Hiking with Kids: Tip 3

Hiking with Kids Tip 3

It's that time of year again. Summer vacation is nearing, and the young 'uns are squirrely. Extra chatter, boundless energy, short attention spans – all good indicators that it's time to start planning some outdoor activities, stat. One great option? Hit the trail with the whole family. Tmber co-founder Nina Franey has found that hiking with kids has its own unique joys and challenges. As a mother of three young kids, she's learned some helpful tips and tricks that have worked for her family, and may just work for yours too.

In her first installment of Hiking with Kids, Nina shared the basics of preparing for a hike (i.e. choosing where to go and how to keep them motivated once you're there). Her second installment takes on the topic of what key items to bring (i.e. sustenance and clothing). Below, Nina shares more lessons learned, including the value of friendship and some guidelines for the hike itself.

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In her own words:

It takes some oomph to get out for a hike, and given the effort, I want our kids to have a great and safe time. I've found that the next two essentials are helpful to ensure a jolly good time on the trail and increase the odds that all limbs will remain intact – human and tree alike.

Great view, great friends

Essential #5: Bring friends

Kids get tired and bored. Even in the presence of majestic natural beauty, my kids can find something to gripe about at some point. We’ve talked about trail treats, trail songs, even trail stories, but the very best way I've found to boost a hike to mega-fun status is to…(drumroll)…bring along someone else’s kids. While taking additional little bodies on the trail may sound like exponentially more work, it isn’t. In fact, on the trail as in life, friends make all things better. Challenging switchbacks? Drippy weather? Another mile to the outlook? No problem. A good friend will provide camaraderie, encouragement, distraction from trail ailments and a little healthy competition. Plan to meet another family at the trailhead, or offer to bring a neighbor or two along. We’ve battled back-seat nausea and refereed a variety of musical tastes during transport, but it was all worth it once we hit the trail. Oh- one more thing: more kids means more adult supervision, so bring along a friend for yourself too.

Essential #6: Establish rules to hike by

I think that trail rules are important, big time. I take the time to review our trail rules before each hike, no matter what. Without being too neurotic, my goal is to keep everybody safe and teach good stewardship of our natural world at the same time. As my kids have grown, my rules have changed, so feel free to use your best judgment to modify or expand this list. You know your kids and their abilities better than anyone.

Checking out the view

Stay together. This is especially important when hiking in large groups, and in my experience, particularly on the descent. I like to have my line leader in sight and within earshot at all times. This way we all take the right fork in the trail, and adult help is nearby if needed.

Stay on the trail. Wild life beyond the trail is, well, wild. Staying on the trail protects my kids from dangers such as steep drop-offs and poison oak, and also protects the natural world from trampling feet. I remind my kids to hug the uphill side of the trail when possible, and to exercise caution around waterfalls, or rivers, or that steep cliff at the summit. If they forget, I'm close by (see above).

Following the well-pounded path to the Denny Creek Waterslides

Share the trail. We typically encounter other species on the trail – flora, fauna and human alike. Being aware and respectful of each of these makes for a friendly outdoor experience for all. This usually translates to moving to one side of the trail to allow others to pass and keeping the volume dial in the excited (rather than screeching) range.

Pack it out. Whatever we bring in, we bring out. Yes, this applies to everything, even if it’s technically compostable. I bring along a spare disposable bag that I can tie up for the things I don't want to carry in my pocket or backpack. Our leftover lunch, used TP…yep, all of it.

Protect and preserve all living things. There’s a fine line here. One of the best things about being on the trail is seeing my kid’s excitement and curiousity about the things around them. I encourage my kids to explore – and do no harm. For example, picking up a branch from the ground to use as a walking stick is okay – breaking a low-hanging branch off a tree is not.

These rocks were made for skipping

Thanks to Lisa, Nina and Tmber for the photos. Until next time, Happy Hiking!