Safe Hiking Tips for the Whole Family
By Primary Children's Hospital
Sep 13, 2018
Updated Jul 13, 2023
5 min read
Clean air, the smell of pines or desert plans in the wind - nothing beats hiking in the beautiful mountains, canyons and deserts of the West. And why would you settle for seeing these sights from your car window, when you can get out and explore nature?
Hiking is a family-friendly, cost-effective and experience-rich activity for people of all ages to enjoy. Ensure that your outdoor adventures with your kids are ones you will remember happily by following some simple safety tips.
Before you start your hike, make sure you know what to expect. Review trail guides that describe the terrain, elevation gains and the difficult of the trail, and cater your hike to the weakest or youngest member of the group. If you choose something too strenuous, you may be stuck with cranky kids or find yourself carrying them during the more difficult parts of the trail. Also be sure the check the weather forecast to avoid getting caught in a storm.
When hiking, pair each child with an adult so that no one gets left behind or forgotten. Everyone should be in sight of their buddy at all times.
Hiking can make you hot, tired, thirsty and hungry. Experts recommend taking 1 liter of water per person per every hour you plan to hike. It it always better to take more than you think you will need. Be sure to start your hike well hydrated and take regular water breaks as you go. Pay extra attention to infants and children, who tend to lose body fluids faster than adults and have a harder time regulating their body temperatures. Signs of dehydration in kids and adults include irritability and irrational behavior, like refusing to drink water even though they're dehydrated. Ensure everyone in your group stays well hydrated and well fed during your hike.
Teach your children the danger of playing in or drinking water from rivers, streams and ponds. If you have water purifying supplies, teach them how to properly clean water before drinking it. Mountain streams and lakes can be swift moving and contain unseen hazards. Never leave your children alone around any body of water.
Depending on the trail, sneakers may be fine, but if you are hiking on uneven, rocky terrain, hiking boots will make a big difference. Although they can be heavy, a good boot gives your ankles better support. To avoid blisters, have kids break in their booths by wearing them around the house days before the hike and don't forget to wear good socks while hiking. Sunglasses, hats, long pants (but not jeans), lightweight shirts and a whistle are all essential for hiking. Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen - apply liberally 30 minutes before your hike and reapply at least every two hours. Bug spray can also help make a hike more enjoyable.
You may love peace and quiet, but hiking is not the place to be silent. Most wildlife do not want to be anywhere near humans, so if they can hear you coming, they will move out of your way in time to avoid a potentially dangerous encounter.
One of the biggest problems when kids get lost is that they don't stay in one place long enough for someone to find them. Tell kids to "hug a tree" or stay put if they find themselves alone. They should also blow the whistle they are carrying. A whistle can be heard up to a mile away - much further than a human voice. It's also a good idea to have some sort of GPS device with you, like your smart phone, in case you need to give a rescue crew your location.
Remember that in order for our natural environment to stay enjoyable for everyone, we all need to do our part. Make sure you pick up any trash or garbage you produce and pack out everything your bring in. Bring an empty garbage bag with you and make a game out of cleaning up the trail while you enjoy the outdoors.
Now that you have the safety tips you need, what are you waiting for? Take advantage of the great outdoors and plan a hike with your kids. Find the perfect hike for your family with the help of Intermountain LiVe Well's Healthy Hikes.