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Hiking With Kids Can Be Overwhelming
Hiking with kids can initially seem like a daunting task. And given our experience of hiking with our kids all over the world, we can attest that at the beginning, it is indeed quite challenging.
But don’t worry!
With enough practice, the right preparation, and an optimistic mindset, we know that hiking with kids can turn into an exhilarating family bonding experience. For us, it’s one of the most powerful ways we bond, grow together, and form lasting memories.
So, whether you’re overwhelmed by the prospect of hiking with your kids, or even if you’re a seasoned pro looking to learn a bit about how we get our kiddos out the door and down the trail, below we dive into some of the practical tips that have led us to thoroughly enjoy hiking as a family and that we believe can lead you to that same destination.
As always, if you have any questions/comments about all of this, leave us a message below.
1. Keep Hiking With Kids Simple
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when planning your first few hiking trips with kids. Start with simple, short trails that are known for being kid-friendly. As your children become more experienced and comfortable with hiking, and as their bodies and minds get stronger, you can gradually move onto longer more challenging trails such as the Pinnacle Trail.
2. Plan To Play
In our experience, hiking with kids is just as much about playing and exploring nature as it’s about moving down the trail. And in fact, quite often, it’s even more about playing and exploring. We find Peri and Kai to be endlessly curious about just about everything in nature.
We suggest you embrace your child’s curiosity and give them plenty of time and space to play. Don’t rush them down the trail, even though from experience we know that is easier said than done. You will almost certainly not hike as far with your kids as you would on your own, but giving them the time to explore nature without having to worry about progressing down the trail will enhance their experience of “hiking” and make them excited to go again and again. And eventually, you and your kids will be enjoying longer and longer hikes.
3. Make It Fun
Kids love games. When you’re hiking with kids, turn the hike into a scavenger hunt or tell stories along the trail to keep them engaged. I cannot tell you how many times our winding and somewhat disjointed stories have been the factor that has kept Peri or Kai moving down the trail. Also, you can pass the time by identifying wildlife or plants or simply counting how many boulders you pass by! Some of these road trip games are great for hiking too. And of course, rockhounding for kids is super engaging! The basic idea is, if you can gamify the hike, you’ll keep your kiddo trucking for quite a bit longer.
4. Pack Plenty Of Snacks And Water
A successful day of hiking with kids often depends on having plenty of snacks and water, in addition to your basic day hiking gear. Plan for more frequent snack breaks than you would for an adult-only hike, and use this opportunity to rest and hydrate.
Once your kids get their trail legs on (and provided the terrain isn’t too technical) walking snack breaks are a nice way to keep them processing down the trail too. Snack cups with handles are a nice bit of gear for this purpose.
5. Dress Appropriately
Prepare for the weather conditions you’ll encounter on your hike. Remember, it’s better to have and not need than to need and not have, especially when you’re hiking with kids. Layered clothing, hats, sunscreen, bug spray, and sturdy shoes are all crucial for a safe and comfortable hiking experience.
6. Teach Them Leave No Trace Principles
Instill a love and respect for nature in your children. Teach them the principles of Leave No Trace, which include sticking to trails, not disturbing wildlife, and carrying out any trash. This way, you’re not only enjoying your hike but also contributing to the preservation of these beautiful outdoor spaces and creating the next generation of environmental stewards.
7. Take Regular Breaks
Children tire more quickly than adults. Plan for regular breaks to rest, hydrate, snack, and appreciate the surroundings. These moments also provide great opportunities for learning about nature and creating lasting memories. Breaking at a scenic spot is always nice. And, since we almost always like to sit down when we take breaks with the kids, bring a small tarp or waterproof sheet for the ground so everyone can stay nice and dry.
8. Keep Safety A Priority
Before you start hiking, and depending on your kids’ ages, make sure each child knows what to do in case they get separated from the group. Equip them with a whistle, and ensure they understand its importance. Also, carry a basic first-aid kit for any minor injuries.
It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway, if your kids are young they ought not to be hiking on their own. While every child and family is different, we can’t imagine Peri or Kai truly hiking on their own until they are in their late tween or early teen years.
In the meantime, we usually keep the two boys in the middle of us both, especially when we’re hiking in areas with potentially dangerous wildlife.
9. Involve Kids In The Planning
Involving your kids in the hike planning process can make them more excited and invested in the hike. Let them help choose the trail, the snacks, or the activities during breaks. It can make a significant difference in their overall hiking experience.
Peri is getting to the age where he likes to look at our GuruMaps trail map and at the digital compass on our phone. While these may seem like minor details to an adult, to Peri it makes him feel more engaged in the hike and thus more excited to hike more often.
10. Know Your Kids’ Limits
Each child is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. Understanding your kids’ limits and planning the hike accordingly will make the experience more enjoyable for everyone.
If you can choose a hiking experience that will let your child feel a sense of accomplishment and success, that’s the one you ought to do. Over time, you can present your kids with more challenging routes, etc., but at first, start slow and keep the focus on them having a good time.
11. Celebrate at the End
After the hike, celebrate! Whether it’s a silly dance you do, a phrase of encouragement you give, or maybe even a special treat or fun activity, celebrating your hiking experience will create a positive association in your kiddos’ minds. The celebration at the end will give your kids something to look forward to during the hike, and also serves as a great way to wrap up an adventurous day.
Feeling more prepared now? That’s the spirit! Hiking with kids can be an amazing adventure filled with learning, bonding, and lots of fun. With these tips, you’re well on your way to enjoying unforgettable trails with your little ones.
1. What’s the best age to start hiking with kids?
There’s no perfect age. Even toddlers can enjoy short nature walks. As kids grow older and more resilient, they can take on longer hikes. The key is to start them young, start them slowly, and gradually increase the intensity over time.
2. How can I make sure my child stays safe while hiking?
Keep them within your sight at all times. Equip them with a whistle and teach them what to do if they get separated from the group. Also, carrying a first-aid kit is crucial.
3. What are some essentials to pack when hiking with kids?
Apart from plenty of water and snacks, carry weather-appropriate clothing, hats, sunscreen, bug spray, a first-aid kit, and possibly a change of clothes for after the hike. Also, don’t forget to pack out all your trash!