How to Have a Great Hiking Experience with Kids

Kids thrive then they spend time outdoors! Use these tips to have a great hiking experience with kids – making memories and building family relationships.

LOVE these tips for hiking with kids! They are awesome even if you don't consider yourself an "outdoorsy" parent.

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I would never describe myself as an “outdoorsy” girl, but I genuinely enjoy hiking with my kids. It’s one of those parenting things that has really caught me by surprised. This past summer, I even took the four kids up Arthur’s Seat – a climb I never attempted while living in Edinburgh for three years during grad school. Done well, hiking with kids is one of the best family activities you can find! Hiking together as a family is a wonderful way to get outside in nature while making memories of spending time together as a family. Today I’m sharing my top tips for hiking with kids.

Tips for Hiking with Kids

Having a great hiking experience with kids is all about good planning and taking the right approach to this family activity. Here are my top tips.

Pick a Fun Trail

For your first hiking trip, pick a fun trail. Here are some things I look for in trails:

  • Are they pretty?
  • Are they clearly defined? New hikers tend to feel safer on clearly marked trails.
  • Are there spots where you can take a break, if needed?
  • If it’s going to be hot, will there be shade?
  • Is there a fun destination you are hiking towards?
  • Carrier for babies or small children. The Boba Air is lightweight enough to bring along as backup. Thanks for the recommendation, Elisa!

I feel like you need at least three of these features for a hike to be attractive to kids.

Check the Weather

This one might be obvious, but I at least sometimes forget the obvious. Weather forecasts are sometimes inaccurate, but they give at least some idea of what to expect.

Pack Carefully

Bringing the right supplies is critical on a hike! Here are things I always bring:

  • Layers. Nice weather can turn cold, and cool temperatures can heat up. It is also often cooler under trees or at the top of a mountain.
  • Snacks. Aim for protein and foods that are easy to eat.
  • Water. Hydration is really important for kids!
  • Hats. This is especially important when hiking in an area where there aren’t many trees.
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent. We use this insect repellent, because it is supposed to be very effective but also safe. This zinc oxide based stick sunscreen is a great hiking accessory.

Go At the Kids’ Pace

Kids enjoy hiking most when we are willing to take the trail at their pace. Hiking at your child’s space can also open up a whole world you might miss at a grown-up’s pace – like these bees on Scottish thistle that we saw climbing Arthur’s Seat.

Fantastic tips on how to have a great time hiking with kids from a mom of four.

Give Kids Responsibility

I am always amazed at how much better my children do at accomplishing hard things when they have a job. When we go hiking, my kids carry bags with their own snacks and layers. I also give them challenges to count plants or animals when they get tired.

Combine Empathy with Encouragement and Recognition

Sometimes it really is hot and tiring and not very fun to hike. Sometimes it starts to rain and you are cold and wet. Empathy goes a long ways in these situations, as well as recognizing when kids are being troopers about less-than-ideal circumstances. It was raining and windy when we climbed Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. I gave the kids the option of turning around, but they chose to keep going. That successful hike is an accomplishment all four kids take pride in – and one I have heard them remind one another of when they are feeling tired.

Your Turn

What are your top tips for a great hiking experience with kids? Share your insights in the comments here, or on my Facebook page. Do you have a fun family hike photo? Tag me on Instagram!

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MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

3 thoughts on “How to Have a Great Hiking Experience with Kids”

  1. I love the idea of having the kids take responsibility for things (like snacks & clothes). Our son has a small backpack that would be perfect for him to carry items.

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