Special Note: I am just getting started with this page, but look for it to be a great central resource page with links out to any other information you’ll need to help you enjoy some great hiking experiences with your family.
Here’s the deal about hiking… Hiking does not need to be some big adventure. Hiking could be no more than going out to your local park and walking down to the river with your kids or taking a stroll around a half mile paved path through your local park. It can also be a day hike. The point is, you should get out and do it. Start with some easy stuff and work your way into it and make it fun for the kids.
If you are just taking local strolls through the park, then you don’t really need any special gear.
However, here are a few things that we have found useful in hiking with our kids over the years when adventuring out on some short trails.
We’ve had good experience with both Kelty and Sherpani Child Carriers and found one of ours on Craig’s List and the other at a local community sale. The Sherpani was lighter, but had less adjustment than the Kelty. The Kelty had a removable backpack which was nice. I don’t know if Sherpani even makes the packs anymore either.
The Camelbak Mini M.U.L.E hydration packs have been great for our kids to carry their own water and a couple snacks. They feel like they are a big time hiker with their own pack, water and snacks. They are not the cheapest things out there, but if you can get and keep your kids enthused about hiking, you will get to go more often.
We’ve tried all kinds of shoes for everything, including everyday walking, running and hiking and I have a few opinions on shoes and taking care of your feet. Bad shoes can really mess up more than just your feet. I am personal trainer and fitness coach and have some knowledge with my own experience regarding muscle adaptations and how shoe design can make impacts all they way up through your hips. All that being said, if you are going to spend good money on 1 thing for a good hiking experience… Spend it on decent shoes.
At any rate, these are the shoes my wife and I wear for hiking and are our everyday go to shoes. They are pricey, but they are the best shoe that I have owned. They are on sale at REI right now as well. By the way, I have become a big fan of REI for shoes over the last few years. REI has a pretty awesome return policy and a good quality selection.
Get a picture to remember the hike. Your kids may not remember the actual hike later, but if you have a couple pictures of them on the hike that they can look at down the road, they will be excited to do it again. Kids like seeing pictures of themselves and we have found that with a couple pictures of them on the hike, they will talk about it for years to come and might actually remember it. Our oldest who is now 8 still talks about that hike he did with me all on his own in Texas, before he turned 2.
Side Note: Don’t spend the entire hike taking pictures. Take a few good pictures to serve as a memory and then enjoy your family and outdoors.
Hiking With Kids
Bottom, line you have to find a way to make it fun and here are a few things that we have found…
Hike To A Destination
- Don’t just hike a loop through the woods with nothing to see. This is great for adults to just get out in nature, but kids will not appreciate it like you do. Hike to something like a stream, waterfall, river, lake, overlook or something that the kids can get excited about. They need a destination or a goal or all you are going to hear is; “are we done yet?” You may still hear, “are we there yet?”, but at least they will understand the reason for the hike once they arrive at the destination.
Start off with small hikes and ease them into it
This is for the Dad’s. We like to conquer the world, but don’t ruin it for yourself or it will be the last hike you talk your family into. I think that is enough said.
Try something local first
Don’t drive hours in search of the coolest hike. If you are just getting started, then find a local park that has a pond or little stream that you can hike to or around to get started. If you are going to drive a ways, you better have one heck of a cool thing for your kids to see. Otherwise, like I said above, it will be the last hike you go on. Not to mention; wifes are not real fond on long car rides either.
Our Top Five Family Friendly Hikes
This will obviously change over time as we cover more hikes and maybe in the near future as I work to put together my own hiking and trail reviews and jog my memory of another good one.
Dinosaur Valley State Park – Texas
- Blue Hole Trail
Arches National Park – Utah
- The Windows Trail
Enchanted Rock – Texas
- Summit Trail
Starved Rock State Park – Illinois
- Ottawa Canyon and Kaskaskia Canyon
Grand Portage State Park – Minnesota
- Falls Trail to High Falls