One of the very best camping activities is hiking. There’s nothing like a nice morning hike to put you in a good mood, and hitting the trail is the perfect way to reconnect with nature. Hiking is fun during all parts of the year (though we do recommend heading south to do your winter hiking), and as long as you choose the right trail, it can be a good activity for people of all abilities and fitness levels.
All that said, you might be hesitant to add hiking to your list of camping activities if you have kids. After all, kids have a tendency to complain when a lot of walking has to happen, and there’s little reason to believe the same won’t be true of a hike. Besides, many parents can have trouble believing their kids will be up to the challenges a hike can pose.
The thing is, with a little bit of planning, hiking with kids can actually be fun. Try using the tips below to plan the perfect hiking adventure with your kids and rediscover your love of walking the trails.
First and foremost, it’s incredibly important that you slow down. Little legs can’t keep up with an adult’s longer stride, and asking them to will tire them out quickly, leading to the aforementioned whining.
Slowing your hike might seem like a huge bummer. However, this really isn’t the case. Slowing down can actually be a really nice thing if you choose to use the extra time to look around and really observe and appreciate your surroundings.
In fact, you might even find that you prefer slower hiking, opting to continue moving a bit slower even when the kids aren’t around.
Another thing that can lead to whining? Hunger. Unfortunately, kids get hungry quickly, especially when they’re moving around. For this reason, it’s crucial that you pack plenty of snacks that they will eat. This might seem silly if you’ll only be hiking for a couple of hours, but trust us when we say you won’t regret it.
Keep It Short and Sweet
Speaking of short two-hour hikes, that amount of time tends to be the sweet spot for kids. Go much longer than a couple of hours and you’re likely to have some unhappy little friends for the remainder of your exploration.
This will of course vary from one kid to the next, so you might want to experiment a bit to find the best hike length for your kids, but starting with two hours is a good plan of attack that isn’t likely to induce meltdowns or other negative outcomes.
Include Small Challenges
A short hike doesn’t have to be a boring one. If your kids are a bit older, consider picking short hikes with some challenging bits to keep things interesting. There’s no reason an 8- or 9-year-old can’t handle a bit of rock scrambling or bouldering, and they will likely feel more engaged during the hike and more accomplished after when challenges like this are put in their path.
Just be sure to know your own kids and their limits, testing with the smallest challenges and growing from there based on how they do.
Grab the Right Gear
The right gear can make all the difference in the world when hiking with little ones. A small backpack for each kid will allow them to carry their own things—a lifesaver when you have multiple kids, as putting everything in a single pack will get heavy fast. You’ll also want to make sure every kid has their own water container, as well as a hat to keep the sun out of their eyes.
Lastly, if you’ll be hiking with a baby or toddler, be sure to invest in a high-quality hiking baby carrier for their comfort and your own.
Head to National Parks
We love hiking with kids in national parks. Most national parks have plenty of short yet rewarding hikes, with some even offering some challenging bits. The views will always be gorgeous in these parks, and the Junior Ranger programs here offer young hikers some incentive to get out on the trails.
Give the Kids Cameras
Last but not least, we highly recommend handing each kid a camera to carry during the hike. This will help keep them engaged by encouraging them to truly observe their surroundings. It will also give you an opportunity to see the world from their point of view, something most adults don’t do enough of.
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About the author: Chelsea Gonzales
Chelsea has the amazing opportunity to take part in full-time RV living and traveling with her tiny tribe. She homeschools her five-year-old son as they travel, and takes full advantage of their unique situation by using the entire world as her son’s classroom. A group of total Disney fanatics, Chelsea and her family often find themselves in the Orlando area in order to visit the Disney parks, but they have also visited over 25 of the 50 states with plans to see many more along the way. No matter where her travels take her, Chelsea enjoys riding bikes, gazing at beautiful sunsets, finding new coffee shops, Irish dancing, and sitting around a campfire with her family.
You can join her adventures through her blog, Wonder Wherever We Wander.