The Best Tips For Hiking With Kids

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A family hiking with kids

Let’s consider a new mom who just had her first baby. She has been an avid hiker for years but fears that her exploring days are over. Or perhaps a single dad is trying to raise two girls.

He’s wondering how to connect with them and build strong relationships. No matter the situation, hiking with kids is an excellent bonding experience for a baby, a toddler, or a teenager. 

Don’t let having a baby keep you from doing what you love. Use the outdoors to foster meaningful time with your kids away from technology. Let’s learn more about how you can hike with kids and start a new family tradition!

Is Hiking With Kids Safe?

Hiking with kids is as safe as hiking without them. If you’re not tackling the South Rim at the Grand Canyon or the infamous Beehive at Acadia National Park, your kids are very safe trekking through hiking trails.

Always choose paths suitable for children, but don’t be afraid to go hiking with your kids. You can help create an appreciation for nature and foster healthy habits. There is much to learn by being outside and exploring nature.

A family hiking with kids

What Should Kids Wear When Hiking?

One way to stay safe when hiking with kids is to wear proper clothing. No matter what time of day you walk, wear layers. This ensures you’re ready for cool morning air and the afternoon heat.

Your kids should wear UV-protective clothing to protect their skin from the sun’s harmful rays. They should also wear a waterproof hiking hat. By wearing long sleeves and long pants, you’ll protect your kids from ticks

What Are the Best Hiking Shoes for Kids?

In addition to wearing proper trail attire, you also want to ensure your kids wear comfortable shoes. They won’t make it very far if their feet hurt. Do some research about the type of trail you’re hiking and choose appropriate footwear.

A path with several stream crossings will require hiking sandals. However, a path with bouldering or rocky surfaces will need hiking boots. Footwear and clothing are both essential to the overall safety of your kids when hiking.

10 Best Tips for Hiking With Kids

Hiking with kids is different from hiking with adults. You have to pace yourself and take more breaks.

You also might need to be more entertaining. Here are ten tips to prepare you for a great experience.

1. Set Realistic Expectations

If your kids have never hiked before, don’t start with a five-mile hike with an 800-foot elevation climb.

Choose a short walk and work up to longer, more strenuous hikes. Develop an enjoyment for hiking before tackling hikes that require lots of energy.

In addition to the length of the trail, understand that little legs require more stops. Don’t set out to finish in a certain amount of time. Enjoy nature with your kids no matter how long it takes to complete the hike.

2. Bring a Backpack Carrier 

Even if you have active toddlers who love trekking through the forest, always bring a backpack carrier. This goes with having realistic expectations.

Little legs will get tired. Younger kids will be bored. Make the hike enjoyable for you and your kids by providing some relief for younger hikers.

A dad hiking with his child on his back

3. Pack Plenty of Snacks

Like you’d pack snacks for a road trip or day at Disney, you want to pack more than enough snacks when hiking with kids.

Hiking burns many calories. Replenish those calories with healthy, high-calorie snacks like granola bars or jerky. Pack some dried fruit and even a chocolate bar for energy when you need it.

Keep in Mind: Be fueled during your hike with these Delicious Hiking Snacks

4. Always Pack a Change of Clothes

It never fails that children will need a change of clothes when playing outside. If you’re hiking a trail with water crossings, you know your kids will get wet.

They may fall and get muddy. They may catch a pants leg in briars. Always have a change of clothes on hand so your children will be comfortable during the hike.

5. Play Games

Hiking with kids provides ample opportunities to have meaningful conversations.

Especially if they’re older, you can initiate conversations that might be uncomfortable when staring at each other on the couch. Don’t be afraid to ask how your child is doing, for real. Encourage open dialogue as you hike together.

But for little ones, playing games can make hiking fun. Play “I Spy” or create a scavenger hunt. Look for a pine cone or a specific type of bird. Identify different trees or find certain colored flowers. These games, in particular, are excellent for the whole family.

6. Don’t Forget the Water

Just like you don’t want to forget the snacks, you also don’t want to forget the water. Even in colder temperatures, it’s easy to get dehydrated.

Pack more than enough water and take plenty of breaks to ensure your children get the hydration and rest they need. If your kids can carry hydration backpacks, they can drink throughout the hike whenever they need refreshments.

7. Find Hikes With Cool Destinations

Many adults enjoy hiking for exercise. They enjoy being in nature, unplugging technology, and getting away from routine. But kids need more of an incentive.

Choose hikes with exciting destinations like waterfalls or overlooks. If they know the walk leads to a spectacular mountain view or a swimming hole at the bottom of a cascading waterfall, they’re more likely to enjoy the journey because they have something to look forward to experiencing.

View of a waterfall found during a hike with kids

8. Let the Outdoors Be a Classroom

Even if it’s a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, don’t shy away from the teaching experiences that hiking with kids brings. Let your kids take photos of trees and plants and then research them when they return home.

Talk about the life cycle of butterflies if you see one on the trail. Talk about weather patterns or climate change. Hiking with kids offers an excellent opportunity to learn away from the traditional classroom. 

9. Take Lots of Breaks

Take many breaks when hiking with kids. Always drink water when you rest. Offer a snack every so often.

This is part of setting realistic expectations. Let your kids know that it’s okay to say they’re tired. You’ll appreciate a break as well.

A kid drinking water during his hike

10. Hike With Other Families

Finally, a final tip for hiking with kids is to invite other families to join you. When your kids are hiking with their friends, they might not even realize they walked two miles when you get to the trail’s end.

They’ll laugh, have fun, and enjoy the journey. Plus, you’ll have adults to chat with, too.

How Do You Find the Best Trails for Hiking With Kids?

AllTrails is a valuable resource for searching hiking trails. You can filter results by distance, length, elevation gain, and trail traffic.

What’s crucial for parents to know when hiking with kids is the attractions along the trail (waterfalls, views, wildflowers, lakes, beaches, caves, etc.) and suitability (kid-friendly, dog-friendly, wheelchair-friendly, etc.). You can also search by difficulty and overall rating.

But don’t also forget to ask your friends. If you know someone who enjoys hiking and knows the local trails, ask their opinion about which trails are best for kids. Look into joining Facebook groups that encourage families to get outdoors. Ask group members for suggestions for kid-friendly trails.

Keep in Mind: If your child loves camping, then they’ll love these 7 Best Camper Themed Toys for Kids

Hit the Trails With Your Kids This Camping Season

Don’t skip out on experiencing beautiful views, breathtaking landscapes, and colorful sunsets just because you have kids. Even a toddler will pull their weight at least for a short time.

And hiking with kids is an excellent bonding time. Allow nature to foster deeper relationships as you play games, have conversations, and spend quality time away from laptops, iPhones, and tablets.

Do you have any other tips for hiking with kids that you’d add to the list?

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