Taking kids into the great outdoors can be a rewarding experience. But if you don't feel completely comfortable hauling your youngsters into the wilderness, the idea can seem daunting. We pulled together some tips to help make your time hiking with young kids as easy and fulfilling as it can be.
Before the Hike
Bring (a Lot of) Snacks
Kids burn a lot of energy while running around the woods, and you don't want to be caught miles from your car with a hungry child and no food. Make sure to pack plenty of snacks, and stop often to refuel. For kids that need a little extra motivation to keep moving, give them some fun snacks (a few jellybeans or a sucker) for every quarter mile they walk. If you're doing a challenging hike, like climbing to a viewpoint, bring a special treat for your child to enjoy at the top.
Pick an Exciting Destination
Some kids may not be thrilled about doing a loop hike with no real destination goal, but most kids will get excited about hiking to hidden natural wonders. That might be a waterfall with a fun swimming hole or a cave with an ancient past. No matter where you set your sights, make sure your kids know where you're heading and what they can expect to find when they get there. This will increase their excitement and help set expectations along the way.
Be Prepared for the Unexpected
Chances are your hike will go off without a hitch, but it's always good to prepare for surprises. You might be hiking in areas without cell phone service where a sprained ankle or broken limb can quickly turn into a serious emergency. Whenever you head outdoors, make sure to carry the 10 essentials--items that should be in your backpack no matter how short and sweet your planned hike is.