The 5 Best Tips For Hiking With Kids

Spring has come here in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, but it’s not here to stay.  And so, we are pumped to take advantage of the warm-ish weather and get the kids out for some great hiking adventures.  Don’t have outdoorsy kids?  This is the year to change that!!!

The best way to bestow a love of the outdoors in your children is to give them every opportunity to get outside and have fun, explore and be free.  If you haven’t been an outdoorsy family up until this point, you may have to drag your little cuties off the couch, but trust me when I say they will thank you for it later!!  

I mean, really.  In the coming years, as kids age, being good at Minecraft or an expert COD player is not going to mean a thing, in all actuality, it should mean nothing today!  But guys and girls who love to be outside, who are comfortable hitting the trail, and are up for adventure … these are the kids who are going to be a catch!

So, get ready to turn your electronic devotees into bonafide outdoor enthusiasts with these tips.

Table of Contents

Let them Help PLAN

Hiking the waterfalls at Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs, CO.

No seriously.

Kids love to be involved with the planning of adventures and it ensures that they are invested and will encourage them to have fun and not whine and complain, which if you didn’t know already, positively sucks the life out of any adventure.

We typically go online or, on occasion, pull out a real map, but mostly online and show them routes.  We learn together what we can expect to see on each route and, in the end, really let them decide.  Do they feel like seeing a waterfall?  Hiking out to a great climbing cliff?  Heading toward a scenic view (they never choose this).  Or maybe a lake for skipping rocks, and/or swimming?

In addition to planning the hike, I also encourage them to help make healthy hiking snacks, like trail mix and homemade granola bars and, of course, no hiking/climbing/rafting adventure is ever complete without Beef Jerky!  🙂

Limit Rules

Keeping the rules on the down low keeps kids enthused and having fun.

As far as I’m concerned the outdoors is a kids’ domain, it is where my children can run and climb and yell with abandon.  The only rule, and I mean the only rule, that is imposed upon them is to respect others and to respect the environment.

Respecting others means you don’t run into other hikers, you don’t block the entire trail and you — no that’s about it.  If other hikers don’t enjoy my children’s laughter, their curiosity, and their boisterous enthusiasm for life, they can hike faster and leave us in their wake.  You will never, not ever ever ever hear me telling my kids to shush when we are out in nature, unless it’s to hear a coyote howl or to listen for an owl hoot.  You will never ever hear me tell my kids not to run, not to climb (unless it’s posted) or to “stay on the trail”, unless, again it’s posted.

And respecting the environment means they won’t litter, they won’t trample things like  cryptobiotic crust and they won’t vandalise anything, anywhere.  They will chase lizards, crawl into every hole, climb every hill, mountain, rock, cliff, etc.

Start Slow & Have Realistic Expectations

Hiking up Mt Garfield, baby pack and all.

So, I’m going to tell you a funny story.  We were in Arches National Park a few years back, March 2011, to be exact and we had 11 kids.  One 3 month old, a 2 year old, a 4 year old a 5 year old, a 7 year old and more … I tell you these little kid ages because it becomes relevant.

So we were hiking and came upon a “primitive trail” with warnings galore.  It was a 7 mile trail, not for kids, through the desert, make sure you have tons of water, blah blah blah.  We had a ton of water and were avid hikers, what “walk” was too difficult for us, we asked.

We found out.

At the beginning we were making fun of the signs, by the end, we were practically crawling out of the desert on our hands and knees.  Our water was all but depleted, Dan and I had our two youngest on our backs in carriers, our 4 year old was a trooper, but he had to be carried every now and then and the others were totally on their own.

From that moment on, we never took ANY hike for granted and we do our research before hand.

Be Prepared

Grady and Elly enjoying the views at the Summit of Mt Garfield.

This is the area where I need help. I’m almost too spontaneous to have any time to plan.  Luckily, I have Dan and a bunch of older kids who wouldn’t dream of not being prepared!

Literally the worst thing to happen to a family hike is for one or all of the kids to be hungry or thirsty.  The crank comes out and the adventure is derailed upon the first sign of a growling tummy or a dry mouth.  So, do not ever get caught on a hike without rations.  All our kids who can walk carry a Camelbak and their own little baggies of snacks to munch on at their leisure.

Dan and I carry BIG camelbak’s that we fill with water and an exorbitant amount of healthy trail foods .  Dan also carries a homemade First Aid Kit.  To build your own 1st Aid Kit you need the following as a minimal Kit.

  • Tweezers
  • Bandages of assorted sizes, including butterfly bandages
  • Neosporin
  • Antiseptic Towelettes
  • Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen
  • Gauze
  • Medical Tape
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Antihistamines

And never underestimate the importance of … the body language.  No, sorry, that’s from The Little Mermaid.  I’m talking about layering.  Check the weather forecast and plan accordingly.  a lightweight rain jacket, a fleece top and a tank or Tshirt underneath is plenty of planning, unless you are hitting the trail hard core.

And that, folks ends the KelloggShow Be Prepared section, as that’s the extent we go to … water, snacks and a teeny tiny minimalist 1st aid Kit.

Hiking Gear

Hiking to caves is one of our favorite things!

One of the draws hiking has for many people is the fact that it’s free and takes very little gear to get started.  And that is absolute truth, for short quick hikes, a pair of Teva’s or everyday sneakers will do, but if you want to step it up a bit as you start enjoying the outdoors more and more, a good pair of hiking boots are in your future.

What constitutes a good pair of hiking boots, you ask?  First and foremost, comfort … it’s everything.  I don’t care what the shoe/boot promises, if it’s not comfortable, don’t buy it.

So, in addition to shoes, we carry headlamps so when we find caves we can go in and actually see where we are going, we have camelbak’s as mentioned before and really that’s it.  All these things are great birthday or Christmas presents … at least that’s how we roll.


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