hiking with kids

Hiking with Kids: 12 Tips to Maximize Safety

Let’s face it. Travel may never look the same after the Coronavirus outbreak. And although the guidelines are starting to ease up, many people are still uncomfortable with the idea of traveling too far from home. BUT, there is good news, you don’t have to stay cooped up in your house forever! Exploring the outdoors and hiking with your kids can help ease stress and reduce anxiety during these uncertain times. 

As most state and national parks have reopened their gates, I’m seeing more families trading their luxury suites and passports for pop-up tents and hiking boots. Us included! In fact, we recently signed up for the 52 Hike Challenge, a free program where you commit to one hike per week for a whole year. And even though hiking looks a lot different than it did a few months ago, hiking with our kids’ has given us the opportunity to connect with nature, challenge ourselves, and satisfy our thirst for travel. 

And while exercise and spending outdoors is important, it’s vital we all adhere to the local rules and regulations, because if we don’t then local trails and parks may be forced to close again.

Ready to hit the trails? Below I’m sharing my top tips on how to approach hiking with kids post-isolation, where to go, what to expect, and how to properly plan for a stress-free, low-risk adventure. 

hiking with kids

1. Stay local 

Download the All Trails app to find trails close to home. A 45-min vs 2-hour drive avoids bathroom breaks and unnecessary exposure or spread to other communities. (Rest areas may still be closed in some areas so stopping may not even be possible.) 

** pro-tip: try to avoid hikes where the main attraction is an overlook or stunning viewpoint. It’s likely there will be  larger crowds gathered there, or it could be closed altogether. 

hiking with kids
Overlook closed to limit crowds (Rory was bummed!)

2. Do your research

Although most trails and parks have re-opened, many of them are operating at limited capacity, reduced hours, or closure of some amenities. Scroll the park’s website, Facebook, Instagram, or call if you’re still unclear on their status. You may even want to post in a local Facebook group to get a better idea of the busyness of trail/park and/or any other pertinent information you should know. Hiking with kids is a production, you don’t want any surprises once you arrive!

 

hiking in north carolina

3. Keep it Intimate

Avoid hiking in large groups or with several other families. When venturing out, try to hike with only those people in your household. Or if that’s not possible, try to limit it to those who you frequently contact (grandparents, babysitters, close friends, etc) who may also be helping with childcare.  

tips for hiking with kids

4. Arrive Early

Since many parks are still limiting the number of visitors, be sure to arrive early so that you’re not turned away at the gate. Once they’re at capacity, it’s one car out, one car in. Depending on where you go, if you arrive late morning or afternoon, you could be waiting a while! 

hiking with kids

5. Have a Plan B:

Despite your diligent research and arriving when the gates open, sometimes things happen! The site may not have updated their status, there was a storm, new restrictions, it’s too crowded, etc. Have a nearby back-up in mind and carry-on stress-free. 

hiking with kids

6. Pack your own supplies:

Park stores and facilities may not be open, so be sure to pack your own food, water, hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol), bug spray, baby essentials, or anything else you may need during your visit. 

hiking with kids

7. Keep a safe distance:

By arriving early you can generally beat the crowds, however, for heavily trafficked trails encountering other hikers is inevitable. Give others space in the parking lots, common areas, and when being passed keep a safe distance and step off the trail to allow others by. Bonus points if you can find a wider trail that allows more space for everyone. 

hiking with kids

8. Don’t take any risks:

This is not the time to try a difficult hike or adventure off the grid, particularly in small mountain towns. In many areas emergency responders are limited, so stick to what you’re familiar with. 

hiking with kids

9. Plan for extra time:

There may be delays upon entering the park, increased safety measures, larger crowds, or let’s face it, hiking with kids always taking longer than anticipated.

hiking with kids

10. Leave No Trace:

This still applies! These principles are a framework for making good decisions and enjoying the outdoors responsibly. From knowing the special concerns of a specific location to leaving all natural objects untouched, we all play a vital role in protecting the natural world. Sustainable tourism is not hard, but it does matter. 

sustainable tourism

11. Have a bathroom plan!

Using portable bathrooms (if they’re open) might not be the best idea. Learn how to use the bathroom responsibly,  bring toilet paper, extra diapers/wipes, or choose a shorter hike close to home where you avoid having to use the bathroom altogether . 

hiking with kids

12. If you’re sick, stay home!

This is obvious. If you have a fever or cough, stay home until you’re feeling well enough before heading back out into the great outdoors. 

hiking with kids

Though your chances of getting COVID-19 while on a family hike are low you still need to make smart choices, plan ahead, and follow the proper precautions. No one wants to see our parks and forests close again! 

Have fun and happy hiking with your kids!

 

Have you been hiking as a family yet this year? If so, where? What was your experience? 

XO, Stephanie 

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5 Responses

  1. Great ideas! We are planning hikes to a few of our local state parks and am excited to explore them with those tips.

  2. YES to number 10! We are so frustrated seeing the litter left behind in our local beauty spots and on the beaches. We love hiking with our kids and can’t wait to explore a little further from home as and when it becomes safe to do so.

  3. Such an informative post just right on time. We are venturing out only to nearby parks and woods. Our biggest concern is bathroom facilities.So I am only taking my kids for 1 or 2 hours away, and make sure we come back home before their next loo session!

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