Saturday was National Trails Day. I know, you might be thinking (as I often do), “seriously, is there a national day for everything?”
Trails, however, are a good thing.
So in honor a National Trails Day, a short look at the basics of hiking with kids and teens.
Hiking With Kids and Teens
Family Hiking Basics
When it comes to a lot of good information all in one place, this 4-minute video from Kids in Parks has it all. If you’re choosing between reading further or watching the video, watch the video.
Of course, I do hope you’ll read further, for three of our favorite family hiking tips.
Seek Adventure and Seize the Moment
Kids thrive on adventure, so look for trails with a lot of variation and interesting features along the way. Streams, waterfalls, big rocks to climb, dark forests, open meadows – all of these natural features keep kids engaged and interested in taking the next step.
Trails to old mines or along abandoned railroad grades can also be of great interest to kids – and a good way to teach some local history.
We recently hiked a local trail, Mount Garfield, only because our son wanted to do it. It’s an interesting trail, one that we’d done a decade ago when the boys were young. The trail rises 1900 vertical feet in just 1.8 miles and while the “up” is hard, the “down” is ridiculous. We swore we’d never do it again. But when our son asked, we agreed.
Follow Your Trail Boss
Children hike to explore. Adults hike for exercise. Children don’t care how many calories they’re burning. They also have no interest in bragging rights. While adults often hike to reach the destination and complete a goal, children generally are hiking to enjoy the outdoors,
When hiking with kids and teens, allow yourself plenty of time. Don’t set a firm goal, either for time or distance, and be flexible. Encourage your kids to engage with nature, and be open to detours, distractions and diversions. Let your child be the trail boss and indulge his or her natural desire to explore.
Open your eyes to see what your child is seeing.
And when your child becomes bored or tired, be willing to stop and rest, or even turn around.
Plan, Prepare, Enjoy
Nothing is worse than saying “let’s go for a hike,” and then taking 45 minutes to get ready.
To make your hiking expeditions as stress-free as possible, pre-pack your daypack with snacks, basic first-aid, sunscreen, extra socks, a space blanket, a whistle, and a map or GPS.
Just as we recommend having a good ski boot bag and keeping it packed and at the ready, we recommend having a daypack ready to grab and go.
If you’ve got independent teens in the family, go over basic trail safety with them and make sure their packs are pre-loaded with the essentials, as well.
More Family Hiking Tips and Trail Suggestions
- Five “Don’t Miss” Family Hikes in the Western US
- Endless Autumn: Winter at Phantom Ranch
- Hiking with Teens Can Build Lasting Bonds
- Hiking is Good For You
- Hiking Colorado’s Western Slope
- Parenting Teens: Off the Couch and Into the Outdoors
- Keep Family Hiking Fun
- For Hiker’s Of All Ages: Moab’s Corona Arch
- Grow Your Own Junior Ranger
- Family Hikes at Some Favorite Resorts
- Telluride’s Bear Creek Trail: Family Perfect
- Climb High and Touch the Ski: Hiking Courthouse Mountain in Colorado’s Cimarron Range
- Getting Outside: Family Hiking on the Colorado National Monument
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