How to hike with kids and actually enjoy it!

Summer is drawing to a close and Fall will be sneaking in soon. Once the days start to cool off, my husband and I enjoy finding time to head out into the woods for some quality hiking trips. We had to learn years ago how to hike with kids since we have no family around to play babysitter for us. And truthfully I WANT my kids out in nature with us. Yes, hiking with kids isn’t always as much fun as hiking with just adults. They tend to be slower, louder, and more prone to tripping or getting hurt. However, I am a firm believer in the idea that kids have to experience nature in order to learn to protect it when they get older. The next generation of environmentalists spent their childhood in the woods! So, if you want to get outside with your kids for some nature enjoyment, here are some tips on how to hike with kids that might help you all enjoy it a bit more! Whether you will be gone for an hour or a week, you will need hiking gear and supplies so I will include some affiliate links in the post for shopping!

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How to Hike with Kids and Enjoy it!How to Hike with Kids and Enjoy it!

  How to Hike with Kids and Actually Enjoy it!

These hiking tips are provided by Jeff Alt, author, and outdoor enthusiast.
How do you teach your children to enjoy hiking? Start early and make it fun says outdoor enthusiast extraordinaire and author Jeff Alt. “Getting kids outside is more important than ever,” he says. “TV, computer and video game addictions are replacing outdoor play time. Passive inside entertainment is contributing significantly to the national obesity epidemic! It’s time to get off the couch America! Get the kids outside!”
How to Hike with Kids and Actually Enjoy it!

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Start Hiking with Kids Early and Develop A Routine:
Give your kids a healthy dose of “Early Outdoor Intervention.” It will pay off later.
Start hiking with your newborn:
  • Infants and children weighing less than 15 pounds should be carried in a front body carrier or a sling.
  • Children weighing 16 to 40 pounds can fit into a child carrier backpack.
  • Children weighing more than 30 pounds might be ready to hike short distances and carry a little daypack. 
Let the child lead.  
This helps you focus on what they’re interested in and keeps you from leaving them in your dust. 
Hiking with teens
Get outside every day.

Take a walk with the family once a day. Walk around the block, go to the park, go to the beach or the river. Get maps and books and search out and find new places to go. See new places all the time.

Save money and stop driving everywhere.

Walk to the grocery store. Walk to your local restaurant for dinner and back. Walk to the library. Make walking and hiking as routine as brushing your teeth

Bring the outdoors inside.

Educate constantly to generate interest and enthusiasm. Take lots of pictures of the kids and places you go. Make posters for the family and living room and for Christmas cards. Get magazines, videos, and artwork that show places you want to go. Rent movies about faraway places. Use the Internet together to look at maps, and photographs of the wildlife, environments, and spectacular scenery you will be visiting someday.

Go high tech.

Bring on the gadgetry! Turn your computer game nerds on to the adventure technology. (e.g. GPS, pedometers headlamp flashlights, geocaching) and teach them all about how these incredible devices are being used for fun.

Take the kids to local orienteering course and learn how to use a hand held GPS & compass together.
How to Hike with Kids and Actually Enjoy it!
Involve the kids in planning out all trips and adventures.

Older children can use the computer to research your destination or sport. (all national parks and most other destinations have websites chock full of facts & info., maps, wildlife).

Let the kids (especially teens) bring along a friend.

Get permission from parents and make it a club adventure.

 Tips for Hiking with Kids
Prepare your family for your family hiking adventure:
Learning how to hike with kids requires preparation. Many of the same equipment decisions that you make for your own adventures can be applied to outfitting your children.
  • Research the destination & activity (Have your youngster help you with this- google, park websites, library, bookstore travel section, outfitters, etc.)
  • You’ve got mail! Send for maps and guidebooks of the area, and check with the local travel experts on hiking, rangers, guides, etc. Have the packages sent to your child or children.
  • Attend local slide shows or lectures (outfitters/libraries/bookstores) every chance you get.
  • Hiking with kids? Plan ahead – especially when you have younger children. Choose a trail that offers easy access to domesticated amenities. Having a base camp or prearranged lodging allows you to be a parent, not a Sherpa.
  • Check into transportation options. You should have a plan for what to do if you need to get off the trail. 
  • Identify the restaurant and grocery amenities. Not only is it good to know what’s available before you arrive so that you’ll know what to pack, but if the weather turns bad, you can have an instantly viable backup plan.
  • Prepare and plan what you need based on what you find. What kinds of wildlife can you expect? Will water be available? What are the weather and terrain like? You want to avoid hiking in freezing temperatures, lightning storms, and extreme heat. You want to identify and find swimming holes, wildlife, enjoyable views, and great places to rest, look at flowers, spectacular trees, and wildlife.
  • Acquire the right gear. Get everyone properly fitted into essential gear particularly hiking boots and back packs for hiking.
  • Clothing- NO COTTON! Dress in layers (synthetics, fleece, wool, and waterproof breathable items. Bring what you need for the weather and conditions you will encounter Don’t forget Deet Free bug repellent  and children’s sunscreen.
  • Train at home in your neighborhood with your kids before you go into the wild. Practice carrying your child in the child carrier. This will help you adjust to carrying the pack, and your child will acclimate to the routine.

Tips for Hiking with Kids

Hiking with Kids? Bring Plenty of Water!
An adult should pack quarts of water. Children will vary depending on age and exertion. Inquire about water availability before you hit the trail. Acquire a treatment system so you can use the water along the trail (water filter, Iodine tablets, etc.). Drink before you go. Stop and sip your water frequently. Don’t wait until you are thirsty.
Think Food – Think Fun:
The first thing to keep in mind when learning how to hike with kids is that hiking is hungry work! Pack your kids favorite snacks. Desirable food will help encourage your kids to eat and stay energized. Pack more food than you think you will need. Try this easy trail mix recipe for loads of energy on your hike!
Try out your food and your stove at home before your trip. Make sure you can cook food the kids will enjoy. When preparing your food, think compact, lightweight, and filling. Bring items that are easy to prepare or ready to eat.
Select foods that just need a little bit of water to prepare. Plan for two pounds of food per person per day. Eliminate bulky packaging; condense food into plastic bags. Pack an extra day’s worth of food.
  • Freeze-dried meals
  • Pasta/rice/beans
  • Foil-wrapped meats such as tuna or chicken
  • Dehydrated fruit and veggies
  • Sliced apples, grapes, bananas, carrots
  • Energy bars or granola bars
  • Peanut butter
  • Cheese and sausage
  • Bagels, crackers, candy bars, nuts,
  • Tortilla & cheese sandwiches
  • Energy bars for kids
  • Oatmeal of dried cereals
Depending where you go, remember to bring a food bag and rope to hang 10 feet up in a tree so the bears can’t get to it.
First Aid Kit when Hiking with Kids
Learn First Aid and be prepared for trail emergencies:
  • Carry a first-aid kit, and brush up on child first aid and CPR. Learn about the dangers of hypothermia, and monitor children for signs. Pack all of your child’s medication.
  • Know the location of the nearest medical facility for you and the children.
  • Learn how to use a compass and map or GPS. Learn how to make a quick shelter to help keep you warm and dry. Keep matches and lighters dry and in a safe place. Know how to start a fire to keep warm. If you do get lost, make yourself as visible as possible. Place a bright item (e.g. item of clothing or gear) in the open. Make distress signals and make noise. If you brought a cell phone, check periodically to see if it works. Leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or family member.
 Hiking with Kids
Keep the journey fun!
If you are wondering how to hike with kids, keep in mind that the driving priority with children is to make sure they have fun. Let them lead the way and tell you what they want to do. Whatever animal or rock your young child takes an interest in, stop and explore with him or her. Talk to your child about what you’re seeing. Label the animals, rocks, trees, and flowers. Tone down your mileage goals to the comfort level of your child.
Engage older children with trip planning, animals, local history, or anything that applies to what they are learning in school. Teach your children good backcountry ethics. Kids can learn to pack out trash, take nothing from the woods but memories and pictures, and proper backcountry toileting at a young age. Learn how to hike with kids so that they grow up to appreciate the great outdoors and strive to protect it as best they can.

These tips about how to hike with kids were provided by Jeff Alt, author of the book A Walk for Sunshine: A 2,160 Mile Expedition for Charity on the Appalachian Trail. My thanks to the author for providing this information for us. Getting kids outside and teaching them about the joys of nature is a topic that I am extremely passionate about!

Check out Jeff’s Book on Hiking with Kids!

HIking with Kids

2 thoughts on “How to hike with kids and actually enjoy it!”

  1. WOW! This post has it all! I love it! Kids (as well as adults) have become to “indoor” hooked that I think we all couple use more outdoor time and time to appreciate the world and nature around us. Excellent job!

  2. Wow, what an amazing guide to hiking with your family. I used to hike with my family when I was a kid and loved it.

    It’s so important to get kids active today and outside!

    Thanks for sharing.


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