Hiking is an excellent outdoor activity for families – here is the ultimate guide to hiking with children so you can have the best (and safest) hike ever!)
This post brought to you by Famous Footwear. The content and opinions expressed below are that of Clarks Condensed.
I grew up in Colorado, and it’s amazing to me how little time I spent exploring the beautiful outdoors just 20 minutes from my house.
Since we moved back here a year and a half ago, we’ve loved looking about fun nature trails and hikes nearby. Forrest and I both feel strongly that we want our boys to have a childhood where they spend lots of time outdoors.
When we headed up to Roxborough State Park last week, Jack was less than enthused when we told him we were going on a hike. However, just about 10 minutes in, he exclaimed, “This is so fun! I want to go on a hike every day!”
We had SO much fun, and it was such a nice break from the distractions of the world. There was no cell phone service, and we just enjoyed spending time together. We’ve gone on another hike since then, and last summer we did a few together as well. Hiking is quickly becoming something I really love. However, when you go with children, it can be a little bit different than going with groups of friends in college! I think it’s one of the most fun things you can do as a family, though, so I thought I’d share this guide to family hiking. We’ve definitely learned a thing or to!
However, when you go with children, it can be a little bit different than going with groups of friends in college! I think it’s one of the most fun things you can do as a family, though, so I thought I’d share this guide to family hiking. We’ve definitely learned a thing or to!
1) Do Research
A few years back, we went to a family reunion in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Shortly before we left, a friend of my mom’s suggested a hike that was “totally family friendly” that we should all go on. We were all so excited – all my cousins, their kids, my parents, and aunts and uncles. It sounded like a great family activity.
Well, imagine our surprise as we walked on extremely narrow trails (on cliffs), rough terrain, and definitely NOT family friendly trails. I stopped part way through because I had Jack in a carrier, and I was convinced we were going to fall. Everyone that went on said it just got worse. So don’t just take one person’s word for the family friendly nature of a hike. You never know if they are super adventerous! You should also take into account the ages of the people they went with.
A hike that is easy for a 12-year-old may not be suitable for a two-year-old! I recommend looking up the name of a hike or trail that you are going to read about it. That’s what we have been doing lately, and I can often find pretty precise information about the trails and what to expect.
It’s also good to see what parking is like, if there is an entrance fee, and if there are any closures or restrictions. We were pretty excited about it!
2) Know about the wildlife Whenever you go somewhere new, it’s important to know what kind of wildlife is around. Not only that, but you need to know how to react if/when you encounter those animals.
For instance, right before we entered the trail at Roxborough State Park, we saw the sign pictured above.
I just about turned around and walked to the car, because the thought of seeing any of those animals freaked me out (especially since earlier that week nearby, a mom had to fight a mountain lion off to save her five-year-old son. Worst nightmare!)
However, it was actually quite helpful, because I really had no idea what to do if we saw any of those. My first instinct – to scream and run away – probably wouldn’t have been the best.
3) Close-toed, sturdy shoes (even for baby!)
So, I was a little dumb on this hike. I wore sandals. Everyone said that the hike was super easy, so I didn’t even put any thought into the shoes I was wearing. Well, after I tripped over a rock (I’m a bit of klutz) and stubbed my toes in the process, I was feeling a little sheepish about my shoe choice. So always make sure you are wearing shoes appropriate for the trail! Even if your baby is in a carrier, make sure they are wearing closed toe shoes. You never know what you might accidentally brush up against. We just bought our boys some new shoes from Famous Footwear that we broke in on this hike. They worked great!
Jack’s new Kids’ Air Max Invigor Running Shoe Grade School shoes were perfect. He had actually just worn them at his soccer game, and they transitioned seamlessly into hiking shoes. He said they made him super fast, and I think they motivated him to walk a little faster. Oliver got these stylish Sperry boat shoes. We had a pair of these for Jack when he was a baby, and they are my all-time favorite brand when it comes to shoes. They are SO sturdy and last FOREVER.
They also slip on super easily because they have a velcro strap. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m horrible at tying shoes. Ollie doesn’t usually wear shoes, but these looked so cute and certainly protected his little toesies! 4) Quality baby carrier
I have been a number of baby carriers with both of my boys. With Jack, I mainly used my moby wrap. However, Oliver has been a little more picky about what he likes, and if I’m being honest, my back just seems to get worse and worse every day. I finally splurged and got an Ergobaby original carrier, and I don’t know why it took me so long.
It is the most comfortable, yet sturdy, carrier I’ve ever used, and Oliver LOVES it. In fact, it’s one of the only ways he will fall asleep that doesn’t require him laying right next to me in bed. I actually upgraded to a newer Ergobaby carrier a few days ago – the Ergobaby Adapt – and I used it on our hike on Saturday. It was even better and more comfortable. Perfect for hiking, and you can use it from 7 lbs to 45 lbs! 5) Check the weather
When we pulled into Roxborough Park, we were greeted with ominous thunderclouds. Fortunately, the rain held off until we got into our car, but when it started to rain, it really came down. If we had been out there just a little bit longer, we would have been right in the middle of the downpour…which wouldn’t have been very fun, especially for Jack and Oliver!
I think it’s good to check to make sure it’s not going to be too hot or too cold, or rainy. We feel like the perfect time to go hiking is when it’s slightly overcast and around 70-80 degrees. If anything, it’s just good to know if you need to bring a jacket or an umbrella!
6) Bring cash
We knew that we would have to pay to get into the state park that we went to. However, we figured there would be someone at a booth to take our debit card. Well, normally there was! But for some reason on this particular day, no one was there. They had a self-service station, and it only accepted cash. We didn’t have any on us, but fortunately, my little brother had some (and that reminds me that I still need to pay him back, oops!) But I think it’s good to be prepared for little surprises like that!
7) Put an adult in front
This can be a little trickier when you have kids that are getting older and more independent, but I think it’s important to have an adult in front. Adults are more prepared for unexpected events – such as animals – and it’s good just to have someone a little more responsible leading the pack. 8) Bring water This is a pretty obvious one, but it’s important. I brought water for me on a hike a few weeks ago, but I left it in the car, and I got pretty thirsty! It’s important to stay hydrated while you are walking, but it’s also important in case something happened and you may not be able to get to a water source quickly.
We love the Cayman insulated water bottles that keep water cold for 24 hours. I’ve been on plenty of hikes where the water got hot, and it was barely drinkable. This kind of water can prevent that! I have also heard good things about the S’well brand. You can always bring along some more kid friendly water bottles or drinking cups just in case.
9) Snacks without wrappers
I think it would be a miracle if we could go longer than an hour without Jack telling us he’s hungry – and that is definitely the case on hikes! It’s good to bring along something to eat, but I think it’s important to try and bring snacks that don’t have much waste. It’s always a little frustrating when we are out in nature and stumble on trash from somewhere else. Bring things like apples or other fruits where you don’t have to throw away trash. If you are going to bring something with a wrapper, make sure your kids know that the wrapper goes in a backpack!
10) Bring extra adults When you are with little kids in a place that could potentially be dangerous, it’s always better to have more adults! You need to make sure everyone is on the same page about who is watching who, but I think it’s helpful to have an extra set of eyes to watch the kids and hands to hold them!
When you are with little kids in a place that could potentially be dangerous, it’s always better to have more adults! You need to make sure everyone is on the same page about who is watching who, but I think it’s helpful to have an extra set of eyes to watch the kids and hands to hold them! 11) Teach Children Basic Safety Tips It’s never too early to teach your child about safety – but keep it on their level! With Jack, we tried to teach him some basic tips for when we were out, such as:
- Leaves of three, let it be (no one wants poison ivy!)
- If you see an animal, don’t freak out
- Always make sure you can see an adult
- Don’t eat anything off of plants!
These are all pretty simple, but with children, that’s the best way to start!
Good quality shoes – We love all the varieties offered at Famous Footwear. They offer shoes that are great for hiking! I’d love to hear what is your favorite kind that helps you put your best foot forward. They certainly help you put your best foot forward when you are hiking! Tag @famousfootwear on Twitter and Instagram so we can see!
Moleskin – even if your shoes are comfy, you may still get blisters. Trust me, you’ll want something to help you out!
Fire starter – just in case you have to start a fire
Water Purifier or Purification Tablets – this is good to have just in case. Who knows, you might just run out of water when you least expect it, or when your child suddenly realizes they are dying of thirst.
Sunscreen (I really like the Babyganics brand) Bug Spray (here is a deet free brand)
Hats – I’m really sensitive to the sun, and I get pretty bad migraines from it. I finally purchased the big hat you can see in some of these pictures, and it’s made it so much easier for me to be outside. Jack and Forrest both always bring their hats, too!
Compass – okay, I don’t actually know what I’d do with a compass even if I needed it…but hopefully someone in your group can use it in case you get lost!
Knife – make sure to keep it out of the hands of little ones though!
What are your best tips for hiking with small children? Do you have a favorite hike where you live?
Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is currently training to be a Certified Lactation Educator. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.