tMy husband and I both love to hike. So when we became parents, continuing to hike with our kids was important to us. Taking kids to do anything out of the ordinary can be daunting, but becoming a parent shouldn’t mean giving up all the things you enjoy. Through some trial and error, we have found ways to make hiking an enjoyable family activity. While I am not an expert, hopefully these tips can help you avoid my mistakes and make some great outdoor memories with your family.
If You have a Non-walker/Newly Walking Child, Use a Hiking Carrier
One of the most unwise things my husband and I ever attempted while hiking with our children was assuming we could just carry our five-month-old twins all the way up the trail. After about 10 minutes of being off balance trying to each hold a baby while also trying not to trip or fall off the side of the mountain, we had to give up and turn around. Hiking carriers make it so much easier (and probably safer). We read lots of reviews to find the most comfortable one possible for both the wearer and the baby being carried. If you don’t want to buy one brand-new, Facebook Marketplace is a great place to check or ask around and see if a friend has one you can borrow.
It Will Take Longer Than You Think (Seriously)
When you hike with kids, they set the pace. They also will want to stop and climb on every rock and splash in every creek you pass. Even if all your kids are in hiking carriers, you will move slower so plan accordingly. Assume from the start that you will get done later than you think.
Pack Water and ALL the Snacks
Hangry kids are no fun to hike with so make sure to pack enough food to keep everyone’s spirits and energy up. Also, be intentional about taking breaks to eat and hydrate along the way. Be sure to pack something for yourself too because hangry parents are no fun either. If there is any chance at all of you still being on your hike during a mealtime, pack some sandwiches. And, if you’re hiking with a bottle-fed baby, bring anything needed to feed her/him (formula, bottle, etc.) even if you aren’t sure if you’ll need it. You don’t want to chance getting back late and having a hungry, sad baby with no way to feed her/him.
Know Your Kids’ Limits
Choosing age-appropriate hikes will take some research. You will want to find one that has a difficulty level and distance that matches your kids’ abilities and endurance. Before we took our oldest girls on a hike, we took them on walks around the neighborhood to try to gauge realistically how far they would be able to hike. Here is a list of hikes to get you started on picking the right one.
Make a Potty Plan
Some trailheads have bathrooms and some don’t. Find out before you go, so if there isn’t a bathroom you can make a pit stop before you reach the start of your hike. When our oldest kids were younger, sometimes we would even take a little potty with us and put it in the trunk for them to use before hiking. Also, if it’s a longer hike bring some toilet paper in case someone needs to go in the woods. If your kids are like mine, you may need to prepare them for this possibility beforehand so they know it’s ok when the time comes. And of course, if you have a little one in diapers, pack everything you need for a diaper change including something to lay them on to change their diaper and something to carry any smelly diapers in.
Dress for Success
This time of year, it is a good idea to dress in layers when you hike. Have your kids wear jackets that can be easily carried or tied around their waists. Also, make sure your kids are hiking in good shoes that won’t cause blisters and have good traction to prevent falls. If you have a baby, bring extra clothes for them with you. It’s also a good idea to have an extra change of clothes for everyone waiting in the car. Even if you and your kids aren’t dirty at the end of the hike, it’s always nice to change out of sweaty clothes. I even bring extra socks for everyone on the hike with me because if there is water, kids will get wet and hiking with wet feet is pretty miserable.
The most successful hikes we have done with our kids have been hikes ending in something fun to see like a waterfall. This gives them something to look forward to during the hike. We usually incorporate a picnic meal at the destination to give everyone a chance to recharge and have fun before making the trek back to the car.
Always pack a first aid kit with plenty of band-aids. I also like to pack baby wipes because if someone falls, they will most likely need to be cleaned off. Also, talk to your kids about what to do if they happen to get separated from you.
Don’t Be Afraid to Try
If hiking is something you want to do with your kids, don’t be afraid to go for it. It may be tough at first, but the precious memories you will make and those views in the mountains are more than worth it.