15 Best Tips for Hiking With Kids

Are you looking for tips for hiking with kids for the first time? Family hikes can be an extremely fun and educational experience. It is a great way for you to spend some quality time with the kids in the great outdoors while teaching them about nature and wildlife.

Plus, kids explore nature and have the chance to climb or see unique things on an interesting hike. It's a great way to get them off screens and family hikes can be great for bonding.

Through hiking, kids get to see new places and discover cool things while also enjoying the beauty of nature. Hiking with kids offers several benefits while also being a great bonding experience. 

However, there are a couple of tips for hiking with kids that you should keep in mind to make sure that the experience is an enjoyable one for both you and the kids. These are some of the top tips that you should note to ensure that your hike is a success. 

No matter if you are hiking with young kids or older kids, these are great tips for hiking with kids to ensure your adventures are full of life long family memories.

This post is a guest post by Catalin Geangos of OutdoorAdept.com. It contains affiliate links, which means I receive a commission at no cost to you should you make a purchase using this link. See my disclosures. Cover photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Trail to double arch
A flat hiking trail in Arches National Park. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

1. Find a good hiking trail.

The first step that you need to take is finding the right hiking trail. Not all trails are suitable for kids, either due to their complexity or lack of entertainment, so you should definitely be on the lookout for a trail that is appropriate for your group. 

Some trails are long and require good hiking gear, but there are many kid friendly hikes that kids love.

Carry out adequate research long before the day of the hike so you find the perfect place to hike through. I recommend that you pick a flat route that is suited for beginners in case you need to do some carrying along the way. 

Choosing to hike kid friendly trails is both safer and more fun for kids. You can also make the hike interesting by playing games along the way, as it keeps the kids moving, especially on longer hikes.

2. Time your hike right.

As you will be hiking with kids, you must time your hike to perfection. Hiking can quickly become strenuous for kids, so you should choose a time when they will have more energy. Hiking early in the morning or at midday is a great choice. 

It is also highly recommended that you check the weather forecast before heading out on the hike. not want to be out in sweltering heat or get stuck in a storm with your kids. 

3. Pack enough snacks and water.

One of the most essential tips for keeping your children happy on the hike is ensuring that they are well-fed and hydrated throughout. Kids hiking will get hungry and tired as it does burn a lot of energy.

Bring enough water and snacks to satisfy everyone in your group. Some healthy snacks and high energy foods that you can pack include granola bars, fruits, peanut butter, as well as crackers.  Also remember to drink frequently to stay hydrated. It is easy to lose track of hydration in the great outdoors.

family in front of mesa arch
Dress right for your hike. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

4. Dress right for the hike.

It is very important that your kids are appropriately dressed for the hike. One of my best tips for hiking with kids is to make sure you pack layers as the weather can change throughout the day.

Layering their clothes allows them to put on or take off any layers depending on whether the weather is too hot or too cold.  You should definitely invest in some hiking clothes because they are made from specific materials that wick away sweat, ensuring that all that activity does not leave the hikers drenched in sweat.  And, some hiking gear like pants are convertible to shorts.

Other things to consider bringing include sun hats, dry clothes, and rain clothes, when hiking with kids.

Another great tip when hiking with kids is to get the right hiking shoes for kids as these will ensure that their feet stay comfortable throughout the hiking trip, and walking for long distances will be made much easier. It can also ensure their ankles are stable on the hiking trail and they don't slip.

There are some great options you can choose from in all sizes for young kids and older, and your kids would surely love some colorful hiking shoes. You may also want to bring hiking poles.

5. Bring some bug spray and sunscreen. 

Having the right supplies with you is essential for a successful hike when hiking with kids. Apart from packing water and remembering to bring snacks, you would also want to bring along some bug repellents and sunscreen. Little tips like this could prove to be very significant as they help you and your kids enjoy a fun and safe hike. 

You might also want to hike early, as it will be cooler and less buggy.

You could also go along with a safety whistle if you’re hiking in a place with the potential for animal encounters. Conducting proper research on the trail should give you enough information on what you need to pack for hiking with kids. 

6. Prepare for emergencies. 

As the popular saying goes “prevention is better than cure”, and you must be adequately prepared for any emergencies. One of the best ways to stay prepared is by packing a mini first aid kit or basic first aid supplies and knowing how to use it. 

It is also recommended that you let somebody who won't be hiking with you know where you are going and what time you expect to be back. Pack all the possible supplies including wipes, extra clothes, bandages, as well as a water bottle, a first aid kit, and solar phone charger or any other necessity that is specific to the members of the group, especially when hiking with kids.

I also recommend a lightweight backpack for each of the kids hiking in your party as well as the adults. This way, each member can have easy access to their own snacks, water bottles and have a place to put their layers and all their stuff.

7. Let the kids help in planning.

Kids love to be part of the decision making. Keeping your kids involved in the planning process would make them get even more excited about the hike. You can ask them what kind of things they would like to see or even what type of place they would like to visit.

This can also help you find out more about your kids and what they might be interested in, as well as how you could even integrate this into daily activities. 

trail of the cedars glacier national park
Hikes can be simple with kids. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

8. Do a test hike before the main day.

Before you go hiking with kids, it's a great idea for you to get used to trekking over a long distance. It could also help you measure when you need a break, as well as build your endurance. 

You can use your garden if you have one or even walk along the block. You could spend a day at a theme park.

Anything that could help get your legs used to covering that distance should be good enough. And if you know the distance of the trail, you could also use this test hike to check whether or not you're ready. 

9. Let the kids lead the way. 

As long as you’re going on a designated trail, this shouldn't be much of a problem when hiking with kids. Allowing your kids to take the lead or run ahead while hiking will provide them with a sense of accomplishment and teach kids ownership, and often they have so much fun.

From time to time during your hiking adventure, you can let the kids lead the way and even spot what they see along the trail.  This will encourage most kids to enjoy hiking, especially when they can feel empowered to lead. Older kids might also enjoy being in charge of the map.

10. Take rest stops and explore as much as possible.

Once you know your limits, then you should not give room for your body to have to struggle through the hike. If you begin to feel tired or stressed out on your hiking trip, then it might be time for a rest stop, especially when hiking with kids. Their little feed can only go so far so fast.

Sometimes while hiking, you might need to push through the pain, but knowing your limits will help you know when you need to rest instead of pushing through. 

Hiking with kids is usually much slower than hiking alone so you should be ready to make frequent stops so everyone can catch their breath. This is also a great time for you to allow the kids to explore the area. 

Hike to Virginia Falls
Virginia Halls Hike, Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

11. Play hiking games.

It is no news that kids love to play games. Many hiking games ensure that the kids stay entertained while hiking. Hiking games also help the kids to keep their attention steady on their surroundings, making sure that they do not miss anything important. 

One of the most common hiking games to play is “I spy”. This will help you and your kids to spot some amazing things in the environment. You can also play the alphabet game or the quiet game, there are many options to choose from. 

One tip for a longer hike is to create a scavenger hunt of sorts, like having kids look for pine cones or the longest stick, etc. Looking for interesting things is a fun way to entertain when hiking with kids.

12. Take a lot of pictures.

Hiking trails are some of the most picturesque locations in the world. Take as many pictures as you can so you can document the experience and keep the memory of the fun forever.

Plus, if hiking with kids, they will love seeing their accomplishments! If your kids truly loved the experience, then it is a great way for you to remind them of a memorable day. 

Instead of just taking a large batch of pictures at the end of the hike, try to space it evenly and take several pictures throughout the hike. This will ensure that you capture any highlights that occur.

Get personal shots of each individual in the group as well as wide shots that capture everyone. This ensures that you come back with a lot of great pictures after your hike. 

13. Take a hiking journal.

Writing about all the highlights of your hike is another great way for you to document your experience. It is an ideal way for you to remember all the fun things that you did on the hike, especially if you will be going on more than one hike. 

You can easily make a hiking journal or buy one. Make sure you write down the date and time of the hike, as well as the location and the people involved. Then, you should also document all the main highlights that took place during the hike. 

14. Reward the kids at the end of the hike.

Promising the kids a special treat at the end of the hike and then fulfilling this promise is a great way to motivate them. Having a reward system in place, like a small pack of cookies or hot chocolate, will help to keep the kids interested in the hike for a longer time and also push them to see it through.

essential-hiking-gear-kid-friendly-hike-vail
Hiking can be a fun family tradition. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

15. Make hiking a family tradition.

If you like hiking, then a great way to get your kids hiking with you is to make it a family tradition. This will help integrate hiking into your family time and also make it an activity that everyone would want to do more often. 

Making this activity a family tradition will help to strengthen the bond and also keep your whole family active. It’s also an amazing way for you to explore nature in all its beauty, and you will all definitely enjoy it.

Hiking With Kids Frequently Asked Questions

Can a 4 year old go hiking?

As long as you bring plenty of water and snacks, and take an easy trail that is flat, typically kids ages 2 to 4 years old can hike for a mile or so. You do want to make sure they have good, stable shoes on their feet, proper clothing, and take lots of breaks. Be prepared that you may need to carry them at times, so if they fit into a backpack carrier still, it may be wise to bring one with your hiking gear.

What age can you take a child hiking?

With a baby carrier, you can take a baby possibly 6 months or older on a hike, as long as you have all of the supplies you need and the baby is old enough to sit safely in the carrier. You probably want to start with short hikes though and be sure you have good stable hiking boots for your feet and a proper baby carrier.

How do you hike with a 2 year old?

Using some of the tips in this post, you can definitely hike with a 2 year old. At this age, I would have a carrier or hiking backpack made for carrying kids. But you can also have them walk a bit. You will want to be sure and time it properly, check the weather, take an easier trail, have proper gear, and have lots of snacks and water on hand.

How long can a 5 year old hike?

This is a bit child-dependent, but most kids ages 4-5 years old could hike anywhere from 2-4 miles and would likely love exploring the outdoors. But as noted above, time the hike properly, take easy trails, come prepared with gear, snacks and water, and keep a very close eye on your child at all times.

Final Thoughts on Hiking With Kids

Hiking with kids is an excellent way for you to spend time together as well as create an avenue for future family outings. Taking kids hiking is all about the journey, not the destination. With these tips in hand, you can make it a truly rewarding experience.

Visit OutdoorAdept.com for more hiking hacks.


Catalin is a writer, outdoor specialist, and owner of the blog OutdoorAdept.com, who has been traveling in over 35 countries so far. He loves spending time in nature, enjoying mountains and nature adventures, and ultimately inspiring people to travel more. In his time off, he is writing hiking guides, and reviews hiking and other outdoor gear and accessories.


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