Choosing A Kid-friendly Hike

I want my kids to love the outdoors and our family hikes, so I try to pick kid-friendly hiking trails.

By Corey Hunt
Explore Ambassador

As a kid, the mere thought of a hike would make me shudder. Trudging up a hill only to turn around and come back would cause me to groan. Now, as a mom of two kids with tons of energy, I understand why adults pick the long uphill hikes. However, I want my kids to love the outdoors and our family hikes, so I try to pick kid-friendly hiking trails.



Before you set out on the trail, there are several things to consider. First is footwear. If you plan on hiking multiple days, over rough terrain or longer than two miles, your kids may benefit from a hiking shoe. Hiking shoes have stiffer and thicker soles than a regular athletic shoe and will reduce the amount of ground force they feel.



The next step before setting out on the trail is testing your kids’ tolerance for hiking. My son, age 9, could probably keep up with any adult on a ten-mile hike. My six-year-old daughter, however, will struggle with hiking more than two. When our family was preparing for a vacation to Yellowstone National Park, we started taking two long walks a day (each about two miles) to wear in the kids’ hiking shoes and also strengthen their legs for hiking. Knowing how far your kids can hike while they are close to home will give you an idea of how far they can hike on the trail.


The Right Terrain

After laying the groundwork for the hike, it’s time to begin looking for one. The first consideration for kids with small legs is the terrain. I have found that for a six-year-old, one big hill is about all they can handle, so plan accordingly.


Rocks And Water

Next, our kids’ favorite hikes have been those over water or with large boulders to climb on. Even if the creek is an inch deep, kids have fun jumping from rock to rock, so look for a trail with something out of the ordinary.



If you are unsure of the existing trails in your area, search the web. Our site has a great map feature to show local trails and parks. Websites such as offer reviews on local hikes and most have pictures that offer good overviews.


Snacks And Water

One of the best pieces of advice I can offer when it comes to hiking with kids is to come prepared. Snacks and water may get your little ones to the top of the last hill or to the lookout with the view. It’s amazing how many times my kids’ energy has picked up after a snack, not to mention my own.


Take Breaks

Also, know when to take a break. On our last vacation, we easily got in over 15,000 steps while hiking each day, but we had to take frequent breaks. Stop to enjoy the views and wildlife and take your time. It’s amazing how far kids can hike a little at a time.

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