Happy Trails: 5 Hiking Tips for Kids
Hiking is an activity that nearly everyone in the family can enjoy, even young children. The key to hiking with kids to go at your own pace and to find trails that meet your family’s needs.
5 Hiking Tips for Hitting the Trails with Kids
1. Start ’em early, but start slow
Introduce your children to hiking when they are young. We hit the trails with our daughter when she was about 5 years-old and it is now second nature. She considers five miles to be a short hike! Start slowly and gradually build up to longer hikes.
Our first hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park as a family was probably about two miles round trip. Our daughter hiked with a stuffed raccoon on her head most of the way, and we took a lot of breaks. Now, we can hike as a family for over 10 miles in a single day with only the occasional whiny complaint.
This national park is one of the best places to introduce your children to hiking. Located in Estes Park, there are many places to camp or spend the night near Rocky Mountain National Park. Boulder, Colorado is about a one-hour drive away from the park entrance and full of family-friendly amenities, including Homewood Suites by Hilton.
2. Be Ready for Anything
Remember when your kids were tiny and you carried a diaper bag everywhere? You were ready for anything, right? Your backpack will serve a similar purpose when hiking with kids.
Don’t go overboard, but for hiking safetly I do recommend packing a small first aid kit, bug spray, a whistle, wet wipes, a Ziplock bag, sunscreen, rain gear, an extra pair of socks, extra water and of course, plenty of snacks.
3. To Each her Own
If you plan to do some serious hiking with kids, invest in a camel back backpack. Your child will learn to carry his or her own water, will stay hydrated and have space to carry some treats, a journal and some pencils. These type of bags can be pricey, but worth every penny.
4. Don’t Forget the Sweet and Salty Snacks
Part of the fun of hiking with kids are the snacks and lunch breaks. With all the great exercise you’re getting, you feel at little entitled to eat foods that may not be part of your daily repertoire. Pack a combination of special treats from the sweet to the salty. Our family’s top picks are M&Ms, potato chips, popcorn, peanut butter on crackers, bananas, goldfish crackers and nuts.
5. Patch me up
Kids love patches and luckily several national parks have figured that out. Rocky Mountain National Park has patches for all of its major hikes that are color-coded by difficulty. My daughter especially loved collecting patches from our hikes when she was younger. You can sew them on the backpack or like me store them in a safe place with plans of one day doing something cool with them.
You may also enjoy:
- More Tips for Hiking with Kids
- 10 Tips for Visiting National Parks with Kids
- 5 Great Parks Along the Blue Ridge Parkway
- Family Hiking Tour of Southern Illinois
- Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon
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A self-proclaimed Jersey Girl (with a soft spot for Jon Bon Jovi), Amy currently resides in Austin, Texas with her husband and 11-year old daughter. She picked…