Trail Games #1- Kyle O’Dea


So what do you do while hiking with a large group of students through the forest? Play games of course!

Here at High Trails Outdoor Science School we have an arsenal of games we play and songs we sing when we are out on the trail. This arsenal of ours continues to grow with the knowledge from all of the instructors that come to work here. In this blog I will talk about some of the more popular games that the students like to play while out on the trails.



Cougar plays off of hide and seek. In this game the instructor can yell out “cougar” or “owl” at any point in time while they are hiking on the trail. Each term has a different action that the students have to act out while hiking. If the instructor yells “cougar” than all the students have to drop everything they are carrying and run to the nearest hiding spot in the forest. In our forest of giant trees and shrubbery, they have plenty of places to hide. While this is happening, the instructor closes their eyes and counts to ten. After ten, the instructor stands in one spot and tries to find as many students in their hiding spots.

The better the students hide the fewer students are found. When the instructor cant find anymore students, they call the students back to the trail and they continue hiking. When the instructor yells “owl”, all the students must freeze and remain totally still. The students are mimicking the prey’s behavior of each of the two carnivores (cougars and owls). Who new learning could be this fun!

IMG_0355Ninja Sneak Attack

Ninja Sneak Attack is a wonderful game that can last one day or up to a week. This is game that requires stealth, cool heads, and quick thinking. If you have ever played Clue than you will begin to understand how this game is going to be played. The instructor will write down all the names of who is playing on separate small pieces of paper and put them in one envelope. Then she or he will write down a variety of location on separate pieces of paper, and place them into another envelope.

It is important that these locations be places that your group will visit that day or week, or be generic that the location can apply to anywhere. For example, log circle, hiking on the trail, or bathroom. Last but not least the instructor creates a list of the objects that is used to defeat your opponent. These are going to be random everyday things that the group will use throughout the day such as, pen or pencil, water buffalo, sandwich, water bottle, or a back pack. It is ok if you have repeats of locations and weapons.

The game starts after everyone has their three slips of paper that they randomly drew from the envelopes. The name on the piece of paper is the person you have to defeat in the specified location with the specific object. You have officially defeated your opponent when you hand them the object and they take it. For example if your object was a water buffalo, all you need to do to take that person out of the game is to get them to take the water buffalo from you at some point throughout the day.

Once you have defeated your opponent, you get the three pieces of paper they had and now you move on to a new target. In the end it is great to get to one winner, but do to random drawing you can have multiple winners. This game is subtle and makes the students interact with one another. Who new water buffalo’s and sandwiches could be this fun!

Other Games

  • IMG_347621 – The students get 21 yes or no questions to figure out what thing the instructor is thinking.
  • Eye for Color – The instructor hands out paint samples (you know, the ones you get at a hardware store) to each student and then has each student try to match their color to something in the forest.
  • Who Am I – The instructor will clip a clothespin on the back of the student’s jacket or back pack and they have to guess what animal or thing, using yes or no questions, is on the clothespin.
  • Minute Mysteries or Riddles – Have the students try to figure out the riddle that you have given them.

These are just a few of the games that are in our toolbox. As fun as they are though, we still might just throw in some real teaching while we hike too. Hiking is a great time for plant and animal identification. It can also give our students the time they need to think of some thought provoking ideas for the next part of the class.

Either way, there is more to our hiking than just putting one foot in front of the other.



At High Trails Outdoor Science School, we literally force our instructors to write about elementary outdoor education, teaching outside, learning outside, our dirty classroom (the forest…gosh), environmental science, outdoor science, and all other tree hugging student and kid loving things that keep us engaged, passionate, driven, loving our job, digging our life, and spreading the word to anyone whose attention we can hold for long enough to actually make it through reading this entire sentence. Whew….

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