25 Tips for Hiking with Kids

Author: Celine Brewer

Last Updated:

Before kids, hiking was one of our favorite things to do as a couple. When we had kids, we wanted to share our passion for hiking with our kids. Over the years, we’ve made a few mistakes while hiking with our kids (we all do), but our efforts seem to have paid off. The good news is that all of this experience has paid off and we learned a lot about hiking with children.

We have been hiking with our kids for over 10 years now, and we are excited to share our best tips for hiking with kids with you.

hiking with kids in Canyonlands national park
Canyonlands National Park.

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Top 25 Tips for Hiking with Kids

1. Start hiking with children early

When our kids were 6 and 4 years old, they hiked with us to the Lost City in Colombia all on their own without being carried.

The other Lost City hikers and trail guides at the camps were always in shock to see our two kids show up at camp each day. People were so impressed they always ran over to congratulate our two incredible hikers.

hiking with kids to the Lost City in Colombia
The Lost City in Colombia.

So how did we manage this kind of hiking with kids so young? How was it possible that we got our 6 and 4 year old to hike 28 miles (46 km) in the Colombian jungle over the course of 6 days?

Simple – we have been hiking with our kids since they were babies. We took our daughter on her first hike in Banff at 8 weeks old and our son would have been at a similar age (but who’s to know because he was the second child and his baby book still isn’t updated – haha!).

When our son was 2 months old we took him on his first international trip hiking in Sedona. Our daughter was just over 2 years old and was already a happy little hiker.

hiking with a toddler in Sedona.
Hiking with a toddler in Sedona, AZ.

Sure, we carried them while we were hiking with a baby or toddler. But even while being carried, they were outside on the hiking trails. As they grew up, they learned early that family hiking was just something we did.

2. Hike with kids on family vacations

We live in the Canadian Rockies, so it is easy for us to find new spots to hike around Banff with kids. While we hike a lot at home, we’ve actually done even more hiking with kids on our family trips around the globe.

kids at the summit of tunnel mountain in banff national park.
Hiking up Tunnel Mountain in Banff National Park

Some of our most memorable family hiking vacations include family hiking in Kyoto, Cinque Terre, Italy and even in Iceland. We’ve been hiking around the world with our kids for over 10 years now and have a ton of blog posts about hiking with children.

image of man hiking with a baby in Cinque Terre Italy
Hiking Cinque Terre, Italy.

If you’d like a little inspiration about hiking with kids, simply type “hiking” into the search bar above and you’ll see over 50 blog posts we’ve written about hiking with kids.

image of hiking in Geiranger with toddlers
Hiking Geiranger, Norway.

Read More

For even more ideas visit this post for some of the best hikes around the world with kids.

3. Get a good hiking carrier for toddlers and babies

If you are just starting out hiking with a toddler (or even a baby), get a good hiking carrier that’s comfortable for long stretches of time.

If you are hiking with a toddler or small child, but want them to do more walking, bring a toddler carrier that you can hide in your backpack. Don’t let your toddler know you have it, or they’ll stop hiking and start asking to be carried. But it’s still a good idea to bring a toddler carrier, just in case.

We loved our Deuter Kid Comfort hiking backpack to carry our kids as babies and toddlers. In fact, we liked the Deuter so much we bought one for each kid. This quality hiking carrier is adjustable to either parent and has plenty of space for a hydration bladder, hiking snacks, diapers, etc.

image of woman hiking with toddler in childrens hiking carrier in Alesund norway
Family hiking in Alesund, Norway.

4. Bring plenty of healthy snacks while hiking for the kids

We never go hiking with kids without a daybag full of hiking snacks. Kids expend a lot of energy while hiking and some good snacks will help keep their energy levels up and whining levels down.

snacks are an important part of hiking with kids .
Snack time in Utah.

5. Take plenty of breaks hiking with kids

Plan on taking a lot of breaks while hiking with kids. Curious by nature, hiking kids will always want to stop and explore.

Without fail, kids who are hiking will want to climb on the rocks and watch the ants cross the trail. Let them have some fun on every family hiking adventure, because that’s what will get them to want to come hiking again.

a  boy hiking in utah.
Hiking near Bryce Canyon with Kids

6. Don’t expect your kids to hike at an adult’s pace

Hiking with children takes 2-3 times as long as it does without them. Between having smaller legs, and an insatiable desire to explore and climb, kids are just slower hikers than adults. And that’s ok – just plan to take longer when you are hiking with your kids.

hiking with toddler

7. Hike with other families

This is one of our favorite tips for hiking with kids! You’ll be shocked how much faster your kids hike when they are around other kids.

Our kids practically ran the entire Northgate Peaks Trail in Zion National Park, just to keep up with two older kids. Without those older kids, that hike would have been so much slower.

image of kids hiking in Zion National Park
Our kids making new hiking friends in Zion National Park.

8. Build up to longer hikes with kids

If you are just starting out hiking with kids, it’s ok to start with short distances. Take the time to get your kids used to walking. Have them walk to a nearby playground and do it several times a week.

Gradually build up the distance they walk. Then take your kids on a really short hike. Then build from there. The important thing is do have them doing it consistently.

capitol reef national park with kids
Setting personal records hiking in Capitol Reef National Park.

9. Celebrate the wins, even the small wins

Keep encouraging your children on hikes and tell them how great they are doing.

A trick which worked well for us is to track the number of steps or miles they’ve hiked so they can be proud of themselves. We once created a Mileage Chart and when the kids had reached their distance goal (over several hikes) we gave them a prize.

10. Carry little kids on long hikes

When our kids were too young to go on long hikes, we carried them on our family hikes. In fact, while our kids were young, we got to enjoy the same level of hiking as we did before kids.

Of course, your kids will get tired of being carried and want to walk. Give them a chance to walk – every step they take now makes them a better hiker later. You can make up the time when you are carrying them again.

image of toddlers in hiking carrier for kids

11. Challenge your kids

We were amazed when our kids hiked the entire Frying Pan to Cassidy Arch hike in Capitol Reef National Park. We were unsure if our kids could hike the entire distance, but they did it.

We made sure they knew how proud of them we were. That was a real eye opener to what they are really capable of… especially when they ended the long hike with a game of tag!

hiking with kids on the frying pan hiking trail in capitol reef utah

12. Treats, treats and more treats!

In addition to the healthy, high-energy snacks, don’t be afraid to bring along some treats for your kids. It’s a great way to entice your kids while hiking to reach the end of the hiking trail.

13. Keep things fun with games to play on a hike

Try to have some fun hiking games ready to play with your kids, like these fun scavenger hunt cards. We usually find playing tag or hide and seek are good hiking games for kids. We also play games like I Spy and guessing animals or colors (or anything else we can think of).

I speak from experience when I say, it will be much more effective if you are in on the hiking games with your kids too.

image of kids playing hiking games.

14. Help them be proud of their accomplishments

While on a hike with your kids, let them stop to talk to other hikers, who I guarantee will be impressed by them and won’t hesitate to tell them.

Our kids get stopped on the trail all the time by other hikers. They always want to talk to the kids and tell them how impressed they are that they are out there hiking.

hiking with kids in utah
Hiking builds confidence in small children!

15. Take pictures or better yet, let them take pictures

Taking pictures on hikes is a great activity to help teach kids to appreciate nature while not destroying it by picking flowers, etc.

We let the kids take pictures on family hikes, but we limit the time they get with their camera just to keep them moving forward. We might even use their cameras as their reward to get to certain points on the hike or distances.

a girl taking picture on hiking trail

16. Learn hiking songs for kids

Sing songs on the hike with your kids. Especially if one of your children isn’t in a great mood or needs a pick me up. One of these great hiking songs for kids is bound to put a smile on their face.

17. Get them proper hiking gear for kids

Not only is having the right hiking gear for kids important, it will help get your kids excited about hiking. Buy your kids real hiking boots like yours and they will get excited to go hiking with you.

We love the waterproof hiking boots for kids by Keen. They really do make a difference for your kids when hiking on slippery trails. For hikes with streams to play in, these sandals for active kids are a perfect choice.

You could also get your child their very own kids hiking backpack or a CamelBak hiking backpack made for kids.

image of kids hiking boots
Our son modeling his Keen hiking boots by the Harry Potter bridge in Scotland.

Read More

Before you go hiking with your kids, be sure to read our post on our recommended hiking gear for kids.

18. Be prepared with extra gear

You may not have to carry your kids on a hike, but you’ll still need a good hiking pack to carry all their stuff.

It’s worth it to bring extra hiking gear for the kids to keep everyone comfortable on your family hikes. This could be kids rain gear, hiking hats, mitts or an extra sweater.

two kids on large log that has coins pushed into the end of it in Tay Forest Park Scotland.

19. Keep it interesting with new family friendly hikes

Try different kid friendly hikes in different locations. Hike to a waterfall one week then to a viewpoint another week.

Vary the lengths and difficult of your hikes with kids too. On low energy days find an easy hike for kids with a good payoff.

Don’t be afraid to choose hikes for kids that are just fun for them! Running around Goblin Valley State Park with kids is the perfect example of that.

two kids playing while hiking at goblin state valley park in utah.
Goblin Valley was a great family hike in Utah.

20. Teach them about nature

Kids are very curious. Hiking with kids is the perfect time to teach them about the plants, animals and insects you’ll encounter along the way. A nature book will also help keep kids interested on your family hikes.

hiking with kids teaches them about nature

21. Let your kids choose the hike

If your kids have a part in making the plan, they’ll be much more invested in the family outing. We’ve found that hiking with kids is much easier when they are excited about the hiking trail they picked themselves.

22. Repeat your most loved hikes over and over

While it’s fun to try new hikes with kids, sometimes the old standards are good too. We have a short hike near our home that our kids are always up for.

I can’t explain why our kids love this hike, yet are hesitant about other kid-friendly hikes. My guess is that it’s because they know exactly what to expect. They know how long the hike takes, they know there’s a stop at a picnic table for a snack and they know the end portion is a fun run down a hill.

a mother holding child on easy hiking trail in Canada

23. It’s ok to turn back

I always struggle with this one, but it’s ok to not finish a hike with your kids. If everyone isn’t feeling up for it, don’t force it. Celebrate what you did accomplish and make note to try the hike again on another day.

It’s against our nature, but we’ve turned back so many times while hiking with our kids. Sometimes it was because we misjudged how long the hike was going to take, or because we had some safety concerns with the kids.

We encourage you to adjust your hikes to suit your family too. For example, when we hiked the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye, we didn’t do the full loop because we didn’t feel it was safe to have the kids hiking up on the ridge in the strong winds.

Instead we just did Quiraing with our kids as an out and back and we are happy we did. Taking unnecessary risks while hiking with kids is never a good idea.

image of hiking Quiraing with kids on Isle of Skye.

There’s a beautiful hike near our home that goes to a lake, but we know it’s a bit far for the kids. As a compromise, we hike with with our kids to an incredible viewpoint along the trail instead. From there the kids love the run back down.

We know our kids will hike to the lake one day – in the meantime, we keep hiking fun and positive.

image to two kids winter hiking in Kananaskis, Canada.

24. The most important tip for hiking with kids to hike is to just get out and do it

I mentioned this above, but it’s worth saying again. The best way to get your kids to hike is to hike with your kids consistently. Getting out on family hikes often will not only help build strength, but your kids will learn this is an important part of being in your family.

image of two kids hiking along one of the best hikes with kids in utah.

25. Believe in your kids

Hiking with our kids always teaches me never to underestimate them. Your kids are capable of far more than you think. If you give your kids a chance, I have no doubt you’ll be impressed!

hiking with kids in Valle de Bravo Mexico

How to Find the Best Hikes for Kids

There are many great resources for finding family hikes in an area. Even blogs like our own are great for getting info from other parents who have done the hike with kids.

We typically start by using AllTrails to narrow down the options in the area. We also will do internet research to see if anyone has written a blog post about it.

We have a general idea of how far our kids are capable of hiking and what type of elevation gain they have done in the past. We use this to make a judgement call on all our family hikes.

hiking with kids = delicate arch trail in utah

How do you know what your kids are capable of when it comes to choosing the best hiking trails for kids? You can only find this out by trial and error.

Start with kid-friendly trails with shorter distances and build from there. Don’t be afraid of a little elevation gain too. We’ve found that our kids often do very well climbing hills or on stairs.

If you aren’t hiking with your kids frequently, make note of the hikes you’ve done and include not only the distance but the elevation gain too. You can track these on your phone so you can refer back to them at any time.

Dobongsan Trail Map on AllTrails

AllTrails Map

We use the AllTrails app to plan and record all of our family hikes at home and around the world.

image of two kids sitting beside each other along hiking trail in Canyonlands national park utah

As you can see we are quite passionate about hiking with our family. We’ve developed these tips for hiking with kids over a 10 year period and we hope they will help your family have as much fun hiking together as we have!

image of hiking with children in utah with text overlay of everything you need to know about hiking with kids
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Celine Brewer is a dedicated family travel blogger with a profound passion for helping families create unforgettable adventures together. Her blog blends captivating travel narratives with practical tips for family-friendly destinations and enjoying active travel with kids. As a mother of two, she understands the unique challenges of traveling with children and offers valuable insights to empower parents.

When Celine isn't traveling with her husband and two kids, she's either working on one of her three travel sites (Family Can Travel, Baby Can Travel and Travel Banff Canada) or out enjoying the majestic Canadian Rockies her family calls home.