Hiking with Kids | 7 Tips for a Smooth Trail Adventure

Posted on: February 4, 2020

Alberta is home to thousands of people who love to be outdoors. There is no shortage of amazing outdoor sports, activities and events in the province. One of the most popular activities is hiking. In regions like Alberta’s Lakeland, there are thousands of kilometres of beautiful trails to hike and explore. Many of these trails are even accessible all year, giving you a great way to get active and be outdoors in every season.

For some people, hiking comes with challenges that are not caused by bad weather or trail conditions, but rather by the little hikers that tag along. Hiking with kids can often end quickly and on a sour note, but follow some of these really great tips and enjoy hiking with your little ones in tow.

Choose an appropriate trail

This is key and the most important tip. Closely consider the ages of your little ones before choosing a trail to hike. Something with large inclines, uneven grounds and other obstacles might not be the best choice when you are bringing along the kids. Instead, opt for a smooth, groomed trail that invites exploring, running and playing without the exhausting obstacles. The Iron Horse Trail in the Lakeland is a great family-friendly hiking trail. The trail is maintained and relatively flat. It also offers up rest stops, outhouses and picnic areas along the way, giving you plenty of opportunities to pause when the kids need a rest. Great resources like “All Trails” are also helpful in finding the perfect trail. You can see trail photos, distance and terrain of trails all over.

Pick the right time of day

All parents know their kids “best time of day.” It’s the time that running to the store is easier, the most fun for play dates and the time that your little ones are overall happiest. Choose the same time frame for a family hike. Avoid heading out too early, or too late in the day and pick a time when the kids are bursting with energy and ready to go.

Dress appropriately

Often times we just assume that kids are not bothered by their clothing or footwear, but just like us, an uncomfortable pair of shoes can make any amount of walking not fun. If hiking with kids is something you do (or want to do) often, then invest in a good pair of hiking shoes for them too. Their little feet can’t carry them nearly as far as ours can, but a comfortable pair of shoes can make a big difference. Be sure to dress them in comfortable clothing with layers as well. Kids sweat too and may need to take off a layer to prevent overheating (even in the winter).

Take it slow

If you are hiking with small kids, don’t set out to hike 10 kms in a day. Plan a realistic trail adventure that you know your kids can handle. Opt for a trail that is a 2 or 3 km loop like the trails in Cold Lake Provincial Park. While some of the trails here have hills and uneven terrain, they are short enough to still be a great option for a family hike. The trails also surround some great campgrounds, so consider making your hiking trip a camping one too.

Make frequent stops

Any nature trail offers up great learning opportunities along the way. Stop often and explore. Look for bugs and wildlife, talk about the different trees and plants or check out some cool rocks and weirdly shaped trees. Not only does this make a hike seem more exciting to kids, but it gives them plenty of chances for a bit of rest without feeling bored.

Consider a wagon or kid-carrier

Depending on your child’s age and type of trail, you can bring along some equipment that might make the trip a little smoother for everyone and give your arms a much-needed break. If you are hiking a nice flat trail, bring along a lightweight wagon. Not only is it a great option for carrying a cooler for lunch, but it gives your little ones a chance to still get down the trail while resting their legs (and gives mom & dad an extra workout). If you’re hiking with kids that are really little (under 50lbs) invest in a good baby-backpack. There are tons of different styles, but each one provides a comfortable ride for both the parents and the kids and is much easier than carrying them on your hip.

Snacks are key

Any parent knows that you don’t leave the house on an outing without a strong supply of fish crackers, Cheerios and juice boxes… well, this also applies to hiking. While it does mean a little bit of extra weight for someone else to carry, bringing extra snacks and drinks can be the difference in a great hike or a disastrous one. If your kids are running, exploring, walking up and down hills and hiking right alongside you, they are going to be burning energy and calories like crazy (especially in the heat) so make sure you double up the snack supply and bring along tons of cold water. Stopping often for a snack can turn cranky hikers into happy hikers.

Hiking, in general, is a fantastic activity for anyone and hiking with kids is a great way to encourage a love for the outdoors. There is so much for kids to see, learn and go down any nature trail, but it can be a bad experience too if you don’t come prepared. Use these great tips and start enjoying hiking as a family again.

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