Our kids have been hiking most of their little lives. We started with simple boardwalk hikes that were 1/4 mile long and worked our way up to a challenging 5-mile round-trip hike in Glacier National Park this fall to a beautiful hidden lake overlook.
Sometimes hikes are the only ways to catch a glimpse of mother nature’s true beauty. There are a few simple steps to making sure your hike photos are filled with smiles instead of screaming kids who are melting down!
- Have plenty of water — Dehydration can set in quickly even when its not that hot out. Dehydration symptoms include dizziness, cramping, headaches and decreased urine output. Shoot for 16 ounces of water per hour while you are out. Great options are to carry a backpack to hold water bottles or wear a hydration pack. Hydration packs even come in smaller kid sizes and my kiddos love to have their own pack and feel in charge of their water while still being hands free. A simple rule: If you aren’t peeing, you aren’t drinking enough!
- Bring snacks — No one wants to mess with a kid (or adult) with low blood sugar. Hiking takes a lot energy, and you need to make sure you are refueling your body. Fruit, nuts, trail mix and granola bars are great, easy to pack, snacks to keep your whole family fueled and feeling good.
- Wear proper attire — Layers, layers, layers! The weather can change quickly and its nice to be prepared for whatever is thrown at you. A short sleeve shirt, layered with a long sleeve and lightweight waterproof jacket is a great start for most conditions. As the day and your body warms up, you can take off layers and easily carry them tied around your waist. Footwear is key too. Closed toe shoes with a supportive sole are important to keep everyone comfortable while hiking.
- Take breaks — Make sure everyone stays fresh by taking small breaks often. For little ones use these stops as motivators! For example, tell them, “See that bridge up ahead? Let’s make it there and then stop to look for fish.”
- Start small — Make sure the first few hikes are fun, not too long or challenging. Kids who are successful at something want to continue doing it! You will be working your way up to longer hikes before you know it.
- Be prepared — Do some research about the area you will be hiking in before you go. Do you need to be aware of snakes on trails? Should you be carrying bear spray on your way up the mountain? No matter the area, basics such as sunglasses, sun screen, hats bug spray, and bandages are must haves to stay happy and healthy on your adventure.
- Find a stick — Kids love sticks and a hike is a perfect place to find one. They can use it as a walking stick, sword or use it to point out cool things along the way. Just make sure they are still paying attention to the terrain to prevent injury!
You will be blown away by the things you will see when you get out and hike with your family. Take time to unplug.
We have been feet from mountain goats in Glacier National Park, we have touched cacti in Arizona, smelled wildflowers in Michigan and been too close for comfort around countless alligators in the Everglades. These are experiences that you can’t have sitting in front of a screen.
It takes time to plan, prep and get out the door, but all the effort will be worth it. Just take the first step.