Hiking with Kids 101

Hike with KidsThis guide will teach you everything you need to know about hiking with kids, how to avoid some common pitfalls, and give you some tips & tricks for how to make your hike a successful experience. Hiking is an exciting activity the whole family can enjoy, spending quality time together, getting exercise, and exploring the outdoors. Hiking with kids is a great way to get them connected to the outdoors at a young age. By making it a positive experience, you are likely to spark a lifelong interest.


Planning & Preparation

Hiking with kids takes a little more planning and preparation than hiking solo as an adult. Follow these easy steps to make sure you are ready to hit the trails.

  • Select a hike that isn’t too long or too strenuous, and that has some fun features, like stream, waterfall, lake, some easy climbing – anything that will help keep kids entertained along the way. Expect 1 mile taking at least 1 hour. Plan frequent rest stops. Involve your kids in the planning process.
  • Manage your kid’s expectations: explain the trail and features that you may encounter during your hike. Playing by the stream, a hollow tree, or an old bridge can be great rewards along the way.
  • Manage your own expectations: you may not reach your goal. You may not even hike a mile. But that’s OK! Expect to adjust your plans along the way. Having a Plan B and C is a good idea. Positive attitude is everything.
  • Check weather forecast before leaving home. Dress appropriately and bring extra clothes.
  • Eat a steady meal and drink plenty of water before heading out.
  • Pack snacks and water, even if you are only going on a short hike. For longer hikes, make it a picnic. Favorite treats can be a great reward.
  • Don’t forget The 10 Essentials. And The 10 Baby Essentials.


During the Hike

  • BreakLook for discoveries along the way. Kids are natural explorers and want to pick up and touch things. Have patience when they stop to ask questions.
  • Take many short breaks for fluid and food. Set intermittent goals along the way, for example: “Once we reach the top of the hill we will take a snack break.”
  • Let the kids take turns being the leader. Teach the kids how to read the map and use a compass.
  • Play games along the way: look for wildlife, do a scavenger hunt, word games, sing together, etc.
  • Encourage and praise your kids: tell the child how well they are hiking, how strong and how fast they are.


Tips & Tricks

  • Hike BreakLet the kids bring a friend.
  • Encourage the kids collect items for an art project along the way; twigs, leafs, pine cones, etc.
  • Use hammocks for resting tired feet – or take a nap.
  • Hiking with headlamps (in safe areas) after sunset can be a very exciting experience for older kids.
  • Start with shorter hikes, and then add miles as kids become more comfortable with the activity.
  • Give each child a role during the hike; one child read the map, another child in charge of the binoculars or camera, etc. Rotate roles throughout the hike.


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