There’s nothing like summer vacation to get the family hiking, hitting the trails with the kids, especially if those kids are nature enthusiasts who thrive in the great outdoors. Forget the technology, video games and social media this season, and start making plans now to commune with nature, breathe in the fresh air, and simply get lost in nature (ok not really lost, but you know what I mean).
As a mom of 4 boys with an inordinate amount of appreciation for all things creepy crawly, sticks, leaves, rocks, and flowers, leave the structure of the classroom behind as you head outdoors this summer for the best education the real world can provide. Mother Nature surrounds us, she is free and she is beautiful, so stop making excuses, ditch the city life, and head out to the trails you are sure to find no matter where you live. Whether you’re taking a simple stroll down a nature trial in the south or climbing the mountains out west, spend the summer appreciating the true beauty of the world around us (as the kids would say IRL).
While hiking with kids can present its challenges, with a few accommodations, some pre-planning and little flexibility this summer season can be memorable, stress-free, and simply one of the best family bonding sessions yet. To help you prepare for your trek into the outdoors this summer, no matter where you’ll be taking your family hiking, here are 5 tips to consider while planning your trip.
1Map It Out & Choose Wisely
Whether you are a beginner yourself at hitting the trails, or a tried and true expert, family hiking with children in tow presents a different set of challenges. Kids aren’t usually to keen on searching for the perfect trail, driving between different trailheads, or even taking it slow once you arrive at your location to read signs, warnings, etc. All of that said, the best plan as a parent is preparation. Research the trails, state or national parks in your area before you go. That way from the minute you park the car you’re ready to jump out and go.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.“
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Make sure to have your maps ready, plan your route, and choose wisely. Trails are generally labeled based on skill level and you should consider this. Do not take a young child on a steep or narrow trail that is too difficult or dangerous for them. Start off with beginner trails, waterfalls, or other relatively safe paths your child can handle. Not only do you not want to carry a child down a mountain – trust me, it’s no fun – you also don’t want to scare them or place your family in precarious situations with vertical drop offs, claustrophobic canyons, or worse. As your children grow and become more accustomed to hiking or trekking in nature you can “level up”, but start from the beginning so that they learn to love the experience.
Look into the new and popular hiking adventure called Geocaching. Kids will love this scavenger hunt of sorts where you use GPS coordinates to search for hidden treasure. Popular in many of the state and national parks, download the app before you go to find out how your family can search for and even potentially add something to this treasure box/time capsule connecting so many people across the world.
Read More: Get Outdoors with a Nature Scavenger Hunt
2Timing Your Family Hiking
During the summer it is important to time your hikes just right. Once that hot summer sun is positioned overhead no one wants to be sweltering in broad daylight. Early mornings and late afternoons when the sun is lower in the sky are the perfect times for hiking. The cooler morning breezes and the afternoon sunsets are much more enjoyable.
Additionally, early morning hikes often lend themselves to a lot more wildlife observation which your kids will love. Everything including bears, bugs and birds are usually just waking up and heading out in search of food and sunlight in the early mornings, making it a fabulous time to spot some of natures most intriguing creatures in their natural habitats. Evening hikes also have a special feel as you are likely to experience amazing sunsets and gorgeous colors peeking through the trees or mountains at this time – make sure to take along that camera because the golden hour is a photographer’s heaven.
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.“
3Invest in a Quality Baby Carrier or All Terrain Wagon
As stated above, no one wants to carry a squirming, hot, tired child down a mountain. Part of prepping for outdoor adventures as a parent is ensuring you have the correct gear to keep everyone comfortable and happy during your trek. Otherwise you along with your children are likely to be miserable and unable to really enjoy the experience.
While your adventurous tot or young child may love running up and down the trail, splashing in streams, and climbing every rock, nook and cranny, he or she will tire fast in the heat of the summer sun making a carrier or wagon a necessary component of your trip. Plus, a wagon (if you’re taking a trail that will accommodate such) or a baby backpack carrier will also provide a safe place to contain your little on on more precarious parts of the trail, or even allow them to nap when necessary allowing the rest of the family to continue on their hike.
Read More: Go Exploring Outdoors with Veer
4Get the Gear
Depending on who all is heading out on the family hike, make sure they have the gear they need for a fun-filled day of adventure. Whether it is only parents and kids, or maybe even grandparents or other extended family coming along for the trip, everyone needs to be comfortable and confident throughout the day. Suggested items for your family hiking list include:
- Trekking Poles or Walking Sticks for the Elders. Ensuring that grandparents are stable and safe on their feet during a long or even uphill hike is important for everyone’s safety and well-being.
- Protein Snacks and Water. An obvious suggestion, especially when hiking with kids, make sure to bring along quality snacks such as nuts, fruits and protein bars that will keep everyone energized and moving throughout the trip.
- First Aid Kit. Accidents happen – scraped knees, bug bites, and blisters just to name a few. Make sure your kit contains at a minimum band-aids, sanitizing or alcohol wipes and antibiotic ointment.
- Sunscreen. Apply sunscreen before heading out to avoid having to try and put it on sweaty, squirming, sticky kids.
- Bug Repellent. Checkout some of the multiple bug band options instead of old school bug spray that is often full of chemicals. Know where you’re hiking and make sure the repellent you choose wards off all the types of critters in the area, especially ticks during the summer months.
- Bug catchers for the kids. Rather than having to hold every rock, stick and beetle carcass they find, bring along a bug catcher to avoid the inevitable upset when you refuse to put that dead butterfly in your pocket.
5Hiking Shoes for the Family
The most important component of taking the family hiking is the shoes. Having proper footwear allows everyone from mom and dad to the kids to be both safe and comfortable throughout their trek. While hiking in the great outdoors is a fun and fabulous bonding experience for the entire family, it is still often unchartered territory where serious accidents can happen.
Kids out on a hike are going to try and veer off the trial, they are going to climb on slippery or sharp rocks, and they are going to splash in every stream, so regular everyday athletic shoes are simply not appropriate. Further, inexpensive big box store boots are not only poor quality construction for keeping feet dry and safe, but are also a guaranteed way to end up with blisters, sore feet, crying and complaining during your hike.
Here with something for the whole family is Keen. Keen has been pioneering high quality, eco-conscious footwear since 2003, helping families to get out and explore the world. With their focus on advocacy, conservation and conscious construction, Keen strives to provide quality products that will make the world a better place. Keen uses environmentally preferred materials, eliminating toxins and hazardous chemicals to make their shoes safer for both you and the environment.
For mom, we love the new Women’s Terradora EVO. Trendy and stylish enough to wear all day, but certainly tough enough for all her outdoor adventures, the Terradora EVO is faster, lighter and more breathable than ever before. With an adaptive Keen EVOFIT engineered knit upper, arch support, stability shank, and all-terrain rubber outsole for a serious grip, the lady of the house will be safe whether walking, climbing or even chasing the kids out on the trail.
As parents we all know size doesn’t matter, big or small once those kids are out on the trails they will run, jump, play and explore so they need a shoe that can keep up. With a wide selection of hiking shoes and boots perfect for your littlest to biggest kid, Keen provides all day comfort, waterproof protection, stability and mobility to let their feet keep up with their energetic little souls.
For our big kids, we love the Big Kids’ Hikeport Waterproof Shoe with its sleek silhouette and interior cushioning. With a waterproof, breathable interior, hook and loop closure of easy on/off, and Cleansport NXTfor natural odor control, this shoe is the perfect choice for your older hiker.
If your big kid prefers a higher boot, the Big Kids’ Targee Waterproof Boot. Providing additional ankle support, the Targee sports a waterproof exterior with a breathable, padded interior, odor control and a secure fit lace capture system. These boots are perfect for your rough and tough outdoor extremist leading the pack on the trails.
For your younger explorer, the Little Kids’ Hikeport Waterproof Mid is the perfect combination of performance and play. Knowing how those little adventurers like to move this boot will take him or her front he playground to the family hike with no need to swap shoes. Sleek, lightweight and waterproof this boot will keep up with your child as he blazes the trail ahead no matter his destination.
Finally, keep your toddler’s feet safe and secure on the trail with a pair of the Toddlers’ Chandler CNX sneakers. These tough kicks feature a mesh upper for breathability along with a tough yet flexible sole, perfect for developing little feet. With a contoured arch for support of growing feet and increased traction, help your toddler stay on his or her feet while trying their best to keep up with the older kids.
We only have so many years, so many summers, so many family vacations. Take the hike, explore the world, enjoy the view. If one thing is true, kids don’t keep, so enjoy their presence, delight in their joyous expressions and awe, and see the world all over again through their curious and fascinated little eyes.
“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”
– Dr. Seuss
WANT TO READ MORE?
If you are planning both this summer’s hiking itinerary plus the family camping trip make sure to check out one mom’s tips on the Do’s and Don’ts of Camping with a Toddler.
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