Hiking with kids can be a great experience for the entire family. However, before you strap on your hiking boots and set out with kids in tow, it’s always helpful to plan ahead. Whether that means creating a list of necessities or checking the trail conditions where you’ll be hiking, there are many factors to keep in mind when hiking with kids. Proper thought and preparation will increase the likelihood your family adventure will be a positive experience for all.
Perhaps the most important thing is making sure your entire family has the correct clothing and footwear. Dress in comfortable layers, and have pairs of hiking boots and shoes for everyone. These will go a long way in keeping kids stable and surefooted as they hike for the first few times.
It’s also a good idea to bring a spare set of shoes and comfortable clothing for each kid. (You can leave these in the car for your kids to change into after the hike’s done.) Kids love to explore, which often means getting a bit dirty along the way!
Make a List, and Bring the Essentials
Before setting out on any excursion, whether you’re hiking with kids or not, make sure to craft a list of everything you’ll need to bring with you. Depending on the length of the hike, that’ll include food (a definite must when hiking with kids, no matter how short the trail), adequate water, bug spray, a first aid kit and more. Check each item off only after it’s been packed. You can even involve the kids in getting ready in order to teach them about hiking safely and responsibly.
Backroads Pro Tip
An adequate water supply is extremely important! Check with local ranger stations or visitor centers to determine the suggested amount of water each person should carry. Remember, when it comes to water, it’s better to have too much than not enough.
Head Out in Ideal Conditions
Hiking with kids is easier if you don’t have to deal with muddy routes, overbearing heat or steep inclines. Try to plan your hiking adventures so they fall on ideal days and times. For example, kids often have more energy in the morning, so it’s a good idea to wrap up any hike by midday. Similarly, kids will enjoy the excursion more if they’re not dealing with rain, heat or extreme weather. If the day you planned will lead to a less-than-enjoyable hike, it might be best to postpone.
Take Frequent Breaks
When you’re hiking with kids, anticipate they’ll tire out quickly on the trails, and work around this by taking frequent breaks. Look at the scenery, check out the local flora and fauna, or simply sit down and take a breather. To make the breaks interesting, bring small treats or local guidebooks on the area, wildlife or plants. This’ll help keep the kids engaged in the world around them.
Backroads Pro Tip
Before attempting a long hike, gradually introduce your kids to the activity with shorter, less intense hikes that highlight fun and adventure. Remember, these first excursions with your kids can be incredibly influential on their later hobbies and interests, so do your best to make them positive experiences!
Play Games Along the Way
Games are another way to keep kids focused—and to draw their attention away from aching feet. Incorporate games as you walk. Options include fun pastimes like I Spy or even a game of twenty questions.
Backroads Pro Tip
Kids have short attention spans, so don’t expect the hike alone to entertain them. You can heighten the entertainment value by encouraging clever photo taking, bird watching, tree identifying and other stimulating activities.
Pick a Scenic Route
Great scenery will also help your kid enjoy the hike. Pick routes with something fun to see or a standout attraction. Think waterfalls, vistas, rare wildlife or bodies of water. (Kids love to swim!) These’ll have the kids feeling as if they accomplished something by hiking, and they’ll make the trip all the more memorable for the entire family.