18 Essential Tips for Hiking with Kids & Toddlers

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Mother and child explore Fosso Bianco Hot Springs

When hiking with kids, there are a few key things to remember to make the experience enjoyable for you and your little ones. Here are the top tips that will help make your next hiking trip successful!

After a busy day at the office, nothing feels better than getting outside on a beautiful day and hiking with the kids. We’ve got hundreds of miles of hiking trails around our home that can take us into town, down to the beach, and even out to a few inland lakes that are only accessible by walking.

Our only problem is that many of the “good” locations to see are more than a mile away. That’s not hard for me but for our 2-year-old daughter? That could be a recipe for disaster!

With the right preparation, however, you can go the distance on a hike with your child and have a memorable experience. Our family’s last hike was over 3 miles long, and all of our kids, including our 2-year-old, want the next hike to be even longer.

Why Hiking With Kids Is Important

Family adventure at Fosso Bianco Hot Springs
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

For a variety of reasons, taking your children hiking is useful. It’s a wonderful method to spend quality time together and teaches kids about nature and wildlife while also ensuring they get plenty of exercise.

Here are some reasons why:

  • You can go to new places and see cool things.
  • Your kids can learn about nature and how to care for the environment.
  • It’s a good way to get exercise together.
  • You can teach them about safety.
  • It’s a great bonding experience.

Best Hiking Gear with Kids

One of the most important aspects of hiking with kids is being prepared with the proper gear. This includes bringing enough food and water, as well as dressings for any minor cuts or scrapes that may occur along the way.

But what about the actual hike itself? What do you need to make sure your child is comfortable and safe while you’re out on the trails? Here are a few items we always make sure to bring when hiking with our kids:

Now that we’ve gone over some reasons why hiking with kids can be awesome let’s get into how to make it happen with our favorite hiking tips with kids, children, and babies.

Essential Tips for Hiking with Kids

1. Find a Trail

Family Hiking in a Forest

The first step is finding a trail that is appropriate for your group. Not all trails are created equal – some may be too strenuous for young children, while others might not have enough to entertain them.

Research ahead to find a trail that’s just right for your family. When you’re a parent out with your kids, you’ve got to remember that there may be times when you might have to carry your 2-year-old, your 3-year-old, and your pack of supplies.

Do you want to carry 110 pounds up a 9% grade? Don’t make that mistake because you’ll crave an asthma inhaler when you make it up the hill!

Pick a flat route that is easy to hike so that if you need to carry, you won’t have to train like a professional athlete to come out ok.

2. Determine the best time of day to hike

Small White Clock
Lukas Blazek / Unsplash

If you’re planning on hiking with kids, it’s important to time your hike right. Kids can tire quickly, so hike early in the morning or wait until later in the day when they’ll have more energy.

If possible, hike early in the morning when they’ll have the most energy. Later in the day, they may be more likely to get tired and cranky.

Before you head out on your hike, be sure to check the weather forecast. You don’t want to get stuck in a storm or be caught in the day’s heat without enough water.

3. Pack snacks and water for your kids

Family taking a break and eating snacks while on a hike
luckybusiness / Adobe Stock

It’s important to keep your kids hydrated and fed while you’re out on the trail. Bring snacks and water for everyone in your group. But also pack a separate hiking backpack for your kids with their snacks. This can help them own their hiking experience in the great outdoors.

Some great snacks for kids hiking are fruits, granola bars, crackers, and peanut butter. If you plan to camp overnight, Patagonia Provisions are a great option as well.

4. Bring along sunscreen, bug spray, and hats

Woman applying insect repellent onto arm in park
luckybusiness / Adobe Stock

Any good hike starts with the right supplies. And if you’re hiking with kids, that list of supplies gets a little longer. In addition to bringing plenty of snacks and water, you’ll also want to pack sunscreen, bug repellent, and hats.

And don’t forget to reapply sunscreen throughout the hike, especially if you’re hiking near water. Taking simple precautions can help your kids enjoy a safe and fun hike.

For longer hikes in national parks, you’ll definitely want to pack a safety whistle for potential animal encounters and even pack bear spray. Also, consider buying a larger Camelbak hiking backpack to be fully stocked on water.

5. Dress in layers so they can remove clothing if they get too hot or cold

Family enjoying hike in a forest, California, USA
Monkey Business / Adobe Stock

One of the most important factors in hiking with kids is ensuring they’re appropriately dressed. Kids are notoriously bad at judging when they’re too hot or too cold, so it’s important to have options. Layering their clothing allows them to remove or put on layers as needed.

Hiking clothes are typically made of quick-drying materials that wick away sweat, perfect for kids constantly running around and working up a sweat. Dry clothes can help your kids stay comfortable, reducing the potential for irritability.

In addition, these outdoor clothes tend to be more durable than everyday clothes, which is important when hiking on rough terrain. So, when packing for your next hike, dress your kids in layers so they can adjust as needed.

Also, invest in the right hiking shoes for your family hikes. We recommend Merrel hiking shoes.

6. Use well-known trails instead of blazing your own

Couple Hiking Near Water

When hiking with kids, it’s important to stick to well-known, easy-to-follow trails. This will help keep them safe and make the hike enjoyable.

If you choose a difficult trail or blaze your own path, you may carry your kids part of the way – which can be tiring for both of you (especially if you have two or more kids).

Longer hikes are tougher for everyone, so you may want to start hiking trails that are loops so the kids hiking know when the trail will end.

7. Let your kids help plan the hike

Travel planning on computer
sebra / Adobe Stock

Involving your kids in planning can make them more excited about the hike. Ask them where they want to go and what they want to see.

In order to build endurance, you’ve got to go for a longer hike now and then. The kids will have fun when you’re out there, but the last 10 minutes will be a struggle because they’re tired, you’re tired, and everyone wants just to be done.

Be patient during this process, take frequent breaks for water, and you’ll make it back, and they’ll be proud because they’ve done something they’ve never done before.

8. Stop frequently to rest and explore

Family Hiking Together

For us, there’s a hiking trail that leads down to our local beach, but it’s not the easiest trail to take once you reach the end of it.

Several steps are carved into the side of a 200-foot cliff, and then the last 25% of the trail is a rope that you climb down to reach the water.

Could I do that hike with ease? Absolutely. Would the kids be able to achieve the reward of finishing the trail? Definitely not. By knowing your limits, you won’t struggle as much with the journey back.

Hiking with kids can be slow going at times. Be prepared to stop frequently so everyone can take a break. This is also a good time to let your kids explore their surroundings.

9. Be prepared for emergencies

First Aid Kit in a Backpacking Bag
Aleksey / Adobe Stock

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Be sure to bring a first-aid kit and know how to use it. It’s also a good idea to let someone else know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.

Whether you’re going across town or just around the block, pack your trip for everything in case something happens. That means bandages, wipes, extra clothes, a water bottle for each of them, and other items unique to your family.

That way, you can instantly react to the scraped knee or the complaints of being thirsty immediately instead of waiting until you return to the house or a natural stopping point on your family hikes.

10. Reward your kids at the end of the hike

Hiking with Kids in a Forest

A little motivation can go a long way when hiking with young kids. Promise them a special treat at the end of the hike if they make it all the way.

Sometimes, we hike to the local grocery store for a special treat. There are the daisies that we sometimes pick to bring home. Sometimes, the reward is a picture of pretending to be a ninja in the woods.

Whatever hiking trail you’re on, create a reward if there isn’t one at the end to encourage more hiking in the future. If we walk a hiking trail with no reward, the kids will be disappointed with the outcome, which removes the desire to hike. Having some reward will keep your kids interested in the hike for longer.

See Related: Best Travel Board Games

11. Let your kids lead the way

Family Hiking Through Forest in Autumn

Once in a while, let your kids take the lead on the hike. This will give them a sense of ownership and accomplishment.

One of the kids’ favorite trails is close to the house but runs through the woods surrounding our neighborhood. They can often see deer in the trees and wild daisies grow abundantly along with the grassy parts.

We’ll go out, pick a few flowers for Mom, and return feeling like something was accomplished. It’s also 1.5 miles to do this hike, so it’s a good little hike that takes us an hour and helps build up our endurance for longer trails.

12. Practice Hiking Before Going on a Hiking Trip

Mother and children with backpacks went hiking in forest
JenkoAtaman / Adobe Stock

Our pond outside our neighborhood home holds the extra rainwater for proper drainage. It’s the yearly home to tons of frogs, a few ducks, a loon now and again, and lots of cattails. I walked out around the pond and discovered it was 1/10 a mile for a complete loop.

Before beginning any long-distance hikes, we hiked laps around the pond together. Their legs could get used to the distance, and we could stop for a break because we were never far from home.

Once we could hit ten laps, or 1 mile, without much complaint, we were ready for a long walk away from the house.

13. Plan Hiking Trips to Exotic Locations

A visitor and a young child at Denali National Park wooden entrance sign, showcasing park's iconic wildlife and vast landscapes, under clear blue skies.
Kyle, author in Denali Hiking with Daughter (Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers)

Exotic locations don’t have to be anything special… they have to be different! We’ve gone to a local mountain to hike around a loop trail, play hide and seek, and get an amazing view.

Sometimes, the exotic location is a local lake where the kids can watch fish jump out of the water. My 5-year-old daughter loves the hiking trail that goes behind some stables so she can pet the noses of the horses.

It doesn’t matter where you go, as long as it’s different than what they’re used to and they can explore and find new things. This will help build their desire to hike more frequently because they’ll want to see what else is out there waiting to be discovered.

14. Play Hiking Games

Kids Playing Hiking Games Together
CandyRetriever / ViaTravelers

It’s no surprise that kids love games. Hiking games are a great way to keep kids entertained while hiking. It also helps them to pay attention to their surroundings so they don’t miss anything important.

We often play the quiet game to see who can be the quietest for the longest period. This has helped my kids focus on what’s around them; they’ve seen some amazing things because of it.

We also play the alphabet game, trying to find something that starts with each alphabet letter in order. This has helped them to learn more about their surroundings and what kinds of plants and animals live there.

15. Bring a Hiking Journal

Woman Sitting by a Tree Writing in Hiking Journal
AntonioDiaz / Adobe Stock

A hiking journal is a great way to document all the hikes you take with your kids. It’s also a great way for them to remember all of the fun things that they did on each hike.

You can buy a hiking journal, or you can make your own. We made our own by decorating a regular notebook with stickers and markers. Then, we write down the date, time, location, and what we did on each hike.

16. Take Lots of Pictures

Woman with a camera taking photos on Westminster Bridge in London
pio3 / Adobe Stock

When you’re out on a hike, taking pictures is a great way to document the experience and capture the fun that you’re having. But there are a few things to remember to get the best results.

First, take pictures regularly throughout the hike, rather than taking one big batch at the end. That way, you’ll be sure to capture all of the highlights.

Second, make sure to get some close-ups as well as wide shots. And third, don’t forget to include some candid shots of your friends and family enjoying the hike. By following these tips, you’ll be sure to come home with plenty of great memories – and pictures – from your hike.

17. Make it a Family Tradition

Family Hiking on a Trail Bridge

One of the best ways to get your kids to hike with you is to make it a family tradition. This way, they’ll always associate hiking with family time and want to do it more often. The key is to find kid-friendly hikes that are still challenging enough to be fun for everyone.

For example, we try to go on at least one weekly hike as a family. This has been a great way for us to bond, allowing the whole family to stay active. Plus, it’s a great way to explore all the beautiful sights that nature has to offer.

So if you’re looking for a way to get your family into hiking, start by making it a tradition. Try not to be too repetitive about the tradition.

That way, your kids can enjoy hiking and won’t feel like it’s a chore. Hiking is a great way to spend time together with activities, and it’s something that everyone can enjoy.

18. Don’t Let People Judge You

Group of hikers hiking though the mountains
Austin Ban / Unsplash

If I had a nickel for every comment someone made about how I torture my children with hiking, I’d have enough to buy a new computer – and that’s every week.

If the experience is fun, you’ve got enough supplies, and you take breaks when needed, your kids will have a good time.

Prepare your mind for negative comments and be grateful for positive ones. “It’s so good to see a father out with his kids,” one driver told me this week. “You keep up the good work, Dad.”

See Related: Best National Parks in America

Benefits of hiking with kids

9 Ways To Prepare Your Child For a Hike

Hiking is a fantastic way for children to have fun and explore nature. For the youngster, it’s an excellent experience to be outside. This can provide knowledge of the environment and foster profound respect for nature. Hiking improves self-confidence, promotes self-reliance, and cultivates inquisitiveness in youngsters.

Hiking aids young and old kids in locating their environment while also seeing their natural habitat. Walking may assist youngsters in getting outside of their comfort zone to accomplish something they are proud of.

The trek also offers a slow, soothing location where you can teach kids and spend quality time together… what could be better?

See Related: Things to Do in Sedona with Kids

Beginner Tips for Hiking with Baby

Mother Hiking in Rocky Terrain with Baby Backpack
blas / Adobe Stock

Let’s look at some of the basics of baby hiking gear. This assistance will help you cope with your anxiety and irritation, allowing you to have a wonderful and happy existence.

Preparation

Although bringing anything with you for a 10-hour hiking excursion or trek is unnecessary, if you’re going on a trek while your kid is along, be prepared.

As a result, additional clothing, diapers, and perhaps another container of the formula are required. They are heavier than an ordinary backpack but will be useful in unforeseen circumstances.

Safety

Tell someone when you’re going hiking. When you want to go, inform him. Send an email. In addition, you’ll be able to bring some basic first-aid supplies with you if you suffer a scrape from a bump on your ankle or get injured.

Patience

Patience is the most important thing we can tell you. The single most essential item to remember is that everything takes time. Take a moment and enjoy yourself during this exciting time in your life. Is it possible that your preparation has gone too far? Diapers, gowns, and snowsuits are kept for this purpose.

Timing

It might be challenging to travel with your child. It’s the most difficult scenario imaginable. We propose beginning a stroll as soon as you’ve nursed and fed your baby. So, your child is happy and enraptured by nature and the environment.

Comfort

All security on the baby trek has always been critical to the trip. You and your youngster are supposed to dress for the weather and bring a suitable backpack.

Hiking with kids can be a great way to spend time together and plan future family outings. With a little preparation, you can make it a fun and rewarding experience for everyone.

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you want to see more content like this, please follow us on social media or sign up for our newsletter.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us! We would happily help you plan your next hike with your family.

FAQs

What are some of the best tips for hiking with kids?

Some tips for hiking with kids include being prepared, being patient, and having a good attitude. It is also important to make sure that everyone is dressed appropriately for the weather and that you have a comfortable backpack. Finally, starting the hike when your child is well-rested and fed is a good idea.

How do I keep my kids safe while hiking?

Some safety tips for hiking with kids include bringing basic first-aid supplies, dressing for the weather, and having a well-rested and fed child. It is also important to tell someone when you are going on the hike and to stay on marked trails.

What should I bring on a hike with my kids?

Some things that you should bring on a hike with your kids include extra clothing, diapers, and formula if you are hiking with a baby. It is also important to bring snacks and drinks, as well as a first-aid kit. Finally, make sure to dress everyone in comfortable clothes and shoes.

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Kyle Kroeger
WRITTEN BY

Kyle Kroeger

Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He's a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he'd heard.

Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he's learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.

He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time. Read more about his portfolio of work.

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