12 Tips on Hiking With Kids

Hiking with kids can be a great experience. By introducing children to the great outdoors at a young age, they grow up having an appreciation for our wild places. Fostering this appreciation in our kids creates nature-loving adults.

hiking with kids on a trail

Photo credit: Tatters via Flickr


Now taking your toddler on a hike may seem like a feat. However with patience, practice and application of these tips, hiking with kids will become an enjoyable hobby for you both.

1. Hike Short Distances

family hike to a lake

Photo credit: Tim Griffin via Flickr

First off, a long hike should not be expected. Make sure to choose an easy hike. Don’t put any pressure on the distance. Hiking with kids shouldn’t be about how far you go but the time you take to be outdoors.


2. Consider Clothing

happy girls hiking

Photo credit: Barney Moss via Flickr

Make sure that everyone hiking wears the proper attire. Even toddlers who may not be able to walk the whole hike should still be wearing proper footwear. Hiking shoes or boots is highly recommended. For easier hikes, tennis shoes will suffice. Furthermore, always make sure to wear layers. The weather conditions will dictate what exactly you should wear. 

Shop Kids Hiking Boots


3. Start Early and Expect Slower Pace

first summit for six year old boy

Photo credit: Glenn Merritt via Flickr

Hiking with kids will just take longer than usual. Allow kids to create the pace. Let them stop and examine nature if they are caught by curiosity. By letting go of the schedule, you will have a more laid back experience. Just be prepared for a slower pace. Therefore you may want to start early.


4. Be Prepared

backpacking first aid kit

Photo credit: Deacon Kevin via Flickr

If you are hiking with kids, you probably have some experience hiking yourself. As a result, you know that hikes require water, food, a first aid kit and other miscellaneous gear. Do not forget to bring these essentials. Kids are more prone to accidents and scrapes so a first aid kit is crucial. Also don’t forget wet wipes, hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Learn more about safety items you should always have in your pack. 

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5. Carry the Load

carrying the load while hiking with a group of kids

Photo credit: Jody Halsted via Flickr

Some young hikers may want to carry a backpack and share the load. However you should expect to carry most of the load, especially when hiking with kids that are very young. Lighten the load by checking out our tips on what not to bring on a day hike

Shops Kids Packs


6. Take Breaks With Plenty of Snacks

taking a break with a lake view

Photo credit: *saipal via Flickr

Children need to eat more often than adults. Therefore, take plenty of breaks to eat and drink. Eating snacks is one of the things that kids love about hiking. Before going on a hike, get kids excited about the hike by letting them pick out snacks or even making their own trail mix. However breaks don’t have to always revolve around eating. Stop along a cool creek or unique rock formation.


7. Allow a Friend to Come Along

sisters hiking on a trail

Photo credit: DenisenFamily via Flickr

Adults are boring. Therefore make hiking more fun for your little one by allowing them to bring a friend along.


8. Choose a Fun Hike

wonder of nature little boy hiking

Photo credit: JON_CF via Flickr

As an adult, we think all trails have potential for solace and escape. However kids want to have fun. Select a hike that has something interesting to hike to, such as a waterfall or a lake. Even a pretty view at the end may not buy your kid’s time for long. A fun rock scramble or a swimming hole will make things a bit more entertaining for you and your kid.


9. Play Games

children doing a scavenger hunt on a hike

Photo credit: Virginia State Parks via Flickr

Walking on a dirt path may seem boring to kids that are constantly stimulated by modern technology. Therefore start out the hike with a game like a scavenger hunt or wildlife-spotting challenge.


10. Pick a Leader

hiking leader hiking with kids

Photo credit: Trevor Manternach via Flickr

Kids love to be the leader. If you are hiking with multiple kids, rotate who gets to be the “hiking leader.” The leader gets to choose a snack spot and lead the way on the trail.


11. Teach Nature Rules

looking at a map while hiking with kids

Photo credit: Virginia State Parks via Flickr

When it comes to hiking, backpacking and camping, there are certain rules that we follow like Leave No Trace Policies, wildlife and plant safety and proper bathroom etiquette. Hiking with kids creates a great atmosphere to teach these nature rules. All these “rules” are tough to learn in one hike. But the more you hike with your kids, they will learn these important concepts. Check out our bear safety part 1 and part 2 to learn all about how to avoid and handle a bear. 


12. Know When to Quit

young boy hiker

Photo credit: Mark via Flickr

When it comes to hiking with kids, don’t expect to complete every hike. It’s okay to quit when energy levels are low and enthusiasm wanes. Forcing kids to hike when they don’t really want to will not get kids out on the trail for the next hike. So consider allowing kids to control the hike’s length.

What hiking tips do you recommend while hiking with kids? Share your knowledge in the comments below!

Madison Dragna

Madison Dragna

Madison is a long distance hiker and devoted yogi. She completed the Appalachian Trail in 2013 and Corsica's treacherous GR 20 in 2014. When she's not traveling, she enjoys life as a freelance writer in Fort Collins, Colorado.
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Madison Dragna