Hiking can be one of the best ways to spend time together as a family. Our family has many so many fun memories through hiking. We are so blessed to live near many beautiful mountains with hikes and amazing places to explore. There is something soothing being out of doors, in nature, and away from cell service!
Just recently we went on a family hike. I was amazed at how fast my kids could hike, they weren’t tired at all, and seemed so happy to be out enjoying nature. It wasn’t always like that. We had many hikes where one of my kids was throwing a fit or didn’t want to go…but we kept at it. Now my kids are outstanding hikers! They love nature and have the best eye for spotting wildlife. And we have a lot of fun together while we hike. Here are some things that we’ve done over the years to get our kids to love hiking.
- Start with small hikes. Go on little hikes that are easy for the kids. Then work towards harder, steeper, and longer hikes.
- Start in the Spring. We like to start out in early Spring and plan hikes every other week. Also, go on more family walks together to get you ready to do more hiking.
- Pack lunch or dinner with you. We love to go up after work and pack our dinner with us on the hike. It’s fun to sit by a lake, waterfall, or awesome view and eat together.
- Bring lots of snacks and treats! When my kids were little, a little candy or treat was just enough to keep them going and distract them when they were getting tired and whiny. Now they each pack their own snacks and can munch along the hike.
- Get a pack to carry the kids when they are tiny. For newborns, we liked these. After they could hold their heads up, we used these ones (with a stand so you could take the backpack off and keep them in it when you need a break). My kids loved being in them and would usually fall asleep as we walked/hiked.
- When they get to be too heavy to carry, you have to let them try to walk the hike. We ended up having to piggy-back them when they got tired. This is the slowest time hiking! They are so distracted by sticks, rocks, trees, and wildlife not to mention their little legs walk so slow! But don’t give up! One day they will be hiking and you won’t be able to keep up with them!
- Get everyone good hiking shoes. When they were little, we found most of their hiking shoes at second hand stores. They outgrow them so fast! Having a good pair of shoes prevents falls and injuries. Plus, it seems to get them into the mindset of hiking.
- Find a hiking stick. When we first start hiking, we used to look for a stick about their height and that was their “hiking stick”. It was mostly just something to carry around, but they felt like it helped them. After the hike was over, we would leave it for someone else to “use”.
- Make sure everyone has a “hiking buddy”. I usually tried to have them each pick a responsible teen/adult to hike with. My kids loved being Grandpa’s hiking buddy. They held his hand and walked with him through the hike. Now they have a special relationship with him.
- Find interesting hikes. My kids loved hikes with rocks on the trail to climb over, and rivers and bridges to cross. It makes the hike a little more exciting for them.
- Look for animal life. As we hike we look for animals, tracks, and scat along the way. There is so much wildlife out there to see if you look for it! Plus it’s a great learning opportunity. My kids know so much now about animals and their habitats and can spot one far away!
- We have a rule that we stay together as a group! If you are in the front and can’t see the people at the back of the group, you stop and wait for them.
- Take turns being the leader. The kids love being the leader of the group so we have to take turns to give them all the opportunity. Most trails we go on are pretty well defined so it is easy for anyone to lead.
- If it is hot, we take breaks in the shade. Sometimes we would say, “Make it to that tree and then we’ll take a break!” Or we’d say, “Fast in the sun, slow in the shade.” Don’t forget hats and sunblock!
- When the kids were little, we had them carry their own water bottles in a water bottle holder. Now mostly we use fanny packs or a hydration backpack. It’s good for them to carry their own water and seem to drink more when they do.
- Be prepared. There are a few essentials to take with you…hats, jackets, Band-aids, Bug spray, sanitizer, tissues, sunblock, Chapstick, and lots of water and snacks!
- Learn the art of distraction-especially when they are little and tired. Look for things to distract them like: flowers, trees, clouds, animals, sticks, rocks, shade, whatever. Nature is full of amazing distractions!
- Bring friends with! We love to take friends with us on hikes! The kids really enjoy having a friend to hike with!
- Take lots of photos! My kids don’t love that I take lots of pictures when we are out, but they sure love to look at the pictures when we are home. It helps them remember all the fun we had.
- Tell stories as you hike. Stories about funny things family members did or that you did when you were little. Stories about them. They love to hear it. Can’t think of a story, tell a joke. Have a joke war. Fill your hike with great conversations!
- Leave nature the way you found it. We don’t pick flowers or branches off trees or take rocks home. Make sure to stay on the trail! Pack up any garbage you may have. Don’t carve names on things. Try to leave it the way you found it.
- Don’t feed the animals! I see so many people out there feeding the cute little chipmunks and squirrels. We can always tell which ones have been fed because they come up to us and beg for food.
Writing this is making me want to go hiking again! I really didn’t hike much before I got married. We started as a great date activity and have continued ever since. We have created so many amazing memories with our family hiking. It is worth the efforts it takes to plan and get up there! How about you? Have you gone hiking with your family? You will love it!