If you’re new to hiking with your kids, you may be wondering the simple question: How far can kids hike?
The answer, of course, depends on many factors – their age, their overall athlelticism, the elevation, the weather, which episode of Daniel Tiger they watched that morning, whether you packed the red water bottle or the yellow bottle, etc.
But despite all these factors, a rough estimate can still be helpful when planning a hike. So we polled the Tales of a Mountain Mama team members on how far their kids will hike on a typical outing. We would love to know if your kids are the same!
Want to go increase your mileage? Scroll to the bottom for a few tips on how to get your kids to go on longer hikes.
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How Far Can Kids Hike?
Below are the opinions of how far kids can hike from 13 different outdoor families including those who hike a lot and those who don’t hike as much. It provides a great range. Also check out this article for another opinion!
How Far Can Kids Hike: Babies
As far as you can carry them (and all their supplies). If you aren’t too sleep deprived, and have a baby who will willingly sleep in a carrier – take advantage of this season. Once they want to walk on their own, your own mileage is likely to decrease substantially. Enjoy those baby snuggles.
How Far Can Kids Hike: Ages 2-3
With my toddler, any distance we hike I assume there’s a chance we might carry her the whole way. Sometimes she’ll do a mile or two. Sometime’s she’ll want to be held. I plan on carrying her, and if she walks on her own, great! – Jackie
My just-turned-3 year old can usually do about two miles, and surprisingly, that doesn’t seem to change, regardless of how much vertical the trail gains! His max is right around 2.5 miles. Last summer (age two), he could only do about one mile on his own. – Ginny
My 3 year old and and 6 year old can do about three miles. My 6 year old will walk much faster, then wait for the 3 year old and I to catch up. My 3 year old walks slow, whines a lot and will have several “melt dramatically to the ground in a crying heap” episodes. But this happens whether we are going to the mailbox and back, or a three mile hike. – Sarah
My 3 year old can probably do around two miles on her own, but at a mind-blowingly slow pace. Since her big brother is much faster and more motivated, she typically just does small spurts on her own and then gets in the pack so he can have a chance to set the pace. – Jessica
How Far Can Kids Hike: Ages 4-5
My 4 year old can do two miles most days, +/- 2 miles on any given day though! – Jami
My almost 5 year old can do three miles pretty easily, five miles with a bit of bribery, and about seven miles on a big day when hiking is our only goal and we’re moving at his pace with Reese’s pieces every 1/4 mile! – Jessica
My 5 year old can go two miles and if I bring the pack as back up, we can get about four miles with her hoping in and out. She isn’t crazy about hiking and always asks if we can bring her bike. She’s still not grasping the concept of just walking the trail. Why walk when you can bike? – Jen
How Far Can Kids Hike: Ages 6-7
My 6 and 7 year olds can do four miles on a really good day. But if it’s hot, they’re tired, or I’m not up for a lot of bribery, we keep things between two to three miles. Sometimes I would like to go farther, but they will usually spend a couple hours playing at the trailhead or turnaround spot, and that’s fine with me. – Jackie
My 6 year old daughter can do about three to four miles. Hiking isn’t her favorite, but with friends she does awesome. – Rita
I feel like the mile per age guideline has been pretty accurate for my kids. Two years, two miles, three years, three miles, etc. Now they are seven and ten and pretty much can out-hike the adults in their life, so we don’t know what their max mileage is. My son went through a yearlong anti-hiking phase around five years. That was hard. However, now he loves it again, and at seven years, he can easily and eagerly put in nine miles a day with moderate elevation gain. If its a steep hike, I worry about their knees, so we keep it on the shorter side. – Valerie
How Far Can Kids Hike: Ages 8-12
So my 9 and 11 year old boys can handle quite a few miles and elevation gain. We recently did a 7.5 mile (round trip) hike, with 4500 feet of elevation gain in five hours round trip. – Rita
My 12 year old girls can easily do that same distance, but they are slower, and don’t enjoy it as much since hiking isn’t their favorite right now. My boys could easily do 12 miles or more in a day because they love it. – Rita
Want to hike farther?
While your 3 year old probably won’t be putting in 10 milers anytime soon, there are ways to start nudging them to go slightly farther. (Or at the very least, to just make it back to the car). Here is a tried-and-true tips we’ve found helpful.
- Try hiking more. Or less. Hiking more often can definitely help increase your child’s endurance, but they also might get burnt out if you push too hard. Try just heading to the woods to play, no mileage necessary.
- Tell stories as you go. TMM team member, Sarah, says, “Sometimes I can distract her with stories (lately she wants to know about when she was a little baby) and this buys us some time and some miles.”
- Go with friends. Unfortunately in the age of social distancing, getting together with other families can be difficult. But if you can safely do so, nothing makes my kids hike farther and faster than running around with other kids.
- Take care of the essentials. You might not be starving or dehydrated after a two mile hike, but your kids very well may think they are. When grumpiness kicks in, make sure they have had enough to eat and drink. Here are some trail-friendly, kid-friendly snacks we recommend.
- Be sure the gear fits and is comfortable! These are kid hiking backpacks we recommend according to age.
Has ages to miles been true in your family? What are your best tricks for getting kids down the trail? Be sure to tell us in the comments!
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Tuesday 31st of August 2021
As a hiker new-parent, I thought it reasonable to expect a mile per year. My daughter has consistently surprised me, doubling her age in miles. We don’t consistently hike big miles, but do incorporate lots of games, songs, discussions and treats. Now that she’s turning 6, the pressure is on (me!) to keep growing miles.
Wednesday 14th of April 2021
My 2.5 year old did 4 miles in the desert yesterday and 2 miles up a huge beach incline today. He carries his own 12L pack from REI with a half liter to liter of water. he’s been out of the backpack since 2 (my back is thankful) - hoping to keep this going!
Thursday 15th of April 2021
Sunday 4th of April 2021
Just took my 4 and 6 year old on 5.5 mile walk. Time came out to about 18 min miles. We worked up slowly from 2 miles a couple months back. Went great. Frequent breaks for water and granola bar snacks.
Wednesday 7th of April 2021
That's great! Love hearing that!