10 Tips for Hiking With Kids

10 tips for hiking with kids

Hiking is a great way to move your body and get outside into nature. It’s hard to replicate the mental and physical benefits of a good hike. As a parent, you’d love to introduce your kids to your favorite awe-inspiring hikes. But knowing how to start hiking with your kids can be tricky. If you do too much all at once your kids will hate it and make everyone miserable. Thankfully, it doesn’t matter if your child is 4 or 14, you can take them hiking in a way they’ll love. Start with these tips.

1. Pick a realistic hike

Like any avid hiker, you have your favorite trails. Unless those trails are also kid-friendly, you’ll be better off skipping them for a more kid-centric hike. Pick a route that’s long enough to feel like you and your kids have accomplished something, and short enough to be hikable for your entire family.

2. Choose interesting features and destinations

Kids love interesting things like streams, lakes, or fantastic views. If you can hike along with an interesting feature, it’ll keep your kids interested and help them have fun. Don’t forget the destination either. When you’re hiking toward a goal, it’ll be easier to motivate the unmotivated.

3. Plan for stops along the way

Hiking with kids means you can’t move quickly up a trail without stops. Keep your expectations low and plan for plenty of stops. You’ll know when your kids are ready because they’ll slow down or start to complain. At each stop, play a game, explore nature, or eat a snack.

4. Bring snacks - or don't and be miserable

Don’t get caught on a trail without snacks for your kids. It’ll give them the energy they need to keep going, and keep everyone happier throughout the hike. Just remember to pick up your trash and bring it with you.

5. Be prepared

When hiking with kids, expect the unexpected. You never know what’s going to happen. Be prepared for anything. Bring a first aid kit, extra snacks, a plastic bag with a few wet-wipes, sunscreen, and a cell phone. Brush up on your emergency preparedness and first aid.

6. Dress in layers

Early mornings and higher altitudes can mean colder temperatures. Dress yourself and your kids in layers that are easily removable as you go. Make sure everyone has a good pair of hiking shoes. Bring rain clothes if it looks even remotely cloudy, and keep an extra change of clothes for everyone in the car just in case.

7. Water, water, water!

It’s easy to get dehydrated when you hike. Kids can get hot and dehydrated even faster than adults. The general rule of hydration for adults is to plan to drink a half liter of water per hour of hiking and 1-2 cups per hour for children. Pack enough water for everyone in the group, and make sure you take the time to drink it.

8. Don't forget sun protection

Sunburns are the worst. Be sure to apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher 30 minutes before your hike and reapply it at least every two hours. It’s also a good idea to wear sunglasses, hats, lightweight pants or long-sleeved shirts for added sun protection.

9. Hike with a backpack carrier

Having an infant or toddler doesn’t mean you have to stay home. Lots of families use backpack carriers to bring their tots along with them on the trail. Take turns carrying the baby. It’s a great workout for adults too!

10. Go often

The best way to get your kids excited about hiking is to hike often. When kids have a lot of exposure to nature and hiking, they’ll learn to love it.

You don’t need to wait until your kids are grown to enjoy your favorite hikes and nature trails. Knowing what to expect and being prepared can mean a fun hike for everyone in the family.