How to Choose a Child-Friendly Hiking Destination
Hiking out in the wild allows you to immerse yourself within nature and to take a break from the stresses of modern life.
Hiking is also a great way to introduce children to nature (especially for those living in big cities).
While children are great at adapting to new activities and new surroundings (such as backpacking), if you plan on going hiking with them there are a few things you first need to take into consideration in order to make your trips more ‘kid-friendly’.
A lot of what you can and can’t do will be determined by the age of your child, so that’s something that obviously needs to be taken into account. For example, taking a two year old hiking will result in a very different experience than taking a six year old hiking, but in general, the same guidelines (that we’ll go through below) will apply.
Here are some tips on how to find a child-friendly backpacking destination:
Find Somewhere Nearby
No-one likes long, boring journeys (least of all children), so by looking for places nearby to where you live, you’re limiting the amount of traveling that your kids will have to endure. Of course, as your kids get older (and more used to traveling long distances), you can venture out further and further.
Choose an Easy Trail
Taking a hike through the desert in the middle of July might sound like fun to you, but it probably won’t go down well with your kids. Hiking is a lot easier when the heat isn’t too intense, when there’s plenty of shade to cool yourself off in and when the trail itself is relatively smooth and flat (without lots of changes in elevation) and isn’t too physically demanding.
It doesn’t matter how much you’re enjoying a hike, or how amazing the scenery around you looks, if your child is unhappy, you’re going to know about it.
Of course, in some places you don’t know what the weather’s going to be like until you get there, so in these cases it’s best to plan for all possibilities (e.g. bring a rain coat and a sun hat).
Choose a Short Trail
Young children typically can’t hike as far (or as quickly) as adults, so when planning a hike with your kids you should take this into account and choose a hike that’s relatively short in distance. Of course, if you’re not sure just how far your child can hike, you can take them on a couple of practice hikes beforehand to give them a bit of experience and to find out what their limits are.
Break Lots of Snacks
As you sweat, your body loses lots of vital nutrients. This is why, when hiking, it’s good to have a selection of snacks you can eat on the go in your bag. Ready salted crisps/chips are great, because they help to put some of the salts you lost through sweating back into your body.
Make it Fun
While most children will enjoy walking through the woods, it’s good to have some fun distractions/activities to do along the way (as it’s unlikely they’ll enjoy walking for as long as you will).
For example, you can set them the challenge of trying to spot a particular kind of animal or to look for pine cones along the way. This will help keep them motivated and enthusiastic to keep going.
In addition to this, make sure to include regular breaks and rest-stops along the way, where your children can have a break or play some games to amuse themselves.
Plan an Exit Strategy
As adults, we can adapt pretty quickly to unexpected circumstances and changing situations. When hiking the trail with children, however, it’s always best to have a plan of how you can get out of there and back to your car as quickly as possible. For example, if your child is feeling unwell, has an accident (God forbid) or just needs to go home, you need to be prepared for these situations in advance.
You can do this by ensuring you don’t venture too far away from where you’ve parked and by ensuring you know exactly which way you came.
By using the tips above, finding (and planning a trip to) a child-friendly backpacking destination should be a lot easier. Just remember to keep their needs in mind at all times and you won’t go far wrong!
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