How to Hike with Little Kids


I was going to title this post “How to Hike Happily with Little Kids,” but I feel like that would be misleading. The main thing you should take away from my post today is that if you take your small children on a hike, there will be whining. There is always whining. There is no way to completely avoid the whining. Got it? Okay, now we can proceed.

Here’s how you might reduce the whining (slightly) if you make the (probably insane) decision to take your kids on a hike:

  1. Take snacks. Pack what you think would be a reasonable quantity of snacks for the time period that you will be hiking. Double this. Double it again and add more fruit snacks. Then don’t forget to add extra snacks for the car rides to and from the hike. If you have more than one child, make sure you have identical versions of every snack for each child. Throw in some candy for additional bribing purposes when one child decides to sit down on the trail and refuses to move.
  2. Start small. If your kids are new to hiking, start with a 1 or 2 mile hike and see how they do. Or, plan a 2 mile hike and accidentally read the map wrong and go 5.5 miles without enough snacks. If you survive this, you can survive anything.
  3. Choose a hike with a destination. Small children do not understand why you would hike without there being something to do at the end. Lakes and waterfalls are great for this, especially if your kids might be motivated by such things as getting wet, hunting for frogs, or throwing rocks into the water. The destination is the motivation on the way in, fruits snacks are the motivation on the way out.
  4. Plan on carrying at least one of your children for some or all of the way. Even if they 100% agree with you in the car that they can walk all by themselves. They are lying. Take an additional adult with you if you can to reduce the shoulder/back pain that comes along with this.

Okay, you are now mentally prepared for a day in nature with your little monsters. Here’s what to pack. NOTE: you might think you can have your kids carry some of the load. That’s fine, so long as you realize that you WILL end up carrying their backpacks as well as yours (and probably them, too).

  • Water for everyone, extra water in the car. If you take a hydration pack for your use, realize that your kids would MUCH prefer to drink from that than from their own bottles and will probably destroy the nozzle with their angry sharp teeth resulting in it leaking forever all over your left boob as you walk. Just saying.
  • SNACKS. If you aren’t sure whether you have enough, you definitely don’t. Pack more.
  • Sunscreen. Make sure to bring the spray that the one kid prefers as well as the cream that the other ones likes better and also the stick one for emergency top ups.
  • Bug spray. The strong stuff.
  • Bear spray if in bear country, but it’s also good practice to hike with another adult who has more confidence in actual use of the bear spray and stay behind them.
  • Diapers if needed or travel potty if you are hiking with a small, newly potty trained human being who doesn’t like being poked by plants when asked to pee in the wild.
  • Wipes. You always need wipes.
  • Rain coats and/or warm clothes/jackets if weather is uncertain or if you are hiking to a higher altitude or if you live in Idaho and often experience all four seasons in one day.
  • First Aid kid or at least Band-Aids. You do not want to be stuck 2 miles into a trail with a child who has a teeny tiny owie and no Band-Aid. Trust me.
  • Hats. It’s a good idea for these to be brightly colored so they are easily spotted every time your child drops one.

If you made it to the end of this blog post, you are ready to hike! If you’re looking for trail recommendations or other families to hike with, check out the East Idaho Mountain Kids group on Facebook and GOOD LUCK.