Going on a hike with your kids is a fun and rewarding experience, but also requires a little extra planning and preparation to ensure that everyone stays safe and has a good time on the trail. Whether you’ve never been on a hike before or you’re a trailblazer, here’s some worthwhile tips to remember before your next hike.
Choose the Right Trail
Don’t just pick the trail nearest to you, take some time to research that it’s approachable for all ages; the last thing you want to do is unintentionally pick a 7 mile trail through the mountains as your first trail. When selecting a trail for your hike, check out review sites like alltrails.com and look for ones in your area that are recommended for beginners, are well maintained, and have some positive reviews. If this is something new for your family, pick something that’s a good stretch, but not going to overexert your youngest; all too often you’ll see parents headed back to the start carrying their exhausted child, getting tired themselves.
If your children are new to hiking, start with short, easy hikes that are close to home. This will help them get used to the activity and build up their confidence before moving on to longer or more challenging trails.It’ll be fun too to see their neighborhood from a different perspective! Point out any local landmarks like the grocery store, their school, or anywhere else that might excite them.
Before you hit the trail, be sure to have a well-stocked daypack. It’s a careful balance between bringing enough supplies for everyone without overloading yourself with too much to carry. Bring plenty of water (a hydration pack is easy to share), dry snacks like trail mix or trail bars, sunscreen, hats, and insect repellent. It's also a good idea to carry a first-aid kit, just in case anyone slips on some gravel..
Take Frequent Breaks
Children have short attention spans and small lungs, so it's important to take regular breaks throughout your hike. This will give them time to rest, hydrate, snack, and take in the nature around them. it will also give you a chance to assess their energy levels and adjust your plans accordingly. Seems like they’re running out of steam? Might be time to head back the way you came rather than finishing the trail loop.
Make It Fun
Children are more likely to enjoy hiking if it feels like a game or adventure and they’ll mirror your excitement. Rather than spend the entire time walking, stop along the way at big trees, notable plants, or scenic views. Have them describe what they’re hearing like the birds, wind, or other animals. Talk about how it makes you feel being away from loud noises and in the serene wildlife.
Always supervise your children and keep them within arm's reach. As enticing as it might be, never venture off trail, as that’s the easiest way to lose your way home; it happens to even the most experienced hikers. Have the slowest in the group lead and set the pace so no one gets left behind. Teach them about trail safety and make sure they know what to do if they become lost or separated from you; stop, stay where they are, and call loudly. They should listen closely for your return call but resist the urge to come find you. You can even provide whistles to each child to be extra sure they have a strong way to call your attention. And of course, before you venture out into nature, check that there haven’t been any reports of danger like landslides or predators..
Get the Right Gear
Invest in quality hiking shoes and clothing that are comfortable and appropriate for the weather conditions. For shorter, suburban trails, running shoes are acceptable attire so you don’t need to buy new hiking shoes for everyone right away. Once you take your family on more rugged terrain is a good time to invest in dedicated hiking gear. Consider whether your child might tire out and pack ahead, with a child carrier or backpack to carry them home when they’re too tired..
By following these tricks and tips, you can ensure that your hiking adventures with little ones are safe, enjoyable, and memorable. Whether you're exploring a nearby nature trail or heading out on a multi-day backpacking trip, the experiences you share with your children will create lasting memories and a love of the outdoors that will stay with them for a lifetime.