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15 Tips For Hiking With Kids

15 Tips For Hiking With Kids

Hiking with kids . . . is fun . . . seriously it can be! When we started full-time traveling, we weren’t a big hiking family so it has taken some time for all of us to figure out how best to hike as a family and we are definitely making progress. We have gone on a hike over 6 miles long with our 4 kids under the age of 9!

Hiking with kids can be an awesome time and a great way to bond as a family. Below we share 15 tips on how to make that happen:

1. Expectations When Hiking With Kids

This is the biggest one by far. Your expectations have to be realistic. There are going to be challenges when you are hiking with kids. Don’t expect everyone to be happy all the time and don’t expect your kids to hike beyond their limit.

2. Get Over It

Another big one. If your kids do break down while you are hiking, either from being tired, falling, or just being bored, address the situation. This may mean having to stop and take a break in the middle of the trail or carrying your kid (even if they are 5, 6, or 7) for a little while.

Once the situation is addressed, get over it and move on. Don’t dwell on it. Instead be upbeat and happy and continue on with the hike. Your kids will feed off of your energy so be prepared for this one so you can bounce back quickly when things get tough.

3. Plan to Stop To Let the Kids Explore

Hiking with kids 4

If you are like me, you like to start and get to the end. I like to walk fast and keep moving. With kids that isn’t always the case. It will make the whole experience better if you give them a chance to stop and explore now and then. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to keep moving or a 1 mile hike could take 4 hours.

If they see something they want to explore, let them stop to check it out, but just remind them that you have to keep moving to reach your destination, have your picnic or get your “Power Pellets”. This would also be a good time to bust out a game idea to help get them moving again (game ideas listed below!).

4. Power Pellets

Oh the Power Pellets have saved us quite a few times. These are little pellets that we give the kids and tell them they are magical energy tablets so they get a burst to keep hiking! (Shhh…they’re really just Tic-Tacs). They are the perfect size for giving kids, they are yummy, and are easy to carry with you on a hike (they fit right in my fanny pack!).

Sometimes I tell the kids before we start that we have them. Other times I keep it to myself so they aren’t asking the minute we start the hike :). It is up to you how your kids handle that if you want to tell them up front or not.

5. Suckers

Hiking with kids 6

If it is a longer hike, I double up. We bring the Power Pellets and suckers. Suckers work great since it takes the kids a while to eat them and they are occupied as they are walking so they keep moving.

Ring Pops are great since they last a really long time or else any other kind of sucker that your kids like.

6. Hiking Snacks For Kids

If you are hiking to an end point like a scenic view, lake, park, etc., then it is always a good to pack a few snacks for your kids. This doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal, but just simple things like graham crackers, granola bars, or fruit snacks.

Finding hiking snacks for kids doesn’t have to be hard, just think of things your kids like that you would pack in their lunch or are easy to take with you. You can also get the snack size zip lock bags and make little snack bags for each kid with their favorite chips, crackers, candy (might want to steer clear of chocolate if it is hot out), etc.

Don’t forget to bring your can of beer or bottle of wine so you can energize (or relax) too!

7. Hiking Games For Kids

There are a few hiking games for kids that we have found work well. They don’t take any equipment so they are perfect.

  • Story telling
    • Ask each kid a questions and from there put a story together. For example is the story about a boy or girl?
    • What is the kids name?
    • Where are they going?
    • What do they do when they get there?
    • And just keep going and putting the story together as the questions are answered.
  • Guess the animal
    • Pick an animal and then the kids ask questions to figure out what animal you are thinking of.
    • Then have your kids pick an animal and they are the leader who people ask questions to.
    • We have even done this with our 4 year old in charge and it works great.
  • Eye Spy
    • A basic game of eye spy where you pick something and say I spy and give hints until they guess it

These hiking games for kids can take a long time and keep everyone occupied and hiking while you are also having fun together!

8. Talking While Hiking With Kids

This one works great with our older son. He tends to get really fixated on topics, so if we talk to him about them he will hike for hours. For example he is currently really into Nerf guns. So we talk to him about what Nerf gun he wants, why he wants it, what he things is cool about it, etc.

Hiking with kids is a great time to really bond with them and just let them talk. On our last hike our 6 year old talked for the whole 2 mile hike. Seriously, he talked the whole time. As we all know life is busy, but when you are on a hike there usually isn’t much else you can do, so it is a perfect time to just let your kid talk and to listen. It can be really interesting what they have to say.

If your kid doesn’t easily open up and talk then be prepared with questions you can ask like:

– What was your favorite thing about yesterday?

– What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

– What color leaves do you like best?

– What do you want to do tomorrow?

– Really anything about them that they can answer without being judged or that doesn’t have a right or wrong answer.

9. Backpack Carrier

Hiking with Kids Ergo

We have used our backpack carrier for our 6 year olds! We use an Ergo and yes, our kids are out of the weight limit but they still work for taking pressure off of your back while you are carrying them. Sometimes our 4 year old will stay in it for miles and sometimes he wants to get down and run. 

Hiking with kids 5

Just having it with us gives everyone a chance to take a break if they need it. Plus it is a good workout for Mom or Dad.

10. Water

Don’t skip on this one. Your kids are going to get thirsty and so are you. Make sure you have brought as much water with as you can carry comfortably. Backpacks are great for this and so are fanny packs (we use one like this). Depending on where you are hiking and how far be sure you are keeping an eye on water intake so you don’t drink all of it before you are even half way done with your hike.

11. Shoes

Having the right hiking shoes for kids is very helpful. With the right shoes they may not trip and fall as much, lose their shoes, or have to worry about getting them wet or dirty. Don’t wear their best new shoes when you go hiking. Instead get a pair of Keens or an old pair of shoes that they can get dirty and wet. Keens are great because they have great toe protection.

Kids love exploring and to help them enjoy hiking, it is best to let them explore as much as possible and not worry about their shoes getting dirty or wet. If your kid doesn’t like wet shoes or sock bring an extra pair of socks or explain to them if their shoes get wet, you don’t have another pair with you. This may not work the first time but the next time around they will understand better.

12. Clothes

Hiking with Kids 1

Always have a pair of dry clothes in the car when you go hiking with kids. If possible, bring a change of clothes with you in your backpack on your hike. That way if the kids see a stream or fall in a mud puddle, you have clothes for them to change into. This goes with the idea of helping your kids enjoy hiking.

If they aren’t stressing about their clothes, they are bound to have more fun and to explore more if they are worried about getting their clothes wet. This also goes for parents – always have an extra pair of clothes in the car just in case you get caught in the rain or end up playing in the stream with your kids.

13. Type of Hike

Hiking with kids 9

Our kids love a hike that has them climbing up and over things or going into the water. Think about the age of your kids and what kind of hike they would be into. Also what you could handle – since you have to be able to keep up. Our kids love rock scrambling (where you are literally climbing over rocks and up rocks to stay on the trail) and would go for miles with that kind of hike.

14. Have An End Destination When Hiking With Kids

Hiking with kids 3

A loop hike is nice since you just go out and make a loop and you don’t back track on the same trail. But having an end goal like a waterfall or a lookout is also really cool and can motivate the kids to keep going to reach that point.

Just make sure you make it more than just about the picture when you get there . . . I took the kids a mile up a mountain to the Clingmans Dome lookout in the Smokey Mountains and when we got to the top Melia turned to me and said: “We did all of that just for a picture?!”. I bought all of them something at the gift shop when we got to the bottom :).

When you reach the destination you could set up a picnic. Or stop and take a break on a log to take in the scenery and give them a snack you have been saving just for that time. Or just give them a chance to run around or jump in the water (if by a waterfall).

15. Above all enjoy yourself!

Hiking With Kids

Know that this isn’t going to be like hiking with adults and if that is what you are looking for, find a babysitter for your kids and go without them. Hiking with kids can be so fun and such a great family bonding experience so we recommend going for it! Don’t expect the first or even the 3rd or 10th time to go perfect because it probably won’t, but stick with it and you and your family will figure it out.

I bet if you tell kids that they are going to have Power Pellets and candy on the hike they will get more excited for it. I know I get more excited when I know I have a Mikes Hard Lemonade waiting for me on the hike :). Hiking with kids is all about doing what you have to do to make it work. Then over time it takes less and less of that and your kids get use to it and usually enjoy it!

Do you have any tips to add? Do you have a favorite family hike?

Bryanna

I love how family travel is such an amazing way to deepen your family bond! We have 4 kids and 2 dogs and we sold everything so we could simplify our life, focus on our family, and travel!

This Post Has 36 Comments
  1. Fantastic tips! Doesn’t only just apply to kids too. When I go hiking with friends I’m the one that acts like the kid. Maybe I should pass this post on to them to help keep me moving. If only they could carry me though!

  2. great tips! our children are aged 6 & 3 and we have just started hiking with them more. This month we actually hiked Mt Batur in Bali and it was awesome! Our eldest was so pumped to be doing it she did great, no complaints and only needed a hand held every now and then, our youngest was less than thrilled about it haha.

    1. That’s a great point, some of the hike we’ve done, when we get to the top, the kids are really proud of themselves and still talk about some of our longer hikes to this day.

  3. Great tips! I love that you get out and hike with your kids–it can be such an amazing experience for them and the whole family! We don’t have kids, but this makes me want to take my niece and nephew out for a hike 🙂 Will have to remember these tips for when we do–I especially like the one about having an end destination in mind–makes it more exciting that way!

  4. This is seriously awesome! We just did out very first hike in the German Alps w/ our 5 month old (in a carrier obviously) but totally want him and our future kids growing up doing these activities with us! It is so refreshing to see others encouraging their kiddos to enjoy the great outdoors, even if it does mean different kinds, types and lengths of hikes! (PS~ LOOOVED the tic tac secret!!! lol)

    1. Thank you! That is awesome that you had your 5 month old out hiking. That is a great age to hike with kids – they usually love being in the carrier and are happy to hang out there and don’t weigh 40 pounds :)!

    1. Thanks! When it comes to hiking with kids it is all about doing what you have to in order to make it through the hike :)!

    1. Love it! Yes I am sure there is a power pellet for adults out there. Maybe a beer or a beef jerky stick or something like that :)??

  5. The power pellet idea is hilarious. I’m sure when I was a kid that would have worked every time! Of course, the suckers are a good idea as well!

  6. Kudos. You definitely have your finger on the pulse of what kids need. It makes me crazy when people don’t consider their interests and you certainly have all those bases covered. Love the tic-tac story; we used to give our girls “special medicine” little melt away mints when they complained of aches and pains as kids. 2-3 tiny bites made the pains magically disappear.

    1. Thanks! We don’t have it all figured out but we are trying :). It is important to us that our kids have fun too. We can’t always give them what they want but we like to try when we can and in the end it usually makes it more enjoyable for everyone!

  7. Ha ha, I love the Power Pellets! My daughter would be all over that. We’ve yet to do any type of substantial hike with our kids… Hopefully next year when we head out to Yellowstone 🙂

  8. We weren’t hikers before we had kids but we’ve started doing more walking with them and it can be such a fun way to spend time together. I love the Power Pellets! We tend to bring along sweets of some kind as well to help incentivise the kids! Thanks for all the great tips!

  9. Love this enthusiasm for hiking with kids! Our teens grew up hiking since they were wee, and they are lifelong hikers now. Love the Power Pellets too!

  10. Power pellets were a game changer for our kids, thanks so much for idea! We also make sure to tell our kids we are going on an “adventure” rather than a hike. For some reason that makes it more fun in their minds! I blog about our hiking adventures over at misadventureswithmegan.com!

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