5 Tips for Happy Hiking with Young Kids

1. Plan Ahead

Choose the Right Hike:

If this is your first hike, keep it simple. Low miles and minimal elevation change are key. Show your child maps and pictures to get them psyched about the upcoming adventure!

DIY Trail Mix:

Head to your grocery store bulk bins and let them go wild!

Packing their backpack:

See this guide for tips on what your kid can carry: 5 Things Your Kid Should Be Carrying in Their Backpacking Pack

2. Keep them Entertained

Play Games:

I Spy with my little eye something (color)…, My mom owns a grocery store and she sells something that starts with (letter)…, I’m going on a camping trip and I’m bringing something that starts with (letter)… The variations are endless, get creative!

Candy Sucking Contest! See who can make their hard candy last the longest. Winner gets to be next line leader!

Sing Songs:

If you went to Boys or Girls Scout Camp growing up, pass along your favorite campfire songs by teaching them to your kids. Our favorites are “Ants go marching”, “Down by the Bay”, and “Oh, I wish I were…”. When the going gets tough, I playfully plead with them not to sing “The Song that Never Ends”. They love thinking that they are teasing me by singing it, but I am secretly so happy that they aren’t complaining about being tired or that the trail is too tough.

Bring a Friend:

If your kid is an only child, consider having them invite a friend and their parent to join you. You’ll both have someone to talk to.

3. Give them a Job

Let them be the line leader:

In our family, we call this The Train. I have my two children take turns being the engine and I am usually the caboose. They like leading the way and it also lets them set the pace. I forget how short their little legs are and it keeps me from going too fast.

Look for trail markers like cairns

Hold the map

4. Keep them Hydrated

Have them carry their own water. Kids love to use bladder-style hydrations systems. My kids have a small bladder made to fit in their backpacks, but you could use a full-size bladder and fill to what you think they can manage to carry. Before they had their own personal bladders, we were constantly stopping for drink breaks. This way they can hydrate as they walk and since it’s fun, they are more likely to get enough water.

5. Know When to Quit

Don’t torture your kids. If the hike is majorly sucking due to rain, wind, or heat, head back, take shelter, or make camp. Keep it enjoyable and they will be excited to hike again in the future.