Hiking is really one of the easiest outdoor activities you can do with your family. It’s great because you can hike almost anywhere and choose trails based on your abilities. One of my favorite things to do is to pack the kids up in the morning and head for a close trail. Here are a few tips for getting started.
1. Find trails that are close to you.
You will be much more likely to get out and hike often if you don’t have to go far. For me it’s so much easier to head out for a hike if it doesn’t have to be a massive production.
2. Choose a trail that’s appropriate
An 8 mile hike is no more appropriate for a 2 year old than a 1/4 mile hike is for a 10 year old. Choose trails that are a good length for your kids and also that do not have too much elevation gain for them either. When in doubt, choose the smaller trail and work up to a bigger one. If you choose a trail that’s much too difficult someone (either you or your kids) won’t be happy at the end of the day. My rule of thumb when heading out with the kids by myself is no more than 2 miles if it’s just the morning, or 3 miles if we take a lunch break and come home for naps. It’s also important to think about the weather. On a hot summer day, try for trails that have some shade so you don’t roast!
3. Feed Them
While a full meal is not always necessary, everyone will be much happier if you have snacks (remember how happy Mason was when I didn’t bring many?). Somehow our hikes always end up taking longer than I’ve planned so it’s better to be safe than
sorry hungry. Also don’t forget to bring plenty of water for everyone.
4. Plan for Blood
Though hopefully not massive amounts! I always bring a simple first-aid kit (or at least a few band aids) because with little ones, crashes are inevitable.
5. Stay Positive
If you have a good attitude and are excited about hiking, it will rub off on your kids. If things start to get hard or complaining kicks in, use some serious distractions. Here are a few fun ones: Hide behind trees and “scare” friends, make animal noises, count something (anything), sing a song or tell a story, throw rocks in the water, draw pictures in the dirt, or play red light green light. Do whatever it takes to make this enjoyable for you and your kids so that you want to do it again!