6 Tips for Hiking with Kids

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It’s no secret that I love hiking. My love for nature and the outdoors is one of the things that make me who I am.

Being outside experiencing nature is when I feel most alive and connected to the world. My thoughts clear and I am able to see the bigger picture.

I’m not sure if it is just breathing in the fresh air and soaking up some sunlight that does this or if there is more at work here.

Either way, it is an addicting feeling. When life starts feeling out of control, I head for the hills…literally.

6 Tips for Hiking with Kids

When I became a mother one of the things I couldn’t wait to share with our kids was the wonder of the great outdoors. We played outside all the time in our yard and frequented local playgrounds, but I wanted our kids to experience the undeveloped world.

The world in its most natural form.

Imagine my dismay when our kids were less than thrilled to hear that we were going on our first hike!

No, less than thrilled doesn’t do their reaction justice.

No, no, I started a riot right in the living room of our home. That paints a much better picture.

When I get something in my head I don’t give up on it without a fight. The best way to motivate me is to make something look or sound impossible or flat-out tell me that I can’t do it.

Little did these kids know that they were just fueling my fire. I was bound and determined to get them out there…just once.

If I could just get them out there without kicking and screaming for a few hours I knew I could hook them on it.

I am pretty fun and adventurous most of the time and my energy can be infectious when I am passionate about something.

There isn’t a whole lot in this world that I would ever want to get our kids hooked on…but nature is one of them.

Our First Hike

The first time we went hiking as a family we made a deal with bribed them. Yep, I said it. We bribed them with the promise of ice-cream afterward. It worked, so to me it was worth it. Don’t judge.

The first trail we hit was a bit on the tough side for the kids. It was recommended to us by a park ranger when we couldn’t find parking at our first choice.

He said it should be “easy enough.”

Looking back I am glad we ended up on that particular trail. We climbed some big hills, saw owl pellets, deer, crossed small streams and saw a waterfall.

We got wet, we got dirty, we had fun.

When it was all said and done the kids were excited to try another trail.

Mission accomplished, I had them hooked.

Now that I have convinced you to take your kids hiking, here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Get them excited!

Don’t just tell them you are going for a walk, that’s boring.

Tell them you are going to EXPLORE or that you are going on an ADVENTURE! Look up local national or state parks many will have pictures posted and tell you about what you can expect (scenery, wildlife, park amenities…).

Let the kids choose where they would like their first adventure to take place.

2. Give them incentive.

You don’t have to do what we did and bribe your bunch with ice-cream. Our kids are much more inclined to participate if there is something in it for them and I am willing to bet that yours are too.

If this is your first time hiking with kids choose a park that has playground equipment for kids to play on. Pack a picnic in a cooler with ice and keep it in your vehicle for AFTER your hike. Promise the kids that they can play and have a picnic afterward.

What kid doesn’t like playgrounds and picnics?

3. Start small and don’t wander off the beaten path.

When we take the kids hiking we like to stick with well-known state and national parks. The trails are well-marked and most of them are on the shorter side or have a loop that will make it easy for you to head back.

They also rate the difficulty of the trails and note the distance so you have an idea of what you are getting yourself into. Ideally, if you are new to hiking I would stick to a 30 minute to 1 hour hike and work up from there.

Our longest hike was 8 miles! I was shocked that the kids were able to hang with us!

4. Have some basic equipment.

Since we aren’t talking about a day (or days) long hiking trip you don’t need a whole lot of stuff. We learned this the hard way.

A few basics:

  • a comfortable backpack (for mom or dad to wear)
  • comfortable shoes (for everyone)
  • small first-aid kit
  • bear spray
  • insect repellant
  • sunblock

Not totally necessary but fun:

  • binoculars
  • plant and wildlife identifiers

5. Take water and snacks with you.

No matter how short your hike is you should always take plenty of water and a snack. Not all parks have respite stations and it is better to be safe than sorry.

We take snacks that are small but back a hefty nutritional punch such as… TRAIL MIX! Clif and Kind bars fit the bill too but good old trail mix is our family’s favorite.

6. Have Fun!

Play games like eye-spy or have a visual scavenger hunt! Try to guess the birds you are hearing. Stop and admire the plants and wildlife you see.

Don’t be afraid to get a little dirty or wet that is part of the fun.

I like to make a list of things to find on our hikes ahead of time and take pictures of them as we find them we don’t actually collect anything.

The cardinal rule: Take nothing but pictures/memories and leave nothing but footprints. 

I hope this has given you an idea of how to get out and try something new!

If you are still feeling unsure or need a little more convincing read Let Them Be Eaten By Bears: A Fearless Guide to Taking Our Kids Into the Great Outdoors, it will give you the extra push you need!

Not only does the author give lots of reasons why we should be enjoying the outdoors with our kids, he also gives great tips and fun ideas to get started with!

Our family has really enjoyed this book.

Do you enjoy hiking with your family? What other outdoor activities does your family do? Let me know in the comments!

*Post contains affiliate links! If you purchase something through one of my links I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you!*














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