Hiking as a family can be an exciting and valuable experience for everyone. Not only will the hike provide you and your children with fulfilling exercise, but you’ll also bond closer together as you experience the twists, turns, and beauties of nature.
Whether you’re searching for something to do around town or while you’re on a vacation, a well-planned hike can give your children an opportunity to get fresh air as they learn about the outdoor world around them. Take on the trails this year with these tips for planning a family hike and have a blast as you explore the wilderness.
Before you begin delving deep into your hike itinerary, you need to make sure your family has the right attire to take on a trail of any level. Prepare your family for the journey by starting with finding clothes that no one minds getting a little dirty. Consider the climate of your hiking destination along with its environment—does everyone need to wear shorts for hot weather or pants to avoid bug bites and rashes?
No matter what type of outfit you and your family need for the hike, make sure you all have the following gear before you go:
Any extra seasonal gear like sunscreen or gloves should fit into your outdoor hiking backpack with ease. The size of your group and the difficulty of the hike will determine the size of your travel pack. A Patagonia travel backpack, for instance, comes in many different sizes that are perfect for any experience-level of hiker. Don’t overpack for a hike—you’ll wear yourself out faster while you’re on the trail!
Trails with options allow you to pick the safest route for your family and can also provide your family with something to do during or after the hike. Most trails will have multiple difficulty variants along with an option for accessibility—the accessible trails will work best with very young children who may have difficulties with steps or roots.
Hiking trails are common in nature preserves or national parks that have plenty of things to do for all-day entertainment. Keep these two elements of a family-friendly hike in mind as you plan out your hiking locale:
Hiking trails often have several different paths for you to choose from. Each trail has different landmarks and varying levels of difficulty. Consult your park guide or website to learn which trail is the most suitable—both physically and for their entertainment—for children.
Older children may want to challenge you or themselves to a difficult hike, but you must consider what the person with the least maneuverability can handle before making the call. For instance, while your 13-year-old may want to tackle a trail with high inclines and a long distance, you have to consider what your 6-year-old can handle first.
Having a hard time picking the right trail or destination? Consider what other things you’d like to do around the park! Hike to a picnic destination, add the hike to a camping trip, or cool off with a dip in a cool spring—whichever you choose is sure to add extra motivation to your family’s trip.
Whether you’re on your own or with your family, watching the weather before you go on a hike is a must. Look at the area’s forecast to figure out the best day for the hike—try to find a day that’s not too hot and not rainy.
Be mindful of sudden weather changes, as not every forecast is perfect. Watch out for puffy, angry-looking clouds with massive tops. These beastly cumulonimbus storm clouds can form at a moment’s notice on a hot day and rain out your plans within minutes. If you hear thunder, bring everyone indoors or to the car immediately! Don’t risk a lightning strike because of a family hike—find an indoor activity to bring everyone together instead.
If you have children who lack interest in outdoor activities like hiking, consider the different ways you can make it more interesting for them. Turning a hike into a semi-competitive game can hold your children’s interest in finishing the adventure—especially if there’s a small prize involved. Try adding a bingo game to the hike or playing “I Spy” for features along the trails.
Everyone in the family needs to stay hydrated with satiated stomachs. As you pack your backpack for the day, ensure you have enough snacks and extra water bottles for every hiker. Take regular water breaks together along the trail and routinely ask if anyone needs a bite to eat.
Keep the snacks light and healthy to encourage a balanced diet and to provide them with the nutrients everyone needs to finish the trail. It doesn’t matter how easy the trail is—any adventure becomes dangerous when dehydration or hunger is on the table.
While it’s dangerous to fully remove yourself and your family from technology, some degree of separation is healthy for everyone. Keep phone use limited to only the camera, map, weather app, and emergency use. It might be difficult for your children to remove themselves from their phones, but it’s better to trust them to limit themselves than to forcefully take the phone away.
Not every child is enthused about a hike, no matter where it is or how long it is. If you have an unenthused hiker in your party, consider rewarding them with the promise of a treat or a favorite activity after you return from hiking and they behave well. If a hike becomes a family tradition or a regular family activity, consistently following it up with something your children enjoy afterward can help them appreciate the adventure more and more.
The most important tip for planning a family hike is to be patient with your little hikers. Some children love nature, and others need some time to warm up to it. Give them the opportunity to grow into the activity by trying new locations and new challenges, and they’ll grow to love the bonding activity—whether it’s a hike during every vacation, or a hike around home every few months.
Prepare for your outing with gear for the whole family from Escape Outdoors and make every hike a success. With a rotating collection of some of the most trusted outdoor clothing and accessory brands, your family will be equipped to handle any challenge of hike.
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