Hiking with Kids Tips & Tricks

Published on May 20, 2020 - Updated on May 20, 2020

Share a Love of the Outdoors with your Children through Adventures in Nature


Hiking with kids can be amazing or amazingly stressful. I do a lot of hiking, walking and running trail outings with our four-year-old. Each time I’m humbled to learn new lessons about how to keep it both fun and relaxing. An important lesson is to be honest with myself in gauging the level of enthusiasm for the outing. A challenging hike can be an ideal option one day, while the next your little one may want to explore at a leisurely pace or even insist on the comfort of their stroller or hiking pack.

While I personally love a good uphill climb and the chance to sweat, an important part of developing a lasting love for exercise is to read the interest level of your kiddos and set your expectations accordingly. Sometimes a simple paved path is the way to go and there are likely many in close proximity at your local park or waterfront running trails. Many city, state and national parks have beautiful, flat trails for strollers or scooters in addition to their traditional hiking options.

Checking the weather ahead of time is of critical importance to ensure you have the right layers for happier hikers. One of the most common causes of discomfort occurs when we leave the house in pants because it is 60 degrees pants sounded, but by the time we hit the trail, it’s 80 degrees and we’re all sweating!


Arrive Prepared! Our must haves include:

  1. Extra clothes or layers, rain jacket, extra socks and back-up footwear.
  2. Snacks & water. Don’t be afraid to throw in some gummy bears or other bribery inspiration. I always bring a variety because I don’t want the adventure to be cut short due to hunger. A granola bar can truly save the day and keep the adventure rolling.
  3. Bring the gear! Bring a pack or stroller. Little legs get tired and despite an energetic start to the hike, breaks are needed often. If I’m trying to get a workout in, back-up reinforcements are key. When instilling a love for hiking, pushing boundaries can damper kids interest when their comfort isn’t taken into account.
  4. Scavenger hunt printouts and game inspiration. We find success often with I Spy or 20 Questions or the Grateful Game. A local scavenger hunt is guaranteed to keep everyone engaged too: let’s find a birch tree, a squirrel, a moose, animal tracks, something green, etc.
  5. Wipes, first aid kit, sunblock, bug and/or bear spray. Always have the proper safety gear on hand; it is better to be safe than sorry. We live in Wyoming and hiking always requires bear spray. Many times I’ve realized at the trailhead that I forgot to pack it, but unfortunately, there’s no flexibility so we must turn around. Double checking your hiking checklist before leaving home is always a good idea!

Also in terms of safety, always tell someone where you’re going. If you’re heading out alone with your kids, choose a popular option, but not one that is over trafficked (especially during physical distancing). Find a happy medium, or, invite a friend. You can be the inspiration someone needed to get some exercise that day. Also, kids tend to complain less when it’s a group outing!

And yes, often it takes longer to prepare than the time actually spent hiking, but that’s okay. You’re giving your child and yourself a gift by sharing your love of nature and adventure. It’s a lifetime outlet so by putting in the extra effort to make sure her early experiences are positive, we hope our daughter derives peace, happiness and comfort in nature throughout her life.

Get out there friends, you can do it. We’re cheering you on!!

Please check out the blog for more inspiration from a list of Ten Tips For Parents Working From Home, Convenient Washington DC Cherry Blossom Stroller Runs, or declutter your home with 100 Things: A Rewarding And Fun Family Activity. As always, we welcome your family's highlights! Tag us on Instagram @gethappyly!

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Thoughtfully captured by:
Caitlin Iseler
Caitlin Iseler, happyly founder and CEO, was born in New York and is one of eight children. Her favorite holiday is Thanksgiving and the chance to sit at one table with her favorite 40 people. Caitlin, her outdoor loving husband, Thomas, and daughter, Hanah, live in Virginia Beach. She is also blessed to be a bonus mom to 2 incredible humans, Max & Elizabeth. Being a mom has always been something she dreamt of and it brings her joy beyond measure. Before starting happyly, Caitlin spent 15 years working in executive search with technology companies, most recently with Korn Ferry. In what seems like a lifetime ago, she attended the University of Virginia and was a member of the National & ACC Championship Teams, a gift that keeps giving.
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