You can’t beat hiking with your kids, especially in the fall. The weather is perfect – not too hot, not too cold, just right. The trails aren’t nearly as busy as in the summer since a lot of travelers have gone home to get ready for school. And, it’s beautiful in the woods in the fall. Oh the colors, no matter where you live!
Now, when I say “hiking” I’m not talking about arduous, thigh killer events that make you want to say, “We did it. NEVER doing that again.” We’ve known folks who hike like they have invented speed hiking or something. No slowing down once they hit the trail. But that didn’t work for us, or for our kids. Then we figured out a few things. Here’s what we came up with.
Keep It Cheap When Hiking with Your Kids
- For the kids, last year’s gym shoes will probably suffice, if they fit. They just need a grippy sole and good laces. Not stylish, but plenty adequate. No bare feet in sloppy, unlaced shoes or in sandals.
- Socks are a must and thicker ones are best. Wool is even better but not essential, and certainly not for the money they cost. Think blister prevention when hiking with your kids.
- Clothing – anything will do. Forget the trip to the local sports fashion center. Just throw on some shorts, capris, leggings, or pants, depending on the weather. A shirt. A light jacket – older is better. A hat for sun. Sunglasses, even for the kids – protect those retinas.
- Someone in the group needs a pack. Actually, each person needs a pack, for personal water, a simple lunch, a place to stuff the jacket. Just a small, cheap pack – hey! What about last year’s school pack that has seen better days?
- Poles or hiking sticks are nice but NOT essential. They can be fun, though, and make the hike more appealing. Make your own sticks or find one along the trail.
- Sun screen and bug stuff in one pack. A little toilet paper in a baggie in each pack – the baggie is to pack it in/pack it out. Personal responsibility.
- Have cold water in a cooler and a high protein snack, like cheese sticks, waiting in the car after hiking with your kids.
- Bear spray. Every adult needs to carry this and know how to use it.
Where Do We Go Hiking with Our Kids?
- Check the Internet for hike options. Ask around. National and state forests have trails galore, and hiking books abound. But, if you don’t want to spend money on a book just Google this: day hikes in (your country, your state, area, closest state and national parks.) Print and go.
- Tell someone where you are going and let them know when you get home.
- Start early so you beat the heat and can get home with some time still left in the day.
- Pre-hydrate! Yes, drink at least 16 ounces of water BEFORE you leave. Thirst makes fatigue and fatigue brings on complaining and whining.
- Choose short hikes of three miles round trip or less, at first.
- Keep the elevation increase low – not too much steepness. This keeps the complaining down and makes better memories.
- Pick hikes with shade. And, think of a destination, like a lake or creek, if possible.
- Set a casual pace and take lots of short breaks to rest a little, catch breath, look at the moss, scat, and scenery, take a few photos, then amble on.
Consider changing what you call it if you get resistance. Hiking sounds hard! Walking, not so hard. Keep competition out of hiking or the “losers” will never want to go again.
So, why take the youngsters hiking? Well..
- It’s fun!
- It’s outside.
- It makes everyone’s lungs and hearts work a little.
- Enhances sleep that night.
- Helps children develop self-regulation skills.
- Could become a new family tradition.
- It teaches your children to revere the planet they live on.
- It is an alternative to the iPad etc.
- It creates pride and confidence.
“Wow, guess what I did this weekend! It was soo cool!”
The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson. The all time classic about children and nature. The original is available used and there is a new version now, too. Great books!