Hiking with kids really can be an enjoyable experience, I promise. Here are 6 tips on how to help both your kids and you enjoy your next family hiking outing.
This is the biggest one. As parents your expectations need to be set right before you head out on a hike with your family. What does this mean?
It means don't think you are going to be able to knock out a 5 mile hike if your kids aren't used to hiking. It also means being aware that there will probably be break downs during the hike. Accept it, expect it, and be prepared for it. Once it happens, work through it then let it go and continue on the hike – no hard feelings or grudges held.
Selecting the Hike
If your kids have never been on a hike – walking around the block at home doesn't count – then take that into consideration when picking where you will go hiking with your family. The main thing to consider is elevation.
I would recommend starting with a fairly flat hike and if there is going to be an incline make sure it is a short distance. Hiking uphill is not easy on anyone and especially young kids. Don't get me wrong – it is totally possible for your kid to be able to hike to higher elevations, but you will want to warm them up to it.
Another smart thing to do when first starting to hike with your kids is to pick a hike that either has a cool end point or where you are actually hiking to something. It seems to make it easier for kids if they know there is an end goal in sight. And almost always the hike back is easier then the hike there.
Be prepared with power pellets or some other energy booster for your kids when they just feel like they can't take another step. It is amazing how power pellets will turn them right back into balls of energy.
Our power pellets are simply Tic-Tacs. Seriously, they help our kids get that kick they need when we are well into a hike and they start to get tired or bored.
You know those ring pop suckers. Yup they work great! Regular suckers have a stick on them so if the kids are running or trip that could be a problem. With a ring pop you don't have to worry about that.
They really are amazing and will keep our kids occupied and happy for at least a 1/2 mile or more. Can you tell we aren't against a little bribery when we are hiking? I feel less guilt since they are out in nature, exercising, and hanging out with us!
We used an ERGO backpack carrier until our youngest was over 4 years old. It worked GREAT for carrying him on our back. There were times we would even put our 6 year olds in there for a short stretch on longer hikes.
He was over the weight that they recommended but it really was a lot easier then trying to carry him or do a normal piggy back ride. I could go for miles with him on my back.
Many families like child carriers designed especially for hiking. Check out some of the top rated child carriers on Amazon.com HERE.
An End Goal
We have always found it helpful to have an end or really middle point goal. It may be reaching the summit of a mountain, getting to a waterfall, or to a landmark. It helps all of us know that we are striving for something. If it is a loop trail make sure you know where the middle is so you know when you have reached the goal. Being able to reach a lake for swimming is always a great goal too!
Then be prepared with a picnic lunch, snacks, drinks, whatever it is that you as a family decided on before heading out on your hike. Yes, Mom and Dad have to carry said celebratory food with them on the hike. But hey, that's what we do as parents!
As you can see there is a lot of food involved in our hiking tips. But as any parent with young kids knows food and snacks can usually solve a lot of problems and hiking is no different! So set the guilt aside about the candy, take your kids to the store and let them help in picking out your end goal treat – so they can be excited about it too – and hit the trails!
Check out my post 15 Tips for Hiking With Kids on my blog, Crazy Family Adventure for more tried and true tips for happy hikes with kids. You might also enjoy these posts if you're looking for a fun destination with some amazing family hikes: