I love nature and I love spending time outdoors. Most kids love being outside too but sometimes they need a little encouragement. Especially these days when kids get so used to their electronics! Outdoor fun is a great way to have them set aside electronics and engage in the benefits of family time. If you want to get outside but you fear that your family hiking trips won’t be as fun as you hoped, I have some great advice from Mark Danenhauer on how to get the whole family to enjoy a hike.
Mark Danenhauer is a stay at home dad who loves sharing the natural world with his two small children. He is a pro at getting his kids involved in all kinds of outdoor activities. He writes a blog and is author of Jake’s Nature Guide: Rocky Mountains (affiliate link below). You can learn more at Jake’s Nature Blog or on Jake’s Nature Guide on Pinterest. I am so happy to have him share a guest post with us today on how to make family hiking trips more fun. Discover the incredible advantages of family hiking and how it can strengthen your bond while improving overall health and well-being. From boosting communication skills to fostering a sense of adventure, hitting the trails with your loved ones is a must.
Struggling to get your family excited about hiking? Learn five actionable tips from an expert to make your family hiking adventures fun, engaging, and memorable for everyone. From choosing the right trails to packing essential gear, this article has got you covered.
A Guide To Family Hiking
The weekend is always a great time to spend with family and what better way to spend it than by taking a nice hike in nature?
The most important part of the hike is simply the fact that the entire family is out together. It does not matter where you go or how long you go for. In fact, parents you should set your sights low. Do not pick a hike that is too long and have high expectations.
Another important part of the family hike is to make a rule that while out hiking there are no distractions such as iPods, headphones, or other electronic devices. If different people are listening to iPods then even though you are technically together you are not actually together as a family because everyone is doing their own thing.
Essential Gear for a Successful Hike
Before you embark on your family hike, it’s crucial to ensure that you have the right gear to make the experience safe, comfortable, and enjoyable for everyone involved. First and foremost, it’s crucial to invest in a sturdy and reliable pair of hiking boots for each family member. Good footwear provides the necessary support and traction to navigate various terrains, preventing slips and falls. Remember, comfort is key when it comes to hiking, so make sure to choose boots that fit well and offer proper ankle support.
Another essential item is a backpack for each family member. These packs should be lightweight, durable, and spacious enough to hold all the necessary supplies. Encourage each family member to carry their own backpack, as this not only distributes the weight but also instills a sense of responsibility and self-sufficiency in everyone. Don’t forget to pack some handy essentials inside. These may include a first aid kit, insect repellent, sunscreen, a map and compass, and a multi-tool or Swiss Army knife. These items can be invaluable in various situations and ensure that you are prepared for any challenges that may arise along the hike.
In addition to personal gear, it’s also important to dress appropriately for the hike. Check the weather forecast beforehand and choose clothing layers that can be easily added or removed as needed. Lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics are ideal for keeping everyone comfortable and dry, regardless of the weather conditions.
The Goal of the Hike
As a parent, going on hikes with young children, the focus should be on taking your time and exploring the natural world. This means that you may not get very far, but at least the whole family will be enjoying themselves. Remember you are going for a hike with your family to have quality family time and to have fun in nature.
Select Family-Friendly Trails
When it comes to planning a family hiking trip, choosing the right trail is essential to various skill levels and interests. Fortunately, with a little research and consideration, you can find the perfect trail that will keep the whole family engaged and excited throughout the journey. Search for the best hikes at national parks and state parks near you. Of course you will want to consider the miles of trails on each hiking option and what is more appropriate based on whether you have older kids or younger kids.
First and foremost, consider the difficulty level of the trail. While challenging hikes can be exhilarating for experienced hikers, they may not be the best choice for young children or less experienced family members. Look for trails that are labeled as easy or moderate, with manageable distances and minimal elevation gain. This will allow everyone to keep up the pace and enjoy the hike without feeling overwhelmed. Another factor to consider is the trail’s terrain. Opt for well-maintained paths that are not overly rocky or steep, as these can be difficult for younger children or those with mobility limitations.
Next, think about the scenery and points of interest along the trail. Family-friendly hikes often have captivating vistas, interesting geological formations, or beautiful waterfalls that can capture the imagination of youngsters and keep them engaged. Look for trails that offer a mix of natural wonders and opportunities for educational exploration, such as interpretive signs or nature centers.
Additionally, it’s worth checking if the chosen trail offers amenities such as restrooms, picnic areas, or even nature centers. These facilities can provide much-needed breaks and add extra enjoyment to the hike, especially for younger children. Lastly, consider the proximity of the trail to your home or accommodation. Selecting a trail that is conveniently located will reduce travel time and ensure that everyone arrives at the hike feeling refreshed and ready for the adventure ahead.
Have Fun Along the Way
Now that you’ve chosen the perfect trail, let’s move on to the next tip: engaging activities along the way. Keeping your family entertained and engaged during a hike is crucial for a fun and exciting experience. By incorporating various activities into your outdoor adventure, you can ensure that every member of the family remains enthusiastic and motivated throughout the journey.
Do whatever your family wants to do along the trail, but don’t feel obligated to hike as fast as you can. Some families may find it more fun to simply hike along quickly, but others may want to take their time. Do whatever suits you best. If you want to take it easy be sure to climb rocks, walk along natural balance beams, and smell the flowers. Take a little detour to a creek to throw rocks or see what you can find in the water. Maybe you can find some beautiful flowers or neat spider webs with spiders on them ready to eat a meal. Want specific ideas?
Ideas For Engaging Activities Along the Way
One fantastic activity that can add a sense of adventure to your hike is a scavenger hunt. Before heading out, create a list of items for your family to find along the trail. These items can range from natural objects like rocks or leaves to specific landmarks or types of wildlife. Not only does a scavenger hunt keep everyone engaged and motivated to explore their surroundings, but it also serves as an educational opportunity for kids to learn about the environment and wildlife around them.
Another engaging activity is to encourage your family members to become amateur photographers. Provide each family member with a camera or a smartphone and challenge them to capture unique and beautiful moments during the hike. This not only allows everyone to express their creativity but also encourages them to observe their surroundings more closely. At the end of the hike, you can gather together to share and discuss the photos, creating an enjoyable and interactive experience for all.
If you have younger children, incorporating storytelling into your hike can be a great way to keep them engaged. As you walk along the trail, take turns building a story, with each family member contributing a sentence or two. This collaborative storytelling not only ignites imaginations but also promotes family bonding and teamwork.
In addition to these activities, don’t forget about the simple joys of nature itself. Take breaks along the trail to appreciate the beauty around you, whether it’s a stunning view, a gentle breeze, or the sound of a nearby stream. Encourage your family to pause and connect with nature, fostering a sense of awe and wonder that will make the hiking experience even more special.
Snacks and Refreshments for Happy Hikers
When you’re out on the trail, it’s crucial to stay hydrated. Make sure to bring along plenty of water for everyone in your family. Consider using hydration packs or water bottles with built-in filters, especially if you’ll be hiking in areas where potable water may not be readily available. This way, you can ensure that everyone stays refreshed and hydrated throughout the journey.
In addition to water, snacks are a must-have for a family hike. Opt for nutritious options that will keep everyone satisfied and energized. Trail mix is a great choice, as it provides a mix of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. You can easily create your own trail mix by combining nuts, dried fruits, and maybe a few chocolate chips for a sweet treat. Energy bars are another convenient snack option. Fresh fruits like apples, oranges, or bananas are also perfect for on-the-go snacking.
With the right snacks and refreshments on hand, you and your family will have the energy and sustenance you need to tackle any trail.
Hiking Tips for Parents
Before you go on your hike, take a few minutes to do a little bit of research about the area you will be visiting. Try and learn at least two nature facts about the area. Then while hiking with kids, if you see the thing that you learned about beforehand you can share that fun fact with your kids. Both you and your kids will gain a deeper appreciation of the area. Here are a couple of examples of fun nature facts:
You could decide to learn the name of a common dragonfly if you will be hiking near a pond. Then when you see it and as you watch it you could talk to your kids about dragonfly’s wings. They have four wings that are attached to their bodies independently of each other. This allows them to have incredible control when flying such that they can fly forwards, sideways, up and down, or even backwards.
Or maybe you can research a couple of the common birds in the area. Don’t just learn the names of the birds though. Dig a little bit deeper and learn something about the birds’ behavior that is neat and you could share with young kids. For example, you could learn about barn swallows and how they spend more time flying than any other songbird. They are trying to catch and eat flying insects when you see them zooming across the sky.
Additionally, equip yourself with the knowledge needed to ensure a secure and enjoyable family hiking adventure. Adhere to essential hiking safety tips, from proper trail navigation to emergency preparedness.
Your Family Will Gain an Appreciation of the Natural World Where You Live
If you and your family go for weekend family hiking trips three times a month then you will all learn much more about the area you live in. You will gain more of a sense of place and understand how the natural world changes throughout the year. Before you know it you will have some junior naturalists who are ready to start sharing their knowledge of the natural world with you.
By implementing these expert tips, you can transform regular family hikes into exciting and memorable adventures for everyone. Start by selecting trails suitable for all skill levels, incorporate engaging activities, pack essential gear and snacks, and prioritize safety. Don’t miss out on the incredible bonding and outdoor experiences that family hiking can offer. Additionally, there are numerous physical and mental benefits of spending time in nature and family hiking should be an integral part of your parenting journey. Time to gather your loved ones and hit the hiking trails!
Have you been on any family hiking trips? Now that you have heard these tips for having more fun while hiking with your kids, do you think you will try it out? Let us know your favorite family hiking trails!