Tips for Hiking with Kids: Little Feet, Big Adventures

By: Derek Vitiello | Last Updated on May 2, 2024

The call of the wild is a call to adventure, and it’s one that resonates with hikers of all ages. Whether you’re new to the trails or have years of expeditions under your belt, the allure of nature knows no bounds. But I have to say, hiking takes on a new dimension when kids join the expedition. The trails become classrooms, and every step is an opportunity for discovery, both big and small. Having trekked across a myriad of landscapes—from the dense woods to towering mountains—I can say there’s something uniquely rewarding about sharing the wonders of nature with the younger generation.

After all, you want them to enjoy nature as much as you do, right? Plus, you must keep your kids safe and sound during the trip. So, of course, hiking with kids requires a bit more intense preparation than if you went alone. However, it doesn’t have to be hard! 

Who knows? Maybe their first hiking trip will be their first step towards a life of adventure and travel. Won’t it be great? You can also read why students should travel at, and you’ll find many benefits to raising your child as a future adventurer. Meanwhile, let’s focus on your first hike. Here are some strategies for hiking with kids you need to know. 

Choose the Right Trail

Selecting the ideal trail is more than half the battle when hiking with kids. From my time as a park ranger and countless personal adventures, I’ve found that kid-friendly trails usually have a few things in common: they’re shorter in length, not too strenuous, and feature points of interest like a waterfall, a lake, or unusual rock formations. These elements not only make the hike manageable for little legs but also keep their attention riveted. The anticipation of reaching a “destination,” whether it’s a cascading waterfall or a panoramic viewpoint, can be a fantastic motivator. Trust me, I’ve seen the enthusiasm it sparks first-hand.

Plan Ahead & Pack Smart

Ever heard the saying, “failing to plan is planning to fail?” Preparation is the key to a smooth and enjoyable hiking experience with your children. It includes everything from monitoring the weather forecasts to predicting any potential need your child might have during the hike. 

Pack a well-equipped backpack with essentials to cover any situation. Hydration is paramount, so bring ample water for everyone. A selection of healthy snacks like energy bars, fruits, and trail mix can keep energy levels up. An essential first aid kit is another non-negotiable item. This kit can prove invaluable in addressing minor cuts, scrapes, and discomfort along the way. In it, include:

  • Bandages;
  • sunscreen;
  • insect repellent;
  • antiseptic wipes;
  • tweezers (for removing splinters);
  • adhesive tape;
  • pain relievers suitable for children;
  • allergy medication (just in case);
  • any necessary prescription medications, etc. 

Lastly, having a trail map or a GPS device is vital for navigation. Even on well-marked trails, having a sense of your surroundings is reassuring. By planning ahead and packing smartly, you’re ensuring your family’s safety and setting the stage for a truly enjoyable hiking adventure with your kids.

Pace Yourself and Take Breaks

Kids have an incredible ability to explore, but they also get tired very quickly. As a parent, you should know your kids best to predict when they may get too tired, grumpy, hungry, etc. So, adjust your pace to their energy levels to avoid frown faces. Learn about the chosen trail to see how much time you need to complete it, and then adjust it to your kids’ pace. 

Be sure to incorporate plenty of breaks into these plans. Use breaks to appreciate nature, spot wildlife, and have a little snack. These moments not only offer a breather but also create cherished memories. After all, you are not pursuing any other goal than spending time with your family and experiencing nature.

Nature’s Classroom

Turn the hiking trail into an enchanting classroom for your young adventurers. Encourage them to observe the natural world around them—the intricate patterns on leaves, the fascinating behavior of insects, and the captivating melodies of birds. Share interesting facts about the flora and fauna you encounter.

Make it a game to identify tree species based on their leaves or challenge them to spot animal tracks. Let them ask questions, and if you don’t know the answer, make it a collaborative effort to find out later. For instance, you can write a paper on your discoveries together. It can be a multi-dimensional task, as they will also master the basics of academic writing, like words not to use in an essay, research, editing, etc. 

Safety First

Safety should always be a priority. Teach your kids about trail etiquette, such as staying on the path, respecting wildlife, and not picking plants. Set some ground rules, like sticking together and not wandering off. And don’t forget to educate them about the importance of staying hydrated and not eating any plants or berries unless you’ve given the green light.

Celebrate Every Achievement

There’s something to be said about the power of celebration, especially when you’re on the trail with kids. Every uphill battle won, every mile covered, and even the little discoveries along the way should be met with enthusiasm and recognition. I’ve been on expeditions where simply spotting a rare bird or identifying an unusual plant became the highlight of the day. Celebrating these moments creates a positive reinforcement loop that makes kids eager to engage more deeply with their surroundings and bolsters their confidence.

These little victories do wonders for a child’s sense of accomplishment and belonging in the wilderness. They transform the hike from a simple walk in the woods to a series of triumphs, no matter how small. Over the years, I’ve seen how this approach can turn even the most reluctant young hiker into an enthusiastic trailblazer, eager for the next adventure. So don’t hold back—celebrate each achievement, because these are the building blocks of a lifelong love for hiking.

Make it Fun

Let’s not forget, at the end of the day, hiking should be a joyous occasion, particularly when kids are along for the ride. I’ve found that a little creativity goes a long way in making the journey enjoyable for everyone. Whether it’s a simple game of “I Spy” to spot various types of trees or a mini scavenger hunt for different colored leaves, these activities turn the hike into a playful quest. I’ve even seen kids forget about their tired legs when they’re engrossed in a game or on the lookout for their next “treasure.”

Incorporating rewards can also serve as powerful motivators. On some of my favorite trails, I’ve known families to bring along small treats, which are distributed when the young hikers reach certain milestones like the halfway point or the summit. This doesn’t have to be anything extravagant—a small bag of trail mix or a piece of fruit can work wonders in boosting morale. Remember, it’s these little moments of fun and achievement that will stick in their memories for years to come.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it—your roadmap to a successful and memorable family hike. We’ve covered the ins and outs, from choosing the right trail to planning ahead, and let’s not overlook the vital ingredient: making it fun. It’s these shared adventures that not only deepen our connection with nature but also strengthen the bonds with our young explorers.

Hiking with children is a journey filled with wonder, discovery, and the joy of bonding in nature. They will have many hours in life worrying about grades, thinking, ‘Should you use contractions in college essays,’ or obsessing over social events. Let nature be their escape from school stress.

So go ahead, equip yourselves with these tips and set forth on your next family adventure. Trust me, it’ll be a journey worth taking, filled with learning, laughter, and perhaps a newfound appreciation for the great outdoors.

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Since 2017, Know Nothing Nomads has cemented itself as the “approachable experts” in everything camping, hiking, climbing, and adventuring in the Great Outdoors.

With over 60 years of experience in the outdoors, we don’t just talk about outdoor gear or recommend a good hiking trail.

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About The Author

Derek, Co-Founder at Know Nothing Nomads

My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers.

Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me.

When I'm not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.

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Hey there!

We are Derek and Ashley of Know Nothing Nomads. Whether it is hiking, camping, or just generally being outside, we love it. We are so happy that you have found our little blog and hope that you stick around a while. Feel free to contact us with any questions or get in touch with us on social media!


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