I love hiking, especially in the Rocky Mountains. Prior to my owners having kids and being parents I loved to spend the day wandering in the mountains, pushing my body to its limit to see how far I could go and what I could see. A ten-mile round trip hike was a nice way to spend the day.
As I have learned, hiking with kids is not the same as hiking with just adults. With adults, a hike tends to be focused on getting to a distant goal, such as a mountain peak or lake. In contrast, with kids it is all about the journey and not the destination.
Change Your Mindset – Go Slow and Enjoy the Journey
This saying sums up what is so important about hiking with kids that it bears repeating.
It is all about the journey and not the destination.
We have all heard that before and think we understand what it means. But, it is one thing to hear it and another thing to actually practice it when you are on a hike with your family. It can be incredibly hard when you are out on an amazing trail in a national park or wilderness area and take it slow and easy.
It is challenging when other hikers are passing you by on their way further up the valley or farther up towards the peak of the mountain when you know that you are not going to make it that far with your family. It is such a tease to be so close to these amazing places, but not be able to make it to the top of the mountain or to that lake at the head of the valley that the guidebook describes in detail.
However, just because you can’t make it to that destination doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it. Rather than feel like you need to get somewhere, you must change your mindset to simply accept that you will go as far as your family can make it and you need to focus on enjoying every aspect of the trail.
You will be surprised at how many neat things you will notice along the trail now that you are focusing on the journey and not the destination.
Take your time on the trail. In the past you may have enjoyed spending all day out on the trail, pushing your body and enjoying the views. Hiking with kids is also about spending a long time outside in nature. The major difference is that with kids you are focused more on being out together with your family and enjoying the time outside as opposed to getting to a destination or goal.
Hiking with your family should remind you of the glorious times when you were a kid and spent the summer days exploring and playing outside all day.
Pick Family Friendly Trails
Pick trails to hike that are shorter. Know how far your family can reasonably hike before everyone begins getting grumpy and pick trails that meet those criteria.
Look for trails that pass by different features along the way where you can stop and explore, such as a creek, river, lake, or boulders.
Avoid trails that go up the entire way to some mountain peak.
How To Make It Fun With Kids
The goal of the hike should be to have fun together as a family.
Plan on spending hours on a hike with your kids as you stroll along and stop to play or look at different things. Now you may spend three hours on a trail and only go three miles instead of going eight miles in the same time. But, you will have tons of fun with your family in that time.
Stop and smell the flowers.
Look at the butterflies or hummingbirds flying amongst the wildflowers.
Look closer at all the details of a flower, a bug, or a fungus. You will be amazed at all the little things you previously missed as you passed by on your way to the peak.
Enjoy sharing all aspects of the natural world with your children. Your children will sense if you truly enjoy it yourself and then they will love learning all about it from you. The more time you spend observing different facets of nature with your children, the more you will all appreciate the intricacies of the natural world.
Take frequent snack breaks. All people expend a lot of energy on a hike and it is very important that you keep up everyone’s energy. In order to do this take breaks and give everyone a snack – a granola bar, fruit, or some little thing to keep them going.
Stop and climb some trees or rocks.
Throw some rocks in the creek or toss some sticks in the water and watch them race down the creek.
Look in the water to see what you can find in the creek, such as water bugs or fish.
Sing songs while hiking along the trail.
What To Bring
Bring a backpack with everything that you may need for a day of fun in the mountains. Be prepared for anything so that the kids are comfortable and will not be cold or hungry which means the end of your day hiking.
Lots of snacks and lunch food.
Plenty of water or drinks.
Warm jackets or rain coats in case it rains.
A lightweight blanket to sit on and have a picnic.
A magnifying glass or binoculars.