15 Tips for Hiking with Kids

Boy Hiking

We spent part of our Spring Break staying in a cabin in Cloudland Canyon State Park with my family. There were several hiking trails right below our cabin. On Easter Sunday we explored two trails that lead to waterfalls. Both were beautiful. On our way back my sisters both commented that we hadn’t headed out for the hike well prepared. Each went on to list all the things that we needed to do right before we went on another hike. I thought I would share their tips with you.

Here are the 15 tips for hiking with kids that they shared with me:

Wear Correct Footwear

Hiking Shoes

Wearing sneakers or hiking boots is really important. Depending on the type of terrain you are hiking on traction to climb over and on rocks may be needed.

Shoes that will clean up easily or become messy shoes permanently should be worn. There was a portion of each of the waterfall paths that was always really muddy and wet. I didn’t bring old shoes for JDaniel and had to carry him through those areas. My shoes ended up with mud caked in them. Not all of the mud has come out yet. I am still working on it.

Wear Layers

We hiked several different days that we were at the park. When we were in the sun, we peeled off our fleece jackets. When we hiked under a canopy of trees the temperature dropped a lot, we pulled the fleeces back on. It was so nice to have layers we could take off and on.

Bring Your Cell Phone

If anything should happen and you need to call 911 or the ranger station, you will want to have a cell phone. A cell phone can be a great way to stay in touch with other members of your hiking party. Some hikers may move faster than others. If you become separated, you can call them to see where they are.

If you don’t wear a watch, you can check a cell phone for the time too. I always seem to loose track of time while hiking.

Bring a Camera
Family Hiking

There are wonderful bonding moments and beautiful views of nature that you are going to want to capture.

Bring Snacks and Water

You use a lot of energy when hiking bringing a water bottle and some power snacks like nuts, dried fruit or granola bars. Snack can also be a motivator to get children to go a little further on the path. JDaniel was encouraged to hike until we reached a flat area where we could sit together.

Bring a First Aid Kit

Hopefully you will only need a couple of bandages and some ointment, but if you need more you will have it. My niece got a scrape on her hand that really bothered her. All my sister needed to do was cover the scrape and my niece was able to continue hiking without having to look at it.

Bring a Hat and Sun Screen

I totally forgot to bring these. Thankfully my sisters remembered to. Some of us have children are very fair skinned and burn easily. Hats also helped the kids stay warm in the cold areas of the path.

Bring Bug Spray

We were fortunate to avoid bug season. When we have been to visit the woods before, the bugs loved JDaniel. Applying bug spray before hiking and during the hike if necessary really helps keep children bug bite free.

Bring a Map of the Trail

We really tried to follow the yellow diamonds that marked our trail, but we ended up walking past the uphill turn the path took once. My sister was able to pull out the map and see that the creek we ended up in front of wasn’t on the path. We turned around and found the correct path a few feet away.

Look Where You Are Walking

On the steep or really rocky sections of hiking paths it is helpful to remind children to look at where their feet are going. It really helped our kids avoid having too many slips, trips, and falls.

Bring a Flashlight

You don’t need to bring a big flashlight when you are hiking during the day. It is nice to have small light weight flashlight to shine into the knot holes of trees or under rock crevices. Sometimes you will find small creatures to observe or areas you want to point out.

Look for Fun Things to View

Pumpkin Tree Knot

One of my sisters found this wonderful pumpkin knot on a tree. We were all fascinated by it. The fact that it had a stem along with the body of the pumpkin is so cool.
Fern on the Path

JDaniel loved coming across ferns, moss and other plants on the path. We had read a couple of books on them before we went on our trip. It was wonderful to have him get to see them first hand and to discuss them.

We also talked about the waterfall and the water seeping through the rocks on the path. Again it was wonderful to talk and learn more about water with live models to observe.

Remember Little People Walk More Slowly

Not all young children walk slowly, but some do. JDaniel was the youngest of the cousins that were on the hike. The others ranged from 12 to 7. His legs were way shorter than the older kids and while he tried to keep up sometimes he just couldn’t. We were fortunate to have three adults on the hike. I stayed back with the slower one or ones. One of my sisters kept up with the leaders.

Assign or Pick Hiking Buddies

Hiking Buddy

My sister and I each tried to stay with the kids. We did assign or had them pick hiking buddies. JDaniel got tired of holding my hand or staying super close to me. Having a cousin or aunt that was a buddy made him very happy. The other kids seemed to enjoy it too.

Reaching the End of the Trail Isn’t The Goal

By the end of each hike JDaniel and I were the only members of our family left on the trail. The others had long since returned to the cabin. I asked him if he minded being the caboose. He gave me the most awesome answer. He said that hiking was supposed to be about enjoying nature and not rushing past it.

That is really what it is all about for me too. Stopping to see a slug or centipede on the path. Enjoying just walking together. Setting our own pace so we can enjoy the hike. Those things are really what hiking is all about.

These are just 15 tips for hiking with kids. I bet you have a lot more. Please feel free to leave your tips in the comment section. I would for other readers to get to see them.

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  1. says

    These are so great and all so important. I admit I had to Google where Cloudland Canyon is – looks beautiful! We don’t have many bugs yet but they’re starting and I imagine you have more than we do since you’re warmer!

  2. says

    I cannot wait for the weather in WA to get better so we can go hiking!! We have so many cool places to go but the rain stops us from going anywhere, argh!

    We always bring snacks and water, comfy shoes, cameras, hats, and sunglasses! Awesome tips :)

    From PDX with Love

  3. says

    Such a nice article!

    Camelbaks are a great idea for carrying a good amount of water. I have a pack that holds 70 ounces of water and has plenty of room for snacks, a small first aid kit and sunscreen. I’d have to carry at least 2-3 large water bottles to equal the amount of water in the pack. They’re BPA Free too and clean up is pretty easy.

    I also like to carry wet naps or a couple of baby wipes in a resealable bag. They’re handy for cleaning mud off of hands.

  4. says

    Thank you so much for these tips! We are planning to do some hiking with the kids this summer, and they will really come in handy.

  5. says

    Thanks for the great tips! We have a lot of trails around here but I’ve been hesitant with taking my toddler. I can’t wait to hit the trails at some point though!

  6. says

    These are all great tips. My kids are FAR too lazy to hike but when my son ventured out with his dad {one time, seriously} he loved it!

  7. says

    We just went hiking last weekend. Our kids love it, and we’re planning on hitting up another trail this weekend. My son has a pair of fisher price binoculars, and he loves bringing them along. The kids look out at the ocean and try to find whales! And you are so right about watching where you step. Last year my (then) 3 year old and I were leading the pack and came upon a rattlesnake in the middle of the trail! Eeeeek!

  8. says

    My son (6yrs) like to walk ahead a bit while my younger son (3yrs) can’t walk as fast. I tell my oldest to walk ahead a certain number of steps and then either wait or circle back. Or I tell him a certain destination (large rock, group of trees, mile post marker) and he has to stop when he gets there. Then I’m not constantly fussing for him to stop and he still fells independent. If he does not listen he looses the freedom to walk ahead. Just a thought :)

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