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Hiking with Kids: Trip Reporters' Tips, Tricks and Snacks

Posted by Jessi Loerch at Aug 08, 2022 12:00 PM |

We reached out to three regular trip reporters who get out with their kids to hear about why they write trip reports, why they like hiking with kids and, of course, their favorite on-trail snacks and games.

Hiking with kids is a lot like doing most things with kids: often really joyous and sometimes exhausting. And, like a lot of things with parenting, it's better when you have a community. Luckily, WTA has a built-in community of folks who hike with kids, and you can find them in our trip reports.

We reached out to three regular trip reporters who get out with their kids to hear about why they write trip reports, why they like hiking with kids and, of course, their favorite on-trail snacks and games.   

Why do you enjoy hiking with kids?

Kevin: Hiking with kids is like hiking with hobbits — you need second breakfast, second lunch, and elevenses. There are many advantages to hiking with kids that you don’t always get when walking longer distances. The benefits of a slow deliberate walk through a forest or alpine environment have been linked to lower heart rate and blood pressure and increased immune system activity.

Luke: Kids help us appreciate simple things or smaller things that we might overlook. When I'm hiking with my kids we stop to appreciate the rings on logs, interesting rocks, mushrooms and flowers that I would just blow by on my own. It's fun and refreshing to take a step back and slow down.

Sara: Many of the reasons I hike with my daughter are the same as why I like to hike for me. It's a good exercise; it's a practice in mindfulness. The learning piece is very important for me. Kids are the next stewards of our land, and what better way to teach her about things like leaving no trace.

Two kids run on a trail in a grassy field with a wide view.
Photo by Kevin Shipe. 

What tips do you have for other folks wanting to hike with kids?

Kevin: Hiking with other kids and cousins is a great motivator as is having a favorite food or snack along to encourage perseverance. I would recommend to parents that aren’t yet comfortable in the outdoors to find a group like Hike It Baby or one of the groups out there for the BIPOC community because our wild spaces are too often White spaces and not welcoming to people of color and women. The often toxic masculinity of hiking culture is not something I want to expose my kids to. Encouraging everyone to share the outdoors respectfully while abiding by LNT principles is where we need to focus our work right now and kids are especially receptive to these ideas.

Luke: Start slow and set the right expectations, and find the small, interesting things! I've learned through repeated, painful experiences that my kids don't care much about sweeping mountain views. They love things that are closer in: old-growth trees, cool rocks they can touch, interesting flowers and waterfalls. They like hiking to lakes where they can toss rocks and watch frogs. Find small hikes that will be easy fun and then build slowly from there.

Sara: Take it slow and be flexible! Eleventh essentials are snacks, snacks and more snacks. Something I almost always forget is to bring an extra pair of clothes, socks, shoes or towels for the ride back home. It's always a good idea to try and find hikes with a serious buy-in for kids. Find what motivates them and use that. Depending on the age of the kiddo, let them help you decide on hikes or snacks or do the planning.

A hiker sits on trail with a kid on either side. Everyone is smiling.
Photo by Kevin Shipe. 

What are your hiking games or traditions?

Kevin: Our favorite hiking games are pretty simple: hide and seek, pretending to be different animals or dinosaurs, and singing songs about the hike to the tune of wheels on the bus or old McDonald among others. We also bring tools along so we can pretend to be biologists or some of my son’s favorite cartoon characters. We bring a magnifying glass, shovel or trowel, kaleidoscope, and a short guide to things we might find on the trail. We often do scavenger hunts or draw pictures of treasures we find as we go.

Luke: We "scamper.” I love trail running and so, on smooth sections of trail, I yell "scamper" and the kids and I run — then promptly stop for a water break. The point is the fun of running for a little bit, not actually making distance or being efficient!

Sara: Singing camp songs, especially when spirits are getting low. I am a former camp counselor so I have many a camp song in my repertoire. I also love when I get to teach Lu about anything we see on trail. Plant identification, foraging, animal tracking, etc.

A hiker carries a kid on his back in a backpack. The kids is sticking out their tongue.
Photo by Luke Fletcher.

Why do you write trip reports?

Kevin: I started writing trip reports quite some time ago just because I read a lot of trip reports and felt I needed to pay forward all the awesome tips I received. The community on WTA is usually good-natured and there are extreme reports for trails I couldn’t hope to repeat in the time frame as well as easy-going jaunts that I bookmark for my kids; the diversity of trails and reports helps me to research the next great trail.

Luke: I like to think that my trip reports help other hikers make their plans. Conditions can vary so widely depending on time of year, recent weather and what you're trying to do. Having those details about blowdowns, washouts, water availability, etc. can be the difference between an enjoyable experience or suffering — and I want to help everyone enjoy nature!

Sara: I started writing trip reports because I read other people's and realized there might be a need. It's super helpful to have real-time knowledge of what a trail looks like, especially when hiking with kids. I also just like writing trip reports. It can be kind of fun to review a hike and reflect on what went well, or didn't. I am also doing the 52 hikes challenge this year so writing trip reports helps me to track hikes. Lastly, I think hiking has been pretty big for coping with the pandemic and whatever little thing that can encourage someone else to use hiking to help them cope with whatever is going on in their life is an awesome thing.

A hiker stands with two kids on a mountain trail.
Photo courtesy Kevin Shipe.

What are your kids' favorite hiking snacks?

Kevin: Favorite hiking snacks for my kids change from year to year but our old standby is the simple PB&J or peanut butter and honey sandwich. Peanut butter M&Ms, gummies, animal crackers, crackers and hummus, goldfish, peanut butter cups, jerky, trail mix, dehydrated mangoes, pistachios, bananas, apples, and satsumas have all ended up in the backpack in recent trips. Cookies are always in the pack. Finding the best mix of salty and sweet is important and food high in fat and protein tend to help for sustained energy.

Luke: Bear Yo-Yo's fruit leathers and Kirkland Signature trail mix! Though somehow I seem to wind up eating all the almonds...

Sara: Direct quote from my daughter: "Fruit and trail mix." I bring candy sometimes too if a bribe is needed to make it back to the car.

If you hike with kids you can help out other folks! Write a trip report after your next hike. Just be sure to click the "hiked with kids" button to help other people find your report.   

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A kid hikes on a wide trail carrying a long stick.
Photo by Sara Jones.