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I love hiking. It’s really a shame that I didn’t do more of it when we lived in the beautiful mountains of Virginia. I wasn’t really into fitness or health then so I guess it really is no surprise that we rarely went. I have discovered that I love hiking with my kids! They enjoy it as well and I’m hoping to go many more times this summer.
Having kids along definitely adds a new level of difficulty to hiking but it is doable and even enjoyable. I recently saw this meme that read, “Children won’t remember their best day of watching television” and it reminded me that these activities and the the memories my kids will have forever. Layla even told me that this hike was her favorite part of our trip. I am going to take more trips and get outside with my children more this summer. No television watching for hours on end for this family!
Here are few tips on hiking with your kids. Please remember that I am no expert. Always be smart and be cautious, obey the rules of the trail, tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return and hike at your own risk.
1. Choose an easy trail for your first hike (and/or for kids under 8).
The goal is to have fun and if you choose a difficult or long trail I guarantee you that your kids will complain. You also want to avoid injury or overexertion.
2. Have a predetermined goal or a destination and bring a map.
I chose Dark Hollow Falls in the Shenandoah National Park for our hike because there is a gorgeous waterfall at the end. I knew it would be a great place to cool off and when the kids got tired or weary I could remind them that the waterfall was not too much further. I took time beforehand to show Layla photos of the waterfall online–she couldn’t wait to get there!
Since we stayed on a well known and well worn trail we didn’t need to bring a map. Definitely bring one along if you are unfamiliar with the area or if you are hiking out in the wild.
3. Dress appropriately.
I know this is a no-brainer but you’d be surprised how many kids I saw on the trail in cheap flip flops. We all wore socks and tennis shoes. Because this was a well maintained trail we decided to wear shorts and t-shirts. If the trail had been more off the beaten path we would have worn jeans and long sleeve shirts.
I was really sorry that I didn’t pack our Keens because they would have been perfect for hiking and for walking on the rocks around the waterfall!
4. Bring water. And maybe some snacks.
Bring a water bottle for each person. You may also want to have more water in your vehicle for when you return. You should bring more than you think you will need! The Lifestraw is a great little invention that you can bring along to have fresh water anywhere. I’d love to have one of these before our next hiking trip!
I wore my waist pack that has a water bottle holder. This was a fantastic idea and I was so glad I had thought to through it in my suitcase. I’m hoping to eventually purchase one for each of the girls.
You may want to bring some snacks along if you think your child will get restless or if you plan to be gone for awhile. Some great options are trail mix, fruit, granola bars, nuts/seeds, beef jerky, or energy bars.
5. Prepare your kids for the hike by talking about what to expect.
On the way to the falls we talked about hiking safety, basic first aid and how to act while on the trail. We discussed being cautious of our surroundings and how to be polite to other hikers. When we arrived at the trail we were told by several other hikers that a mama bear and cub had been spotted nearby–we then had a great discussion about safety around wildlife. We met the park ranger soon after and we discussed their role and how they keep us safe.
6. Bring a first aid kit.
I’m blessed with a very responsible tween who carries her emergency first aid kit everywhere she goes. She informed me that she had restocked before our trip so we were all set.
7. Allow for plenty of rest and play time.
Hiking with kids isn’t the time to be concerned with the time! Take it slow and easy and allow for lots of rest and play time along the way.
8. Consider geocaching or having a scavenger hunt.
Unfortunately, there is very little cell reception on the parkway so we were not able to find any caches. If you are in an area where you can use a cell phone, geocaching is a great way to get kids excited about hiking! You’d be surprised all the places you can find caches. Just search “geocache” in the app store to find free or cheap geocaching apps.
If you can’t look for caches try having a scavenger hunt. Give each child a check off list or a specific item to look for. You could tell them to find items that start with a certain letter or that are a certain color. There a many great free printables available online. Check out this one from The Bird Feed NYC.
9. Give your kids lots of encouragement and praise.
I tried to be very patient and understanding when the younger girls complained on the way back. It was a steep climb getting back and their little legs were tired. I praised them on how well they were doing and how strong and healthy they were. Every time I mentioned Layla being such a good runner she would pick up the pace and zoom past me! She even said, “Keep calling me a runner girl, mama!” Hiking with kids takes a lot of patience…but believe me, if I can do you can too!
10. Celebrate a great hike afterwards!
For us, that included a trip to the general store for a couple of cold drinks! If it’s your child’s first hike you may want to give them a little treat–a patch, a small toy or a sticker as a souvenir.
For more information on hiking with kids, check out these great articles:
- Kids and Hiking
- Take Your Kids Hiking (Ten Tips to Make the Adventure Fun for the Whole Family)
- Hiking with Children
And this book: