Once you and the kids hit a hiking trail, the fun begins. If you are well prepared and have planned a sensible route, everyone will have a good time. Not even a few rain drops will dampen the enthusiasm.
Keep Distances Realistic
If your six- or seven-year-old can walk for two or three miles at home without tiring, he can hike the same distance on an easy trail. Older children who are used to physical activity can hike four or five miles a day.
Don't push your kids. Tired, cranky children are no fun on the trail. Choose a realistic destination for a day hike and don’t forget that you have to cover the distance again, on the way back to the trail head.
Plan to reach the hike’s destination with plenty of time for relaxing. Kids may want to swim, fish, explore, or just sit and rest.
On the Trail
The adults or grown teenagers in the family should carry the heavier supplies, such as a groundcover, a picnic lunch, and extra water. Let the kids carry their own snacks and water bottles. As these are consumed, their loads will lighten.
If you hike with a very young child, invest in a sturdy, lightweight carrying pack. Make sure it fits you well. Depending on his age, the little one may want to walk for short spurts but will need to be carried most of the time.
Make sure the kids wear hiking socks and apply sunscreen. If it’s hot and sunny, hats and sunglasses are good ideas, too. Nothing ruins a hiking trip like a painful blister or a bad sunburn.
Stop often for snacks. This keeps energy levels up, avoids stomachaches, and adds interest. Let the kids choose some stopping points. Encourage them to select ones with views or other points of interest.
Pack lightweight foods that don't require ice, such as trail mix, fresh vegetables and fruit, cheese, sandwiches, cookies, and small candy bars. If you bring food that needs slicing, don’t forget a knife. And don’t forget to clean up after yourselves on the trail. Leave nothing behind, not even a bottle cap!
Make sure both you and the children drink water frequently. Even if the weather is cool and pleasing, your body is losing valuable moisture. Replenish it to avoid fatigue, light headedness, cramping, or headaches.
Stop to examine wild flowers and wildlife. Use binoculars to look at birds and vistas. Joke and laugh with your kids as you walk. At the end of the day, everyone will be happy and feel great!