One of Laura Mylan’s favorite memories with her son occurred during an impromptu night hike while they were camping on Lake Superior. Although her son, who was eight at the time, was hesitant, they decided to traverse a dark path—thick with undergrowth—that led to the beach. “We were so in the moment—no screens, no cars going by, just me and my child in the natural world,” says Mylan, a media relations expert for the Children and Nature Network.
Hiking when the world is cloaked in darkness can feel risky and scary—but that can be a great antidote to life’s daily stressors. “Research shows that kids get a real sense of achievement and learn how to take on intimidating tasks from exciting, adventurous activities like night hikes,” says Belinda Kirk, who’s led adventure expeditions and is the author of Adventure Revolution: The Life-Changing Power of Choosing Challenge.
The key to helping kids see risk as beneficial instead of scary, Kirk says, is to undertake short-lived, playful challenges that build confidence, resilience, and the coping skills that help with anxiety. And night hikes, which provide opportunities to practice experiencing and managing fear, fit that bill.