Do you love hiking, but think your days on the trails are over now that you have young children? Think again! You may not be able to visit all of the same challenging trails that you once enjoyed until your children get older, but you still have plenty of options.
The following are six hiking ideas the whole family can enjoy, no matter how old or young the members of your troupe are. Some of these ideas may only be “hiking” in the looser sense of the word, but they’ll be fun for the whole family nonetheless!
Hike the outskirts of the forest
While it may be too challenging for little ones to traverse through steep and woody forest trails, you can always hike the outskirts of the forest in your area, if possible. If there is a meadow or a path around the forest of your choosing, take some time to walk the perimeter.
You’ll still get to see all the trees and flowers, and much of the wildlife, without the challenging terrain. This is a great way to teach kids about flora and fauna.
Choose a fun destination
While some kids enjoy hiking just for the sake of hiking, others enjoy it a lot more if there is an exciting destination at the end of the journey. You could hike an easy path to a lake or river, or the ocean if you happen to live nearby. Swimming is a great end of a hike for many kids, so be sure to pack the swimsuits and water wings!
If you don’t want to hike to water, you could hike to a farmer’s market or playground instead — anything that will be fun for both you and the little ones.
Walk through a country meadow
If there is a meadow in your area, or a country grassland that is appropriate for walking, this could be a great place to hike. The kids will get the joy of running through the grass, and seeing lots of flowers and different insects.
Warning: Make sure everyone is wearing long pants and closed shoes for this hike, and take steps to protect yourself and your family against biting insects. You don’t want bug bites cramping your fun.
Visit a botanical garden
This may not technically be a “hike,” but many botanical gardens offer a mile or more of trails and paths through their nature wonderland. If you have a botanical garden nearby, this is a great place to take the kiddos. They will see flowers, trees, and plants that they may not be able to see anywhere else, and you can easily stop and rest along the way.
Bonus: A botanical garden is a great place to take photos!
Set up a scavenger hunt
If you live in a safe neighborhood that’s great for walking, why not set up a scavenger hunt? You can hide clues around the neighborhood, and kids can follow them to a “buried treasure” —some small prize that’s hidden at the end of the hunt. They’ll get a lot of hiking in between the clues!
If the neighborhood you live in isn’t suitable for a scavenger hunt, no worries! You could go to a large park nearby, or out in the country to hide clues. If you can’t bury the treasure, you could always put it in a box in a tree, or under some shrubbery.
This activity may work especially well for slightly older children who are able to read. If you have older and younger children, the older ones can help the younger ones reach the treasure.
Go on a hiking vacation
If your family has a craving to hike an epic — but still family friendly — trail, it may be time to start planning a hiking vacation! For a few ideas, National Geographic has compiled a list of top hikes for families in United States national parks.
A few awesome ideas include the Sourdough Ridge Trail in Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park, which only has slight elevation along with flowering meadows, the Giant Logs Trail of Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park, where kids can behold the ancient trees and visit the Rainbow Forest Museum, and the Dune Fields of Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve, where kids can run and slide up and down the dunes.
All of these trails are short, rife with wonderful sights, not too taxing and great fun for kids and adults alike!
Sanity-saving tips for hiking with kids
To help families plan for hiking with children, the Washington Trails Association has the following tips:
- Adjust the length of your hike according to your children’s ages and needs — make sure to take plenty of breaks whenever they need them.
- End the hike when kids seem like they’ve had enough, and don’t be insistent on finishing the whole trail. The point is to have fun and for kids to remember the hiking experience in a positive way, so they’ll want to go again!
- Make sure you pack extra clothing and supplies for any type of weather.
- Pack plenty of water and snacks.
- Be patient, and encourage your children’s exploration.
Have you ever gone hiking with your kids in tow? Any tips, location suggestions or other ideas you’d like to share?