9 Best Tips for Hiking with Kids

I would be lying if I said my children jump for joy and shout “hooray” when I mention the word hiking. They already know that hiking takes work, requires effort and makes their feet tired. But hiking with kids doesn’t HAVE to be a chore.

If I am being honest taking them hiking is also work for me as the parent. Not only do I have to listen to their complaints on the trail but it requires effort and forethought on my part to get out the door.

In spite of some of these challenges hiking is something we do as a family and I love “almost” every minute of that uninterrupted time we spend together.

Below are a few tricks our mountain mama team has discovered to make hiking an easier, more enjoyable experience for everyone.

Have some favorite hacks of your own? We’d love to hear from our community what tips you would add to the list.

Hiking with Kids: Have a ready-made pack

Keep a daypack already packed in your house

Fill it with granola bars, diapers and anything else you might need so it’s ready to go at a moment’s notice.

On all your packs hook on a few carabiners.

Carabiners make it easy for hanging things that you want to have easy access to (e.g. snack cups, headlamps, bandanas, hats etc.)

We also recommend having a child carrier pack ready to go. Check out some of our favorite reviews of hiking carriers for kids here.

Bring Duct Tape

Duct tape somehow always has a way of coming in handy when hiking. I’m not talking about bringing an entire roll of duct tape, but you can wind some several times around a piece of cardboard or pencil etc. and keep it in your backpack.

We use the tape to fix a cracked water bottle, patch ripped clothing, keep the soles of your shoes together when they fall apart, and can help with hot spots that are turning into blisters.

Hiking with Kids: Nutrition & Hydration

Freeze little juice boxes for hikes.

They thaw in 2-5 hours so they can be used as edible ice packs for your food, ice for boo-boos and they make an awesome hydrating drink your children will be thrilled about.

Make Sandwiches Easy for Kids

For lunch you can do peanut butter sandwiches on leftover hotdog buns since hotdog buns are easy for little hands to hold.

Bagels are another great thing to take on a hike. They hold their shape well in your backpack and also offer additional calories you’ll be wanting on the trail.

You can make them with meat and cheese, peanut butter and nutella or use cream cheese. When you’re hiking with kids especially, snacks are NOT optional. Bring more than you think you’ll need!

hiking with kids

Boost the Morale!

Grab a Stick!

Are your kids complaining on the trail? Find them a walking stick. This is a quick way to boost hiking morale and take your child’s focus off their many hiking ailments.

hiking with kids

Let them Lead

I also recommend that you let your kids lead the pack! When kids have the opportunity to “lead” they seem to have an unlimited amount of energy; in contrast, when they are bringing up the rear their energy seems to fade fast. It also allows them to set a pace a comfortable pace.

hiking with kids

Hiking with Kids: After the Hike

Keep Clothes in the Car

Keep a full change of clothing in your vehicle for each family member along with a spare set of shoes for after you finish. It’s so nice to put on a clean t-shirt and a pair of flip flops after spending the day in hiking boots and sweaty, salt-ringed shirts.

Have Cold Water and Treats Ready

Fill hydroflasks, growlers, or a drinking cooler with water and ice when you go hiking and leave it in the car so after your hike you come back to cold, refreshing water.

If you are parked by a cold stream or easily accessible (not dangerous) body of water then finding a safe spot to put a whole watermelon in the stream is a yummy, refreshing treat for when you finish.

An added benefit is that it helps to rehydrate everyone after hiking and gives everyone some extra glucose. Don’t forget to also pack a cutting board and knife.   

Reflect on the for the hike with some crafts

Getting kids excited about hiking before they actually even go seems to make a huge difference. We love making journey sticks that we take along with us on the hike and (see below) and then finish when we get home. Learn how to make a Journey Stick here (they are super easy!).

Any questions on our tips or anything that’s been a life-saving hack for you while hiking? We would love to hear from you, please comment below!

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  • Stephanie is a South Idaho native but currently lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, Jayson, and their 4 kids. As a family of 6 they enjoy biking, hiking, skiing, camping, traveling, backpacking and being silly. Like many others they’re trying to balance the complexities of work and family life. They’ve found that time slows down when they’re outside adventuring together and appreciate the simplicity and beauty they find there. Find them on instagram: @switchbacksandsingletracks

2 thoughts on “9 Best Tips for Hiking with Kids”

  1. Hi Stephanie! Following your blog and find an informational masterpiece. Thank you for compiling such beautiful content for beginner hikers. I have read many articles about hiking and backpacking where everyone talks about hiking boots, shoes, backpacks, pants, and hiking essentials. This is a much-appreciated article summarizing every needed aspect when planning for a hike with the family. I had tour to Yosemite, California and your tips help us a lot. Thank you again.

  2. Hi! Do you have tips for big hikes with a 1 year old and a three year old? Do we need two hiking backpacks? What are your recommendations – we have an 8 mile hike coming up….


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