10 Tips for Hiking with Kids

As a mom of two boys, hiking by myself isn’t always feasible. While I do love a good few hours out in nature alone, occasionally, if I want to be OUT, I have to take the kids with me.

Which is honestly, 100% fine.

My two boys are 5 & 7 years old, and they have been walking long distances essentially since they were old enough to walk (not really, but you know what I mean). We have the huge privilege of living in Europe for three years, and we made a huge point to travel as often as we could. And while my boys were small when we got there (six months and 2 years old, respectively), strollers were often a pain in the ass. Cobblestone, while beautiful, is not fun to bounce around in. Plus, it’s not always easy to carry a double stroller on trains or inter-city trams.

More often than not, we would carry the kids in a variety of packs, but once they got older (and heavier … my babes were not small by any means) it got a little too painful on our backs to continue.

So walk they must.

Hiking with Kids

 

Granted, we were realistic when it came to the distance they could go in a day, and any of our trips involved lots of breaks and the occasional shoulder ride. But it wasn’t uncommon for my kids to do 5+ miles in a day with little complaint.

All of this to say, when we moved back to the states, it was a very natural transition to go from the streets of Europe to the trails of Colorado. Different terrain, but a normal activity for them none-the-less. They took to the trails pretty easily, and love spending a Saturday morning in some of our favorite spots. They can easily bust out 3-5 miles without complaint, and I LOVE that my love of nature has spread so easily to them.

That said, hiking with children of any age is not without it’s needed preparation. A few quick tips can make a difference in how your day goes, no matter the age of your kiddos.

10 Tips for Hiking with Kids

1. Plan your route. I cannot stress this enough as the most important thing to think about when taking your littles hiking with you. Know where you are going, and know the difficulty of the trail. Are you kids older or younger? Are they experienced hikers or is this a new hobby for you & your family? Are they capable of walking long distances, or do they break down easily?

Don’t attempt to do a six mile trail with a 1,200 foot elevation gain the first time out with your kids, if you’ve never taken them hiking before. Ok, maybe your high schooler could handle it, but your five year probably won’t be able to. I cannot recommend the AllTrails app (free) enough for planning routes. Most often, the comments will tell you if it is kid friendly, or if you should plan on leaving them home that day.

2. Bring lots of snacks! Remember that those little feet are working a little harder than you are. And if your kids are anything like mine … they will ask for snacks, and water, frequently! We love taking granola bars, homemade trail mix, cheese and crackers … anything that will give them a little extra energy boost. Water is also crucial, no matter the time of year, so make sure each person has a dedicated water bottle.

3. Dress in layers. More often than not, we start out wearing way too much, and it tends to get shed pretty quickly. But if it’s a cooler day, your kids will be glad to have started out with that extra jacket and gloves. The same goes for warmer days. If you’re out for a while, arms and faces may need a break from the sun, so make sure you have a light weight long sleeved shirt and hat to help with sun protection.

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4. Bring a backpack. Extra jackets. Water bottles. Snacks. It all adds up. You don’t need a large pack to carry a weeks worth of stuff, but you’ll be glad you had a small one when things start getting handed back to you! (Oh, and don’t forget to throw a first aid kit in there with lots of band-aids. You’ll thank me later!)

5. Take turns on who gets to be the Hiking Leader. This is a common fight among my two boys … who gets to be the “leader.” I don’t know what it is about this designation, but if you have multiple kids, you’ve probably heard a version of this argument in your house before, or on any walk you’ve taken. Do 15 minute increments, or one gets to lead on the way in, and the other on the way out … whatever works for your family!

6. Take lots of breaks. The thing that I love about hiking is that it’s not just about finishing a trail in the fastest time possible. It’s also about truly enjoying nature. I never mind taking breaks because it gives us a chance to explore a little bit more. To play with rocks. To draw in the sand. To look at the plants around us and see what we can identify. So take those breaks and enjoy your surroundings. You’ll be teaching your kids to enjoy and love nature as much as you do!

7. Keep track of time. This is especially important if you are doing an out and back trail (versus a loop). My kids can generally go for about two hours, but not much more than that. That said, if we are doing a trail where we would hike to a spot, then turn around and go back, I pay extra attention to how long it’s taking us on our way in. Usually around that hour and fifteen mark, I’ll turn us around. It tends to take us quicker to get back then it does going in, mostly because they have done a fair bit of exploring on the way. But know your kids, and know what they can handle. That brings us to …

8. Know when to call it quits. You know your kids best. There is nothing worse than having to carry a screaming kid in the football hold for a mile or two. Watch for the warning signs, and know when they are about to be done. I rarely make my “goal” when hiking with the kids. There are too many distractions, and they tend to burn out easily. So call it quits when it’s time to call it quits. There is no shame in not finishing that trail, and you can always come back to it another time!

9. Have fun. Hiking is about enjoying nature, while also being physically active. Especially when there are children involved, just enjoy the time, and don’t worry about anything else! Enjoy those surroundings, and the quality time as a family!

10. Leave No Trace. This is one of the most important tips, in my opinion. Nature is sacred, and if we want to continue to enjoy our outdoor spaces, we need to preserve it the best we can. That means packing out ALL of your garbage, and taking it home with you. Bring a small plastic bag to make things easier. We like to bring an extra bag with us to pick up any extra garbage we find a long the way. Respect the space, and take care of it.

This is not a complete list of things you will need, but I hope it’s a start! Enjoy your time outside as a family! Happy Trails!

52 Hike Challenge: Red Rocks Canyon Open Space (3/52)

This may seem like a redundant post, but as mentioned previously … we hike Red Rocks Canyon pretty often. This one was pretty special, because we were saying goodbye to friends. I have found that finding friends as an adult is especially challenging, and while our friends M & K were not in our lives for very long, we had a blast getting to know them.

It seems to be even more bitter sweet when the kids are better friends than the adults (and in this case, are the ones who bring the adults together!)

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Needless to say, it was another beautiful day at Red Rocks Canyon Open Space. We took a different route than we had the previous time, but one my boys know well. So well, in fact, that they are pretty much on autopilot unless I tell them otherwise.

We always end up doing around 3-4 miles whenever we hike here, and with plenty of trail options and things for the boys to get into, it’s a perfect way to spend an afternoon. This day was no different, and with the blue skies, and frozen lake, it was a quite deceptive, yet beautiful day.

One of the hardest parts about moving to Colorado from Germany has been meeting friends, so this was a very bittersweet day for both me & the boys. But I am grateful for the friendship we had (and continue to have), and look forward to meeting up with our friends in the future!

Why I’m Here

This space originally started off as something different — a place for me to vent as I transitioned into a new life. However, I quickly decided (and prying eyes forced me) that I needed to narrow down my subject matter. This space will look a little bare until I get caught up with new post ideas and fill in what had to be deleted.

Writing has always been therapeutic for me. If you have known me for any significant amount of time, you know this. Blogging helped me transition into life as a new military spouse, and brought me some of the most amazing friendships, that I still very much cherish today. It helped me navigate through years of infertility treatment and heart break.

And now that I am transitioning OUT of life as a military spouse, it only makes sense that I once again start writing again, in order to help me heal and move on with a new way of living.

So here I am. Writing, because that is what helps me. You will see a lot about hiking here, because at the end of the day, it’s what makes me happy outside  of my boys. I am on a very intense journey of self discovery at the moment.  It’s messy, and complicated, and requires a LOT of therapy.

But, mountains can be more than just something to get over. Whether it’s trail shoes or my emotions, I’ve got a lot of working out to do. I was MADE  for the challenge that comes with overtaking a mountain, however that mountain presents itself to me in the moment.

So here I am.  Figuring it all out and making the best of where I am.  Thanks for being here.

xoxo

Hiking Safety: The Ten Essentials

Too often while I’m out on the trails, I see people with a whole lot of nothing. Trail runners doing their thing. Hikers in the wrong shoes and not even carrying water. More often than not, these are on trails where I am by myself or with friends, meaning we are doing a fair distance (5, 6, 7 miles) which usually takes us pretty far off a road.

And, let’s face it. When I was a beginner hiker, I definitely did not carry the ten essentials with me at all times — or at all. Water was always a must, but I was new and didn’t know how important the rest of these items were.

In fact, if I’m being totally honest, it wasn’t until last summer when I took off for my first big hiking trip that a very good friend who happens to do search and rescue filled me on what I was missing. Thankfully, it was only a few items, but they were all worth having. If you hike, or backpack, or camp out in the wilderness, please make sure that you carry these items with you at all times. It may seem silly to pack for a short hike, but nature has as mind of it’s own, and you never know what can happen.

The Ten Essentials for Hiking/Backpacking or Camping:

Navigation: This includes a map, compass, altimeter, GPS device, personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite messenger. I typically carry a compass with me, and know the general direction of where my car is located. I am also a big fan of the AllTrails app. I pay for the annual pro fee so that I can download trail maps and use my GPS even when I do not have cellular reception. Of course, your battery will die eventually, but you can carry additional charging packs.

Headlamp/Flashlight: Make sure that you carry extra batteries. I use this rechargable emergency flashlight, which saves me the trouble of having to carry extra batteries, and also includes a bunch of other safety features.

Sun protection: This includes sunglasses, sun-protective clothes and sunscreen.

First aid: I cannot stress this one enough. I am always in need of simple things like bandaids or something to clean up a scratch. This also includes foot care and insect repellent (as needed).

Knife: My preferred is a Leatherman multi tool.

Fire: Always carry something that you can start a fire with. Places like REI sell waterproof matches, which I always carry a few of with me. They don’t take up much space, but keep them in a container just in case. If you’re doing a longer, overnight trips, you’ll likely need a lighter, tinder and/or stove.

Shelter: I don’t necessarily carry a tent with me when I’m doing a short hike. That said, I do have an emergency blanket with me, and I usually carry my hammock (because let’s face it … chilling in your hammock in the middle of nowhere is pretty amazing). These would both keep me warm and provide shelter if needed.

Extra food: Beyond the minimum expectation — meaning, pack a few more snacks than you think you will need. I always end up being WAY more hungry after a long hike than I thought I would be, especially if the trail you are doing is harder than expected. I tend to pack high protein and high fat snacks, to fill me up better and help provide energy.

Extra water: General rule of thumb is 2 liters of water for every one hour of hiking. The best way to calculate this is to make sure in advance you know the distance of your trail, and then divide by your mph pace. On a flat surface, I can usually do between 2.5 to 3 miles in one hour. Less if I was hiking at a more difficult incline.

Extra clothes: Always pack more than you’ll need. Don’t rely on what’s on  your back. You can’t go wrong with an extra sweatshirt, a pair of pants and maybe a hat.

**Image Credit: REI

52 Hike Challenge: Red Rocks Canyon Open Space (2/52)

Let me be the first to warn you — you will see Red Rocks Canyon Open Space FREQUENTLY on this site.  A local favorite here in Colorado Springs, it’s one of of the few place I feel comfortable taking my 5 & 7 year old boys. Not only do they love it, but it’s a beautiful space full of great possibilities. We frequent it often because it gets us out of the house, but it’s also easy enough for them to hike 3-4 miles with ease.

I also enjoy this space because of the amount of additional people we always see. It’s a heavily trafficked trail system, and on a beautiful day (which we have a lot of here in Colorado!) you’ll often find the parking lots packed. As a mama to two small ones, I don’t always like the idea of taking the two of them deeper into the mountains alone. You may have heard about a man here in Colorado who killed a Mountain Lion with his bare hands … this fear is real. I have seen bears (at a distance, thankfully) on trails, and there are no shortage of Mule Deer (while harmless, usually, those antlers can be quite large) at the base of the mountain. But when I take the boys with me, I want to not worry about my little wanderers falling down sides of trails, or worse.

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So Red Rocks it is. This is not the same Red Rocks as the infamous Amphitheater up near Denver. Located near Old Colorado Springs, off of Highway 24, this open space boasts plenty of hiking trails as well as access to Pikes Peak should you choose! Usually when I hike with the boys, I don’t pay as much attention to mileage as I do time. We spent approximately an hour and a half wandering through some of our favorite part of the park. On this particular hike, it was quite snowy, and cold, so there was more playing than there necessarily was hiking, but a hike is a hike, and I will take it!

It was a great hike, and one that we will do many more times in the coming year! I definitely don’t apologize for that, as we really can never get enough!

Happy Trails!
xoxo

52 Hike Challenge: Palmer Trail (1/52)

This past Sunday, I took some time to myself and hit the trails. It was the first hike of the new year, and it only seemed fair to do one of my favorite trails in the area. If you are a hiker and aren’t familiar with the 52 Hike Challenge, definitely check out their website. I did not complete the challenge last year, despite a strong start to the year, but I fully intend to finish it this year.

Palmer Trail (Section 16) is a 6 mile hike in Bear Creek Canon Park, just behind the Red Rocks Canyon Open Space. Depending on which way you go up to the peak, it can be either difficult or nice & leisurely. The elevation gain is still 1,292 feet, but one side of the loop hits that a lot quicker than the other.

I love this trail for a LOT of reasons. One, it’s physically challenging. This time of year there is a lot of snow (as you can see) so taking my micro spikes and a trekking pole was necessary. There are some sharp sections of the trail where the ice will get the best of you if you aren’t careful (yet I saw plenty of ill-prepared hikers & runners).

I particularly love this trail because of the open space and view near the peak. It’s a truly beautiful spot, and hard to believe that just outside the city lies this gorgeous, serene space, where all you can hear is the wind and the birds. If you tackle this trail, plan on spending some time up here, just soaking it all in. I promise it’s worth an extra 15-20 minutes to enjoy the serenity. Your mind will thank you.

This trail is a pretty popular one, so don’t expect to be totally alone. That said, I have noticed many don’t sit near the top for long, and so you can almost always get some good quality alone time.