Get There!

Discovery Loop (.2 miles)- The Discovery Loop is a paved trail right off the grounds of the Discovery Center.  Along the path are interpretive signs and activities. Download Trailmap

Blue trail loop at Karner Barrens (.9 miles)-  The blue trail is our most popular trail.  Walking up a gentle slope to the overlook, kids can explore blueberry bushes and wild blue lupine from the trail.  At the overlook, a quick boost into the arms of an adult, will give the view to the Helderberg Escarpment and Catskill Mountains.  Jump down the 50-ish 'stairs' to a rolling trail marked by some of the best pine barrens.  Frequent encounters are the Karner Blue Butterfly, Buckmoths, Pitch Pine, Scrub Oak and a nice variety of songbirds.  Look for evidence of prescribed fires as you walk. Download the trail map

Yellow trail loop at Madison Avenue Pinelands (.6 miles)-  The yellow trail meanders through dense forest and open barrens giving you the best of both worlds.  In the spring, flashy pink lady slippers and lupine bloom.  In the summer, this area is nice for spotting antlions and indigo buntings. Download the Trail Map

Six Mile Waterworks waterfront and paved path-  The white trail at trailhead #3 is paved and great for strollers.  Follow this path along the shoreline of Rensselaer Lake.  Bring a small net and some mucky boots for your kiddos to explore the little creatures living in the water. Download the trail map


Guided Hikes- The Education staff lead hikes for many age ranges.  Guided hikes are a great way to explore nature even if you aren't a nature guru!  Click here to see our current list of programs

Be sure to check our Alerts page for current trail closures before you go.  Or stop in at the Discovery Center to get the details from our knowledgeable Visitor Services team.

Borrow our Backpack-  (TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE) Stop in to the Discovery Center and sign out a free backpack stuffed with fun activities and tools for exploration.  Return it to us when you are done hiking for the day.


Create lasting memories with your family in the preserve.  There is so much to see and do, from taking a hike, looking for animals and animal tracks, listening for the amazing sounds of nature or taking a picture of a butterfly.

Get Prepared

A little bit of planning, goes a long way.  Take a few moments when you are planning to make sure you've considered the following:

  • HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonley, Tired)- Cover the basics before heading out to make the most positive experience for all.  Remember to pack a snack and bring a water bottle. Restrooms located outside the Discovery Center are open M-F: 9am - 4pm and Sa-Sun: 10am - 4pm. Take a break by exploring exhibits in the Discovery Center (the Discovery Center is open for limited hours).
  • Dress-  Dress for the weather. Layers are great and give you the most flexibility.  Wear long pants and long socks.  Tuck your pants into your socks. and wear light colored clothing as there are ticks in the preserve.  
  • Strollers- The trails are sandy and taking strollers on most of them is not recomended.  Bring a backpack for young children to ride in and stick to shorter loop trails like the ones recomended to the left.
  • Ice-  In the winter, highly used trails tend to get icy.  Stop in at the Discovery Center before you go to get a trail report.  Ice can make for a tricky adventure, but with the right equipment and expectation it can be lots of fun!
  • Be Aware-  While the preserve is well maintainted you should be aware that there are some natural risks inherant in exploring the preserve; deer ticks are present, little shade is available, hikers, bikers and dogs are commonly encountered on the trails.  During hunting season you may encounter hunters with crossbows or guns navigating the trails.  Wear blaze orange and stick to the trails during hunting season.