Hiking with Kids – 13 Tips for Success

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Hiking with kids is a great way to bond as a family, get some exercise, and explore the beauty of nature. However, it can also be challenging, especially if you’re new to hiking or don’t have much experience with children. But don’t worry, by following a few simple tips and guidelines, you can make sure that your next hike with kids is a safe, fun, and memorable experience for everyone involved.

Hiking is an ideal day trip from many top European city break destinations. There are many beautiful nature trails, parks, and forests to explore that offer stunning views of the countryside. Furthermore, the cultural significance of the various landmarks often found on hiking routes can provide unique educational opportunities, making it a great way to learn about local history and culture as well.

From walking sections of Via Alpina in Switzerland to discovering Scotland’s West Coast trail, or the Roya valley in the French Alps there are ample options for family-friendly hikes in Europe, whether you’re looking for a hike suitable to bring a baby in a carrier or a shorter hike that younger kids can manage.

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hiking with kids

In this guide, we’ll go over 13 expert tips to get children hiking, from preparation and gear to trail etiquette and safety.

Start Small And Choose Easy Trails

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Hiking in The Dolomites, Italy

When it comes to hiking with kids, it’s best to start with short, easy trails that are well-suited to their abilities and energy levels.

Look for trails with minimal elevation gain and well-defined paths, and avoid routes that are too steep, rocky, or muddy. Also, be mindful of the length of the trail and the time it will take to complete, taking into account the pace of the youngest hiker.

Choose The Right Gear For Your Kids

Having the right gear, including good hiking shoes for kids, is important for a safe and comfortable hike. Investing in good hiking gear for kids can make all the difference in their ability to enjoy the experience.

In addition to hiking shoes, consider purchasing other gear such as a hydration pack, a hat, sunscreen, and proper clothing for the weather conditions. Look for gear that is durable, lightweight, and designed specifically for kids. Make sure the gear fits properly and provides enough room for them to move and breathe.

Plan Ahead And Prepare Properly

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Before embarking on your kids hiking adventure, it’s essential to properly plan and prepare for the hike. This will ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable time on the trail, and can make the difference between a successful hike and a disaster.

Take the time to research the trail you’re planning to hike, and familiarize yourself with its length, elevation, and terrain. Check the weather forecast and make sure to pack accordingly, including plenty of water, snacks, and first-aid supplies.

Keep The Kids Involved In The Planning Process

To get kids excited about hiking and keep them engaged on the trail, involve them in the planning process. Ask them to help choose the trail, pack their own gear, and choose snacks for the hike.

This will not only help them feel more invested in the experience but also teach them important skills and responsibilities.

Set Realistic Expectations And Goals

Kids may not be able to hike the same distance or pace as adults, and it’s essential to adjust your plans accordingly.

It’s also essential to be mindful of their energy levels and to take plenty of breaks along the way to prevent fatigue and ensure that everyone is having a good time.

Setting realistic expectations and goals will help ensure that your hiking experience is enjoyable and successful.

It’s important to remember that kids may need more time to take in their surroundings, play and explore, or simply rest and refuel. By giving your children the time and space they need, you’ll help create positive memories and encourage a lifelong love of hiking and the great outdoors.

Teach Trail Etiquette And Safety

Before heading out on the trail, take the time to teach your kids about trail etiquette and safety. This includes staying on the trail, respecting wildlife and their habitats, and following Leave No Trace principles, such as carrying out all trash and not disturbing plants and animals.

Also, make sure your children understand the importance of staying with the group and staying alert to their surroundings at all times.

Use A Buddy System

It’s always a good idea to implement a buddy system, especially if you’re hiking with multiple children. This simple yet effective system involves pairing each child with a partner, which provides added safety and helps prevent children from getting lost or separated from the group.

By having a designated hiking partner, children are able to look out for each other and make sure that both partners are safe and comfortable throughout the hike.

This not only adds an extra layer of security, but also helps to foster teamwork and strengthen relationships between the kids.

Encourage Kids To Take Breaks And Drink Plenty Of Water

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It’s important to encourage kids to take breaks and drink plenty of water throughout the hike. This will help prevent fatigue and dehydration and also provide an opportunity for kids to rest and snack.

Keep a Positive Attitude

Hiking with kids can be a challenging experience, but with the right mindset and approach, it can also be an incredibly rewarding one. It’s important to approach your hike with a positive attitude and encourage your children to do the same.

By embracing the journey, kids will be able to appreciate the beauty and wonder of nature, and they’ll be more likely to enjoy themselves along the way. It’s important to be patient with your children, especially if they become tired or frustrated during the hike.

Help them to keep a positive outlook and stay focused on the goal, even when things get tough. Encouragement, patience, and positivity can make all the difference in making the experience enjoyable for everyone involved.

Prepare for Emergencies

It’s always wise to be prepared for emergencies when hiking. Make sure to pack a first aid kit, and bring along any necessary medications.

Make sure you know the trail and its conditions and plan for any potential hazards. Have a plan for what to do in case of an emergency, such as getting lost or injured, and make sure everyone in your hiking party knows the plan.

Consider bringing a map and a GPS device, and make sure you have enough supplies, such as food, water, and clothing, to last for an extended period of time in case you need to stay on the trail overnight.

Lead by Example

As a parent or guardian, your attitude and behaviour can have a big impact on the success of a hike with kids. Lead by example and show kids how to hike safely and responsibly.

Demonstrate good trail etiquette, such as staying on designated trails, leaving no trace, and respecting wildlife.

Encourage kids to help with tasks such as carrying supplies and setting up camp, and praise their efforts. Show enthusiasm for the hike and be positive and encouraging, even when challenges arise.

This will help foster a love of hiking and the outdoors in your children and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Choose a Hike that’s Appropriate for Your Group

When hiking,  it’s essential to choose a trail that’s suitable for their abilities and physical fitness. A good starting point is an easy hike, and as they gain more experience, you can work your way up to more challenging trails.

When selecting a trail, ensure it’s well-maintained, with easily noticeable markers and well-defined paths.

To ensure safety, avoid trails that are overly steep or rocky, and pay close attention to the weather conditions before embarking on a hike with your teens. Hiking can be a fantastic bonding experience for families.

Finally, Make it Fun!

The key to a successful hike with kids is to make it fun. Encourage kids to be curious and to explore, and encourage them to take an active role in the hike. Let them help plan the hike, select the trail, and identify wildlife and other interesting sights along the way.

Bring games, puzzles, and other activities that can be done on the trail or during breaks. Encourage kids to take photos and make sketches of the sights they see.

Offer rewards for reaching certain milestones along the trail or for spotting certain types of wildlife. The more involved kids are in the hike, the more they will enjoy the experience and the more they will learn.

Hiking with Kids – Final Words

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Hiking in the Alps

Hiking for kids is a wonderful opportunity for the whole family, and with a little planning and preparation, it can be a safe and enjoyable adventure for everyone.

Whether your kids are young or teenagers, hiking provides an opportunity for them to challenge themselves, connect with nature, and create unforgettable memories. So grab your hiking shoes for kids, pack a backpack, and head out on a hiking adventure today!

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Sylvie Simpson is the founder of European Cities with Kids. For the past 6 years, she has been travelling all over Europe whenever she has the chance, both solo, for work and with her daughter. Sylvie is on a mission to help people make the most of city breaks in Europe with kids and helps over 50,000 readers per month plan and make the most of their trips in Europe with kids.