The Adventure

4 Tricks for Hiking with Kids

Posted by Topher Donahue on Thu, Mar 31, 2011

Getting kids out the door is never easy.  I have four year old twins, and when we go anywhere we are at best a slow moving rodeo.

Going on a hike, while simultaneously managing the rodeo, borders on the ridiculous.  But once we’re out there, the twins have the best time imaginable and always seem to come back a little stronger, smarter, and more confident in their world. 

hiking kids fun

I’m always asking other parents for any tricks they use to get the most out of family hikes.  Here are four of the best tricks I’ve heard about, and the pros and cons of each one: 

1. Leave Skittles, M&Ms or other treats along the trail and make the whole outing into a scavenger hunt for candy.


  • Really exciting for the kids. 
  • Makes the miles pass easily. 
  • Keeps the kid’s blood sugar up.


  • The inevitable blood sugar crash. 
  • Getting back to the trailhead after the crash. 
  • The dental work.

2. Go off the trail and hike in a big (or small) circle around your vehicle so you are never far from it.


  • Easy retreat when the hike is no longer fun for the kids.
  • By hiking in a loop, the scenery is always new. 
  • Getting off the trail lets the kids explore.


  • Off trail hiking can get rough – pick the right area.
  • Getting lost – you don’t want to tell that story to your spouse.
  • You’ll feel like you’re getting nowhere – not easy for the goal-oriented parent.

3. Let the kids lead.


  • The kids learn to pace themselves. 
  • Increases the sense of discovery. 
  • They taste the freedom and responsibility of leadership.


  • You’ll be stopping more than hiking – but it’s also good for parents to slow down, pet the flowers and smell the elk.
  • Dirty knees – they’ll have you crawling around looking at every bug in the woods.
  • You won’t stay on the trail for long – forget about making it all the way to Expectation Falls.

4. Go heli-hiking on a CMH Family Adventure.


  • There is always an easy way out (think twin engine jet helicopter) when it’s not fun anymore.
  • Lots of other kids for hiking and playing inspiration.
  • Professional guides to make sure your adventure is just right for the entire family.


  • Your kids will think hiking is always going to be the most fun thing they’ve ever done.  
  • Going back to the real world after the best family vacation ever.
  • Trying to think of an even better family trip the following year.   

Do you have any tricks for getting kids out on the trails, into the wilderness, and away from their playstations, cell phones, and televisions?

Tags: Family Travel, CMH Summer Adventures, Tricks of the Trade, families