Hiking with kids is a fantastic way to bond as a family, enjoy the beauty of nature, and introduce the next generation to the great outdoors.

However, if you’re a parent, you know it requires some extra planning and preparation to ensure everyone has a positive experience.

Since our girls were little, we’ve been taking them into the woods and on the trails.

Now that we live in the mountains, we do even more hiking with kids, including our youngest daughter and her friends!

From our experience, and other’s suggestions, we are sharing some essential tips for making your family hiking adventure enjoyable and memorable.

Tips for Hiking With Kids

When you’re hitting the trails for some classic family fun, there are ways to prepare to assure you have a successful hike.  

Well, let’s be real, whether you’re hiking with little kids or older kids, there is no guarantee what will unfold on the nature trails.  

Good news, before you visit the state parks, you can easily prepare for the kid-friendly hikes.  

1. Choose the Right Trail

  • Start Small: For your first hike, select an easy, short trail. Gradually increase the difficulty and length as your kids become more comfortable with hiking.

  • Kid-Friendly Terrain: Look for trails with gentle slopes, wide paths, and interesting features like streams, rocks, or bridges to keep kids engaged.

2. Pack Essentials

This is a great opportunity to print the FREE HIKING CHECKLIST and let your kids get their own pack ready to go.  

  • Water Bottles: Each family member should have their own water bottle. Staying hydrated is crucial, especially for young children.

  • First Aid Kit: Be prepared for minor injuries like cuts or scrapes. Include bandages, antiseptic wipes, and any personal medications.

  • Healthy Snacks: Pack energy-boosting snacks like trail mix, granola bars, and fruit. These can keep kids’ energy levels up and prevent crankiness.

  • Safety Gear: Bring a safety whistle and a cell phone for emergencies. A trail map is also essential to stay on the right path.

Whether you’re doing an urban hike or visiting the Hudson Valley on the Appalachian trail, you get bonus points for making the miles of trails enjoyable! 

3. Set a Comfortable Pace

  • Slow and Steady: Allow kids to set the pace. Frequent breaks for rest, snacks, and water will make the hike more enjoyable and less tiring for them.

  • Interactive Elements: Engage children with the environment. Look for animal tracks, identify plants, or bring a magnifying glass for close-up explorations.

4. Plan Fun Activities

  • Scavenger Hunt: Grab this free simple scavenger hunt with items like leaves, rocks, or specific flowers. This adds a fun, educational element to the hike.

  • Nature Journals: Encourage kids to draw or write about what they see. It’s a great way to keep them engaged and curious.

  • Visit the Nature Center:  A park’s nature center is a great place to learn more about the area and mark your favorite hikes. 

5. Dress Appropriately

  • Layering: Dress in layers to adjust to changing temperatures. Make sure everyone has comfortable, sturdy shoes suitable for hiking.

  • Weather Preparedness: Be prepared for cold weather or sudden changes. Pack rain gear if there’s a chance of rain.

Ensuring Safety and Comfort

6. Teach Safety Rules

Staying safe is ultimately the most important part of your hike. Here are 13 best hiking safety tips to check out before going on your adventure.

  • Stay Together: Explain the importance of staying close to the group. Establish a buddy system if hiking with multiple children.

  • Poison Ivy and Other Hazards: Teach kids how to recognize and avoid poison ivy and other potential hazards on the trail.

7. Keep the Energy Up

  • Regular Snacks and Water: Schedule regular snack and water breaks. Keeping kids hydrated and well-fed helps maintain their energy and spirits.

  • Positive Reinforcement: Encourage and praise kids for their efforts. Celebrate small milestones and make the journey enjoyable.

8. Be Prepared for the Unexpected

  • Know Your Limits: Be ready to turn back if the kids are too tired or the weather turns bad. It’s better to have a shorter, positive experience than push too hard and make it unpleasant.

  • Emergency Plan: Have a plan in case someone gets lost. Make sure kids know what to do if they become separated from the group.

Post-Hike Fun

9. Reflect and Reward

  • Celebrate the Adventure: After the hike, take time to reflect on the day. Ask kids what they enjoyed most and talk about what you saw and learned.

  • Treat Time: Reward their efforts with a special treat like ice cream or a favorite meal. It helps reinforce the positive experience and makes them look forward to the next adventure.

  • When you get home, print out these FREE CAMPING COUNTING MATS, and let the kids enjoy some marshmallow treats while engaged in fun learning.

10. Plan the Next Hike

  • Build Anticipation: Start planning your next hike together. Let kids have a say in choosing the trail or activities, increasing their excitement and involvement.

Conclusion: You’ll Love Hiking With Kids

Hiking with kids can be a rewarding and enriching experience for the whole family.

With the right preparation and a focus on fun and safety, you can foster a lifelong love of nature in your children and create cherished memories together. Happy hiking, y’all!

Before you go, here are more posts you’ll enjoy:

Tips for Planning a Family Fun Day in a National Park

10 Proven Health Benefits of Morning Sunshine