Incredibly Helpful Tips for Hiking with Kids

To make the most of your family hike, follow these tips.

1. Start somewhere easy. The beginning isn’t just for beginners; if you start with an easy trail at a low elevation, everyone can enjoy it and still be able to finish in good time. On the other hand, starting out by jogging uphill will leave everyone exhausted, making it all that much harder to enjoy the hike. More experienced hikers will appreciate longer hikes that start with a more challenging first portion of the trail.

2. Keep it short and (fairly) sweet. Many people who like to hike with their kids prefer shorter hikes because, quite frankly, not everyone has endless patience for hiking. Hikes that cover four to five miles are a good length for short hikes – and they can be longer if you break them up, say by taking a break at the half-mile mark.

3. Dress everyone in layers and wear proper shoes (no flip flops!). You might forget or not think about sunscreen or bug repellent, but you won’t forget to bring your sneakers. No one wants to wear uncomfortable shoes and socks for hours on end. And don’t forget that shade goes a long way: layers and actual trees offer people the opportunity to cool down as needed.

4. Pack smart. Many families prefer hiking with their dog(s), especially if they’re planning to go on longer hikes. So, if you’re planning to bring your pet(s), be sure that they can handle the trail and that you have proper equipment for them; pets should always wear a leash. Include first-aid supplies, water (and extra food!), sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, snacks like granola bars or protein bars, and waterproof matches in your bag to help everyone feel prepared.

5. Make sure everyone knows the plan. If this is your first family hike, it might be helpful to have a meeting spot so that if someone gets lost, you know where to go back to. The same goes for timing: let everyone know how long you expect the hike to take so that you can have a backup plan if it takes more or less time.

6. Take your time and stop often. The takeaway from tip #2 is this: don’t try to rush through the hike just because you’re all together as a family. In fact, taking breaks regularly is an excellent way to help the kids stay calm and comfortable. Stopping to take in the views every half hour or so gives everyone a chance to enjoy the scenery, catch their breath, have a snack, find an interesting beetle or bird, etc.

7. Find fun spots along the way! Some people think that you have to hike uphill to get pretty views of nature. Sure, that route is great, but what about when you’re hiking downhill? You can catch some seriously great views by heading in the opposite direction. Other options include taking a rock-climbing path to get close-up views of nature, or veering off so that everyone can explore an old mine shaft.




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