How to Pick a Hiking Trail With a Little

Picking a Hiking Trail

Living where we do, it’s relatively easy to go on a quick hike with kiddos. We can access 2 trailheads in our neighborhood and be in nature within minutes and if we want a different trail and decide to drive, we have dozens of age-appropriate trails within 10 minutes door-to-trailhead.

When hiking with young children, picking the right trail matters a whole bunch because if it’s too difficult, it’ll be a miserable experience for child and adult! And good luck convincing your Little to do it again! If your child is in a carrier or hiking backpack, you’re only gauging your own ability. But many toddlers and 3-5 year olds want to hike on their own, at least part of the way. This not only extends the amount of time you’re on the trail and considerations of snacks and water need to be adjusted, but the actual trail itself - how flat the trail is, is it muddy or gravelly etc - should also be considered. And if you have school-aged children, make sure you set rules and guidelines of them hiking ahead and what to do if they encounter an emergency and the adults haven’t caught up yet.

As a worst-case scenario, I will ask myself if I would be able to carry my son on the terrain at ½ distance we choose – the coming back ½. If not, we either shorten the hike or pick another trail. I can think of many adventures where the second half of the hike I’m carrying a snoozing K on my back down the mountain. And while it’s great exercise for me, it’s a much better experience when he’s hiking down with me!

I love REI’s Hiking Project App. It is a fantastic pocket resource of hiking trails across the United States and it’s free. The app or website includes all the stats on a trail – distance, difficulty, elevation, grade, features, if dogs are allowed, and even the current weather! For young children, I would recommend sticking to difficulties at the green circle.

So get out there already! And share with us your favorite place to hike with kiddos!

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