Family Bike Camping Trip

Last week, the boys and I took our first family bike camping trip together. We parked at the North Lexington YMCA, a trailhead for the Legacy Trail, and pedaled our way to the Kentucky Horse Park for some overnight camping action.
The Legacy Trail has some beautiful views along the way. For the most part, you're pedaling through farm land with scenic fields and trees all around.
That being said, I knew the scenery may not keep the attention of two boys, three and five years old. So we made an effort to stop often enough to run around, drink a juice box and have a snack. They did really well on the ride. I gave them the option of riding together in the Xtracycle or splitting up between Xtra and trailer. They chose to ride separately, which was probably the best choice (It's not easy to pedal that much of a load when there's a wrestling match happening on the deck of the Xtracycle).
It was in the high 90s as we pedaled our way down the path. I took the opportunity to park in the shade if they got fussy. But I was surprised at how well it all went. They were so pumped about camping (plus the amount of juice boxes I brought to keep them hydrated) that they were more patient than usual.
We set up their tent as soon as we arrived. My plan was to sleep in the hammock and let them stay in their Cars tent. But they were itchy to get into the pool, so after Lightning McQueen made his debut, we set off for the water.
Go ahead, boys. Wear yourself out so you'll sleep all night :)
Back at camp, resting in the hammock while dad makes dinner.
Food and water were my most extreme instance of overpacking. I wanted them to have energy and stay hydrated. But I brought WAY too much food and water. When it's that hot outside, the nurturing instincts kick in and you fear dehydration. But we were nowhere near running low. At least my paranoia led to lots of snack times and options for dinner.
I had my classic noodles and tuna dinner. Lots of carbs and protein with very little work.

After dinner was playground time. The Horse Park is great for kiddos. We could have bounced between pool and playground for hours. Fortunately for me, though, the darkness was setting in and the boys were getting tired. After all the pedaling and kid juggling, I was ready to rest, too.
Back to camp for fire and flashlight time. When we stayed moving, we didn't notice that it was still pretty hot outside. But soon enough, the boys would want to go to bed, only to be thwarted by the heat in their little windowless tent.

That was the only drama of the entire trip. Their tent was just too hot to sleep in. After fighting their desire to sleep in Lightning McQueen for nearly an hour, they gave up and came outside to lay on a tarp that I brought. I laid it right under my hammock so that I was just a few inches away. They laid under the stars, chatted and giggled for a while, then fell asleep. I was proud of myself for pulling it off. We had made a pedal powered journey in the heat, spent great quality time together and here we were, a dad and his sons laying under God's creation. It was good stuff.

I did, however, feel some sprinkles of rain at about 3am. Really? Come on! I got up, ran a line above my hammock and hung another tarp over myself and the boys. They never woke up. But it did rain pretty good for an hour. I was glad that I trusted my gut on bringing two tarps. I was also glad that I went ahead and hung the second tarp after just a few sprinkles. Had I not hung it up in time, the boys would have gotten wet and woke up. It would have been a tough recovery after that.
Morning brought on a sunrise soccer game that ended with an injury. After about 30 seconds of tears, he embraced his injury and was proud to bleed on his first man camping trip. And yes, those are Cheeto fingers at 7am in the woods.
We quickly packed up to try and beat the heat.
Clive, the big one, wanted to ride in the trailer the entire time. He's too big for it. It totally squishes him in. But he thought it was funny to ride in the baby trailer and who am I to argue. This trip was about living it up. And when you're five, living it up means different things than when you're 31.
From there it was the same farms from a different angle on the way home. We made it back in nearly half the time that it took us to get there the previous day. Even after having tired legs, I think the morning temps gave me the extra boost to roll along a little faster.

It was an awesome trip. I can't wait to make it again. Angie wants to go with our oldest as soon as we can leave the baby with a sitter overnight. That would be awesome.

I did learn a few things...

It's easy to overpack on any camping trip. But when you're bringing little ones along, it's a certainty. In hindsight, I would rather underpack on a trip like this and hit up the camp store if I've forgotten something that's a necessity. With the boys weighing in at nearly 100lbs, plus all of the bike, trailer and gear, my legs were pulling some major cargo weight. It didn't slow me down terribly, but it would be nice to ditch 20lbs or so.

There's a trade off between camping in the heat and having the pool available versus camping in the fall but not having the pool to occupy their time. The majority of our time was spent swimming. Our night would be a bit easier in cooler weather, but I would need to compensate with other activities during the day.

And for parking, I called the North Lexington YMCA ahead of time and they were great. They were excited that we were making the trip and welcomed us to leave the car. That's good to know. They just asked that I email my car's make, model and license number for reference. If you're ever interested in this trip, I'd do the same. And parking the car was a great option. I've done this trip a few times, now, but I've always left from home on the bike. That's too many miles and unsafe roads for a family trip, though. Parking at the Y is a great distance and makes it 100% on the bike path.

Other plans?

I'd love to set up a trip this fall and plan it using this blog. Are there other family bike riders out there that would be interested in doing this trip? The primitive sites at the Horse Park would be perfect for dozens of bikes, tents and families rocking it out for a night. Who's interested? I love to hear from any of you that would want to do a Lexington family bike camping trip. Shoot me an email or comment below. I'll start to compile a list.

Get out there.


  1. We did this same trip with a few families last year and had a great time! I would be game to do it again. We were also really impressed that you can get a site in the back that has huge fields, trees, etc and is quiet and spacious and you are close to the facilities instead of the primitive sites.

    I could rally about 4 or 5 other dad and kids that would be down.

    BTW, I flipped my daughter in the trailer when it was attached on the xtracycle when we were on the legacy trail, I think I just whipped the trailer around too hard, even though I was biking slow.

    1. Flipped the trailer?! Dang. I was worried about that when I was pulling all that weight. But I didn't know if it was even possible at the low speeds I was moving.

      I'll keep you in the loop when the fall gets closer. I'd like to wait for cooler weather. But it would be fun!

  2. Wonderful that you got out with the boys. We did something similar last year on an extremely hot weekend also. As you noted, the pool does the trick with keeping everyone cool and entertained. We found it likewise. Kids and pools go together like peanut butter and jelly.

  3. This is how you build men, and most excellent dadmanship! The long term return on an investment like this is HUGE. Total respect.

    1. Thanks for the HUGE compliment! It's one of my favorite responsibilities.

  4. If only we were a bit closer! We are always looking for other cargo-bike-camping families here in Huntington, WV. Here's our first from the spring: http://www.asimplesix.com/2012/04/16/bike-camping-initiation/

    Then we hit the Miami Valley Bikeway trail this summer. So much fun!

  5. Super cute boys out for some super biking and camping fun! :) Why not consider campervan hire too? It would be a perfect choice to explore more and go to places that have beautiful bike spots.