9 Best Tips for Hiking With Kids by Outdoor Family Travel Bloggers
Does hiking with kids seem impossible to you? A family hike doesn’t have to be impossible. In fact, we believe getting kids to hike is a worthwhile endeavor. However, like anything with kids, it takes a bit of creative planning and flexibility.
We asked these outdoor family travel bloggers their advice about hiking with their kids.
Here are 9 Best Tips for Hiking With Kids from these outdoor family travel bloggers.
Tip #1: Feed them! Feed them a lot and often!
Tip #2: Keep their minds engaged
Tip #3: Make It Fun
Tip #4: Have a Goal
Tip #5: Create An Atmosphere of Perseverance
Tip #6: Be realistic with your expectations
Tip #7: Invest in the Proper Gear
Tip #8: Tike Time To Prepare
Tip #9: Be Aware of Altitude Sickness
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Tip #1: Feed them! Feed Them Often!
Kids have a lot of energy, but they also have a lower threshold for sustaining their blood glucose than adults do. Our youngest child has a tendency to get low blood sugar very quickly, and we have had a few too many scares. That is why Tip #1 for a successful hike with kids is to feed them plenty of snacks and feed them often.
Two of our outdoor family travel bloggers agree!
Melissa from The Family Voyage says,
“During one of our long, steep hikes in El Chaltén, Argentina our 6yo went through THREE peanut butter sandwiches during our 4km uphill! On a previous hike with only one sandwich, he complained constantly and told us his “fuel was empty”.”
Dawn from 5 Lost Together says BRING CANDY!
“In the last year we have really gotten into hiking with our 3 kids, ages 6-10. We have progressed to being able to do 12-16 km hikes with minimal complaints. We have three key tips for enjoying hiking with kids and coercing reluctant hikers to hit the trail. The first revolves around bribery. We almost always bring candy that we dish out along the trail as a reward. Make it to the top of a hill, hand out a gummy worm. Ascend a really steep section, gummy reward. These little rewards really do keep the kids motivated.”
Several of our family travel bloggers offered tips around the idea of keeping the kids minds engaged and finding ways to make it fun.
Melissa of The Family Voyage says that keeping her son’s mind active is crucial to keeping him excited about the hike.
“Our son also does better when we keep his mind active so that he isn’t just focused on walking. Since we’re worldschooling him during our family gap year, we’ve started doing “hiking math” as part of his kindergarten curriculum. If our hike is 3km each way and we’ve just passed the 2km marker on the way up, how many km do we have left? We go through all sorts of variations on that math problem, find the difference between yesterday’s distance and today’s distance and more. It’s a great way to keep him engaged while getting our school work done!
Similarly, Dawn of 5 Lost Together says that giving the kids some mental work is key to a successful family hike.
“The second tip is to talk while walking. This usually isn’t something we have to work hard at. They simply ask questions about something they see, which often leads to elaborate discussions about such topics as evolution or democracy. Our kids learn so much on our hikes because they love these discussions that organically come up. When they were younger, we would tell stories and even do basic arithmetic, to keep them distracted.
Dawn also offers this great tip for keeping the trail fun:
“Our last tip is to hike with friends. When our kids are hiking with their friends, they don’t ask “how much longer”; in fact they are usually bounding ahead of us. If you don’t have friends that hike, chances are your area has a hiking with kids group that you can join online and meet other hiking families.
Brittany from October Acres has a really fun idea for getting your little adventurer excited and engaged in hiking.
Pack an adventure pack for your little ones.
“I’m pretty confident in saying that at ages 5 and 2 our little boys have been on more hikes than some people go on in their entire lives. Over the years we’ve discovered some ways to make hiking with kids a lot easier on ourselves. One of the main ways is to keep our kids interested and excited about hiking. To do this we simply pack them a little adventure backpack as we call it, which we fill with a trail map, binoculars, magnifying glass, small notebook and pencil, and a compass. Whether it’s getting up close to a bug with the magnifying glass or quickly sketching a photo of an interesting tree that they found, these simple tools help to keep the kids excited about our adventure. Kids have such curious minds and are constantly seeking out new opportunities to learn. Our oldest is always excited to pack up his adventure bag before a hike; he also carries his own drink and snack, which is an added bonus for us as parents. Any backpack will work nicely as an adventure pack, we tend to favor the Re-Kankens since they are made from recycled materials and are quite durable.”
Here at VeraVise WOW travel we enjoy keeping field guides in our packs to help identify the plants and animals we see along the trail. Laminated tri-fold field guides for the region are our favorite because they are durable and lightweight so the kids can carry them in their “adventure packs”
Our friends at Photo Jeepers encourage you to give the kids a goal to have in mind. Sounds like a good plan for adults too!
“My best tip for hiking with young kids is to have a destination. Pick a hike with a waterfall, lake, swimming hole, cave, or rewarding view at the end. Kids will be more motivated to work toward the goal at the end. We use treat breaks as mini goals along the way, stopping on bridges, under cool old shady trees, or on giant boulders for a quick break and a little treat (a couple Skittles for example).”
Amy from Passports and Pigtails really describes the WHY behind getting your family outside. She offers suggestions for motivating everyone towards their goals. We think you will agree and benefit from her excellent advice.
“For us, hiking is all about authentic connection, both as a family and to nature. With a passion for backcountry paths, we’ve suffered our share of bumps and bruises, moments of discomfort and uneasiness, as the elements and distance test our wills and our patience. But each of those moments are part of the journey, the work required to relish in rewards such as a deeper appreciation of nature, sweeping mountain views, hidden fishing ponds, cascading waterfalls and the complete silence that comes with a destination far from the everyday world. Hiking with kids requires educated preparation and safety precautions, but with a solid plan, a researched trail and a pack full of necessary emergency items such as bear spray, layers, first aid kit, food, water and a blanket, a long trek can be an extremely rewarding experience. So what is our secret to surviving a 6 hour, 8 km, 700 meter elevation gain hike? We never, ever give up. This may sound cliché, but it is being a strong support system for one another that gets us through those difficult climbs. We discuss concerns and how we can best tackle them safely, we rest often and we help each other physically when needed. All of this may sound simple, but the sheer will and ability of kids can be very surprising, and often underestimated. It is often the mindset that “we could never do that” which keeps families from attempting to get out and hike, to think bigger, to climb higher. In pushing our family to reach beyond the norm, even when there are tears or fears, even when we are completely exhausted, we are teaching ourselves, and our little people, that they can overcome any obstacle and any distance as long as they keep going, one step at a time.”
Perseverance is key! After a year of hiking, our little crew accomplished our first over 5 mile hike! Using some of the great tips in this article and adding some Camelbak Mini Mule and Scout Packs made a huge difference for us!
Check out the great reward that came from our perseverance on this trail!
Ariana from World of Travels With Kids offers some hard truths, but valuable tips for any family truly wanting to hike with kids.
“Our #1 tip is to change your expectations – it is different to hike with young kids!!! Regardless of each individual child, their fitness or personality, you will find you need to change your expectations of what a hike or day in the outdoors involves!
In our experience, hiking with babies and smaller toddlers (not good walkers) is a slower than as adults, but as long as you offer them adequate rest time out of a carrier, it is not a bad time to trek.
For us; the ages 2 – 4 are hardest as the children are demanding, irrational and can walk some distance but not too far. Having a carrier on hand as a backup works… but even then they can just get tired of the carrier (think screaming!) and in short it is not an ideal time to go “hiking” other than walks in gentle conditions.
For 4 plus, they go slow, smell the roses and play a lot, but you can attempt a longer distances. The other day we hiked a 4.5 km Class 5 (hard) hill with my 4.5 year old and he did it capably, but for at least 1 km on the way down we had to stop on every step (there were a lot) and chant together “Yelp, yelp STICK’ and then jump. It took us a long time to descend! I reminded myself every time that I did it that this is hiking with young kids – it is different, it is more like playing along the way than “hiking.” For Adults, hiking is getting from A to B. For kids, hiking is an adventure, out an exploring the world. From 6 upwards, a more focused, resilient child will be able to do longer distances with frequent rest and talk breaks. You will need to think other activities to keep them interested, like word games, songs or even natural history lessons.
However, for all ages, all stages – changing our own expectations, and letting them go at their slow, exploratory pace is our number 1 tip for Hiking with Young Kids.”
For more on Hiking with Toddlers check out her post: Hiking with Toddlers in the Andes
Nancy from We Go With Kids understands the challenges of hiking with young children. She offers some great tips for making it a little easier for everyone and recommends investing in the proper gear.
“A successful hiking trip with young children can be an amazing experience, but it can also be an extremely frustrating experience especially if you find yourself inadequately equipped. My husband and I are avid hikers and we began hiking with our kids at a young age! In the beginning, we used soft carriers and snuggled our kids up close to mom, but as the little babies grew into temperamental toddlers, we found that investing in a true hiking pack was indispensable. Our Deuter Kid Comfort II ended up being one of the best investments we ever made for hiking with kids! My kids started riding in it when they were six months and could hold their heads up and loved riding in it up until they were three years of age and wanted to walk on their own. The best part about the carrier is that it is light weight, takes the strain off the adult back, and, is comfortable enough that kids can even sleep in the carrier and feel supported. I highly recommend investing in the proper gear when it comes to hiking and a carrier is one of those items that proved indispensable.”
Familiarize yourself with trail
It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the trail as much as possible. AllTrails is an excellent site to learn about trails and get some idea of what to expect.
Take first aid kit, necessary medications, and plenty of water
It goes without saying, but staying hydrated is also crucial. Often times our family may take impromptu hikes on a day out and and about. Keeping a stash of snacks and a case of water in our car has been helpful for us.
Our kids have food allergies so we also ensure we have their Epi-Pens, safe snacks, and medications like Benadryl and Tylenol in our packs. A good first aid kit may be all your family needs. Again, these are things we like to keep either in our packs or in the car all the time.
Our final tip comes from Mags at The Family Freestylers with great advice for hiking in higher altitudes with your family. If you want to hike the Alps with your young ones, go for it, but keep these tips things in mind.
“Hiking in the Alps is glorious. The high mountain scenery is truly stunning and if you head to Chamonix Mont Blanc in France, you can hike amongst glaciers. But if you’re hiking at altitude as a family there are a few other factors you need to consider. Altitude sickness is no fun and can easily ruin a family trip. Always have a day or two after arriving at altitude to allow everyone’s bodies to acclimate to the altitude before starting a hike.
Many of the high trails are accessed by cable car. If you’ve got a baby under 1 then ascending above 1500m in a cable car is not advised because of the fast pressure change. If you want to hike in the Alps with your baby, ascend slowly by walking from the bottom of the mountain to avoid taking any cable cars. Similarly young children between 1 and 3 years of age should be kept below 2000m if taking any lift system.
Sleeping at altitude above 2,500m is not recommended for children under 12 so if you’re planning a hiking holiday sleeping in any of the many mountain refuges, think again until the kids are a bit older and are able to cope better.
Kids at altitude breathe faster so will need a higher fluid intake than normal. It’s common sense but make sure each child has their own water bottle and encourage them to drink often.
One of our favourite hikes in Chamonix is from Les Bossons up to the snack bar (buvette) at the bottom of the Les Bossons Glacier. The hike takes an hour up to an altitude of 1425m (or in Summer there’s a chairlift all the way!) and gives stunning views of the glacier.” You can read about this hike here
As you can see, hiking with your kids is doable and worth the effort! It just takes some planning, patience, and LOADS OF SKITTLES! Haha! If you don’t remember anything else, remember this: Feed them!! Feed them lots!
In all seriousness, however, we hope these tips inspire you to take your family on a hike this year! In fact, we hope you will make it a part of your daily life and your vacations! Explore those national and state parks, pull off the road and take in that waterfall you spied, or just get out at your city park and enjoy what nature has to offer.
For more travel and outdoor inspiration check out: Glacier Point Yosemite National Park Is Perfect For Families or our Ten Fun Things To Do In Gatlinburg, TN.
If you enjoyed this post on tips for hiking with kids, be sure to check out this article by our friends at Back Road Ramblers for even more great tips on getting outside and hiking with your kids!
Get even more excited about hiking with kids by reading this article about Trekking with Kids in Nepal.
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At VeraVise Outdoor Living, our family has been living & playing in the Great Smoky Mountains and Appalachian region for more than 35 years. Let us help you create and outdoor lifestyle for your family!