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Hiking at Merano 2000: small steps, endless fun

Hiking trails between foals, playgrounds and Kaiserschmarrn

When you're out and about hiking at Merano 2000, the journey is quite a reward in itself. I realise that as soon as our two little ones climb out of the car seat giggling excitedly, while I look for the rucksack and hiking poles in the car boot. You see, usually our hiking tours start with long faces and plenty of complaining, typically accompanied by the occasional "Boring!" and "Why does it have to be so far...". Whenever we're headed to Merano 2000, though, Mia and Jack are already buzzing with anticipation at breakfast. And what's not to like? Short distances, exciting spots to hide in the forest, animals, Kaiserschmarrn and of course their absolute favourite: the Outdoor Kids Camp. Admittedly, the Camp is the very last stop on our hike, but for the kids, getting there is already an adventure jam-packed with fun.
So here we are, the whole family. We've strapped on our hiking boots and start walking along the wide forest path right next to the toboggan run. Protected from the sunlight by lush green trees that line the hiking trail, we easily reach the Zuegg mountainhut after a short, pleasant walk in the shade. But of course not without briefly stopping once or twice, because our forest explorers discover a patch of blueberry shrubs and would like to take home a "berry tasty" souvenir. And then there's one last stop just before the inn: the froggy pond, a small but fascinating aquatic habitat. "Splash!" There goes the first frog: It elegantly dives into the water and disappears under a lily pad. Mia is hypnotised by the nimble water striders, while Jack spots two noisily buzzing dragonflies in the reeds.

In the end, our empty stomachs and the mouth-watering scents from the kitchen pull us away from the biotope and we pick a lovely table in the shade of the Malga Zuegg inn's sun-spoilt terrace. The kids have been looking forward to their Kaiserschmarrn all morning, and my husband and I can't resist the traditional Knödel dumplings with fresh local mushrooms. Happy and with our bellies full, we continue our hike. But not without a quick visit to the playground: Because we absolutely need to try out the swings first.
Here at Merano 2000, hiking with children is easy and relaxed, because there's something new and exciting to discover everywhere. Which is also why, on our way to the ropeway mountain station, we stop several more times for the kids to gaze in awe at a couple of Haflinger foals, a herd of peacefully grazing cows, a shimmering metallic-green beetle and a few particularly beautiful alpine flowers. There's simply no time for boredom or tired legs. Merano 2000 and hiking, at least today, is much too exciting.
Hiking at Merano 2000: small steps, endless fun
Hiking at Merano 2000: small steps, endless fun
After quite a bit of exploring, we finally reach the Outdoor Kids Camp – and now there's no stopping Mia and Jack. The huge adventure playground with its climbing logs and slides, wobbly agility trails and trampolines, marble run and petting zoo is a paradise for kids and a wonderful place for us parents to sit back, rest and relax. Pure bliss! Just once do we have to get up from our comfy deckchairs and take a few trampoline action shots framed by a stunning backdrop of majestic mountains. 25 snapshot and counting: Unforgettable memories and a photo album that's filling up fast. Only the cute bunnies can finally lure them away from the trampoline and to the petting zoo. Mia's eyes light up when she's handed a brush to groom the silky, soft back of a pony, and Jack is busy gathering grass for the rabbits.

We treat ourselves to a relaxed afternoon and only set off once the batteries are fully charged and the sun begins to sink behind the craggy peaks. Luckily for us, we know a short cut – and what a short cut it is! It leads downhill at almost dizzying speed: After racing down the slopes on the winding rails of the Alpin Bob, Merano 2000's very own summer toboggan run, the whole family is adrenalin-charged, happy and content. What a rush! Time to cool off, and what better way to unwind than on a peaceful stroll along a picturesque hiking trail through unspoilt nature. Falzeben is already bathed in the gentle light of the last rays of sunshine, and once again it dawns on me why hiking with children at Merano 2000 is so very special: Here, the fantastic mix of nature, adventure, fun and action can turn any little couch potato into an enthusiastic hiker and true outdoor kid.
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