Hiking with little kids: Tips from one mom

I have logged a lot of miles hiking with little kids. My daughters have trekked all over the Pacific Northwest—sometimes on their own two feet, sometimes riding in a carrier. And as a mom who has weathered toddler meltdowns and reluctant preschoolers and little kids who just don’t want to hike anymore, I’ve learned a few tips along all those trails.

Yes, hiking with little kids can be challenging, and you won’t get to go at your pre-children pace. But hiking with little kids is also rewarding and super fun!

Learn from my many trips to plan a fun hike for the whole family—and avoid those mid-trail tantrums.

Hiking with little kids can be fun! Tips for family friendly hikes. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Tips for hiking with little kids

  1. Give them the map. Pick up a brochure at the trailhead, print a map of the trail or hand them the hiking book. Kids love to navigate—and they’ll feel so grown up pointing out where you are on the map (even if they’re completely wrong!).
  2. Let them choose the route. If you don’t have a specific destination in mind, let your kids pick which direction to go when there’s a fork in the trail. Hiking with little kids doesn't have to be hard! 7 tips to make family hikes fun. Ten Thousand Hour Mama
  3. Go at their pace. Hiking with little kids means you’ll be going slowly much of the time. You will probably have to stop and investigate every interesting leaf, and that’s ok. Start the hike with the expectation you won’t get far so you’re not frustrated when you’ve only made it a quarter-mile.
  4. Engage their senses. Ask your kids what they hear, feel and smell in addition to what they see. They’ll learn to tune into the world around them without the distractions of the city.Family friendly hikes can be anywhere - just follow these tips to make it easy on everyone. Ten Thousand Hour Mama
  5. Take breaks. Little legs have to take more steps than you or I, so they get tired! Make stops a part of your hike before they get to tantrum mode.
  6. Give them a camera—with a limit. Set the timer on your phone for a few minutes, then hand it over with the camera app open. They’ll love taking pictures just like they see you doing. You may end up with a keeper—or just a bunch of blurry close-ups of dandelions. And either way, you’ll discover what captures their interest and imagination.
  7. Play “I Spy.” Playing a game that involves them in their surrounding is fun—and it can distract them when they’re getting cranky or tired.

Hiking with little kids can be fun! Tips for family friendly hikes. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

What tips and tricks do you use when hiking with little kids?

PS – If you’re looking for kid-friendly hikes in the Portland area, you might like Camassia Natural Area, the Old Salmon River Trail and Little Zigzag Falls.

20 thoughts on “Hiking with little kids: Tips from one mom

  • May 4, 2017 at 11:19 am
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    How sweet! I don’t have any kiddos yet, but I look forward to the day and being able to explore outdoors. What are some of your favorite hikes in the PNW? I’m always looking for new ones!

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    • May 5, 2017 at 12:09 pm
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      Hi Hillary! I really love Camassia for a super-easy in-town hike. Anything in the Gorge near Multnomah Falls is gorgeous, of course; weekends are too crowded for me, though. I’m hiking Dog Mountain on Monday—the wildflowers are going crazy right now!

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  • May 4, 2017 at 11:24 am
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    These photos are too cute! So excited it is hiking season! (I am a big whimp and don’t like the stomping through the mud and rain kind of hiking 😉 )

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    • May 5, 2017 at 12:01 pm
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      I hear you! Hiking in the sun—or at least on an overcast day—is much nicer than tromping through the rain and mud!

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  • May 4, 2017 at 11:24 am
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    I think hiking might be my favorite form of exercise, and the best part is it’s free! Love that you’re enjoying your little ones to get out there and explore. Sounds like fun for the whole family. 🙂
    Waz recently posted…Pok Pok NW Preview in Northwest PortlandMy Profile

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    • May 5, 2017 at 12:08 pm
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      Oh, me too! We are so lucky to live in a part of the world that has such abundance of hiking trails.

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  • May 4, 2017 at 12:37 pm
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    That is awesome!!! I didn’t hike with my parents growing up so a few years ago when my husband and I started exploring hikes around our area I felt like I was discovering a whole new, wonderful world. It would be great to bring kids along!!

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    • May 5, 2017 at 9:46 am
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      I didn’t start hiking until later either. My kids have grown up with it though and love it!

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  • May 4, 2017 at 12:53 pm
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    The tips are great, but I have to admit, I was distracted during most of the post by the beautiful shots you included!!!!

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    • May 5, 2017 at 9:45 am
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      Aw thank you! I don’t usually bring my nice camera on hikes with me (it’s just one more thing to carry) but when I do I def notice a difference in the shots I get.

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  • May 4, 2017 at 2:26 pm
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    this is so cute! I just took my little one on her first hike, in the carrier, and she squealed and blew raspberries the whole time. I don’t know if she enjoyed it but I am using it as a precursor to many more future hikes. are you not excited for summer?!

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    • May 5, 2017 at 12:10 pm
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      Yay, first hike!!! So glad it was a hit. And yes, I’m thrilled for summer, especially after the last few days of sun!

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  • May 5, 2017 at 9:35 am
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    You are awesome! This is all very useful advice. My kids aren’t super “little” anymore 🙁 but this still applies. I’ve never thought of the map idea. I love it. Going to try it on our next hike. I think they’ll get a kick out of being the navigator!

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    • May 5, 2017 at 12:10 pm
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      Ack, our kids are getting so big! I hope your not-so-littles enjoy being navigators. 🙂

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  • May 7, 2017 at 9:35 am
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    These are great tips! I remember hiking with my kiddos when they were little – it can be such a challenge, but it is so worth it! I’m thrilled that our weather is finally starting to brighten so that the trails will dry out some. It’s been a soggy spring.

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    • May 9, 2017 at 10:15 am
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      Man, it has been semi brutal! But the weather is making me want to be outside ALL THE TIME.

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    • May 9, 2017 at 10:15 am
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      It was a lot of fun! Thanks for the comment 🙂

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  • May 9, 2017 at 5:58 am
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    I love, love, love this! I haven’t done enough of this! I love the reminder to engage their senses — so often, we just get out and go without “stopping to smell the roses,” if you will, while it is completely innate and normal for them. “I Spy” is a go-to for me any time I need to distract the kids and pass some time. Thanks for these great tips. I think I’ll plan a hike!

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    • May 9, 2017 at 10:14 am
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      Oh I so hear you! I get frustrated as much as the next mom when my kids take like 10 years to go a few steps. But you’re right, it is natural for them to do that at their age!

      Reply

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