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Here are some tips to plan and successfully carry out age-appropriate hikes while keeping children safe, motivated, and cheerful along the way.

Plan your hike.

  • Get a good map of your hike.
  • Check the distance, terrain, and elevation gained. Is it appropriate for each person in the group?
  • Remember that young or inexperienced hikers tire easily; turn around sooner rather than later, even if this means not “finishing” your hike.
  • Let someone know where you’re going and when you are expecting to return.

Be prepared.

  • Wear appropriate shoes (hiking boots or sneakers).
  • Dress in layers of weather appropriate clothing (e.g. absorbent synthetics, fleece, waterproof jackets).
  • Protect yourself from tick bites by using a repellent that contains Permethrin on your clothes and wearing long, light colored pants tucked into long, white socks. Learn more
  • Hikers are required to wear 200 square inches of solid daylight fluorescent orange during the hunting season in areas that allow hunting. Click here for more information.
  • Bring hats and gloves if it’s cold, or sun block, hats, and bug spray if it’s hot.
  • Eat a satisfying and nutritious meal before heading out to prevent fatigue and irritability.

Bring fuel for the trails.

  • Bring snacks that your kids really love. Come up with your own family GORP (“good old raisins and peanuts”) recipe using chocolate-covered raisins, dried fruit, M&Ms, nuts, butterscotch chips, etc.
  • Bring plenty of water or whatever else your kids love to guzzle in reusable bottles.

Have emergency supplies just in case.

  • Always carry a well stocked first aid kit.
  • Equip everyone with their own whistle, which can be heard farther away than a person’s voice, and takes less energy to use in the event of an emergency.
  • Bring a watch to keep track of the time.
  • Carry your cell phone for emergencies but leave it off or silence it and let voice mail handle any calls that are not absolutely crucial.

Hike smart.

  • Set behavioral expectations before you start.
  • Confirm your position by regularly checking your map and using the trail markers.
  • Take frequent breaks. Be sure to turn around well before fatigue sets in on those “out and back” hikes.
  • Offer snacks and drink regularly and as motivation to get to that next bench, tree, etc.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. Mountain weather, in particular, can change very quickly.
  • Do a tick check immediately upon completing the hike, and again when you return home. Click here to learn more about ticks.

Have fun!

  • Praise and encourage your child.
  • Use games, songs, and activities to keep your kids from getting bored or tired. Click here for a list of fun, simple activities.
  • Relax, laugh, and show your children how much you’re enjoying yourself. It is the best way to help them do the same.


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