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Explore nutrition tips, kids’ meal plans, kids’ activities, recipes and more from pediatric nutritionist, Melissa Halas, MA, RDN, CDE.

How to Plan the Perfect Hike with Your Family

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How to Plan the Perfect Hike with Your Family

Your go-to guide of essentials for your family hike! Find new ways to plan that will keep everyone happy for hours!

Being active and connecting with nature is important to kids’ health –and your own well-being too! Moving as a family shows your kids how you prioritize health. By hiking together you also create memories they’ll want to have with their kids some day.

Here is our step-by-step, fail-proof plan to help you celebrate the outdoors with an invigorating hike!

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Map it out.

Pick up a guidebook or find the right hiking trail for you! Let your kids choose or help pick the route. If you are tech-savvy, you could use your phone or tablet as your guide for parks and trails that have maps available online.

Select the right hike.

Factors to consider include:

  • Ages of family and friends embarking on the hike.
  • Fitness levels of the hikers, including any injuries or limitations.
  • If you’re bringing a hiking backpack, consider weight and comfort when deciding how long you’ll trek.
  • Time of day. Beware of the hot sun in warm summer afternoons.

Choose the level of difficulty (elevation/distance) based on the above factors.

Pace Yourself.

Don’t overdo it in the beginning of the hike! Conservatively estimate how long it takes to complete the hike, and pace yourself accordingly. You can even track your miles and compare this to other distances.  You don’t want everyone dragging at the end, instead, you’ll want them asking, “when can we go again?”

Invite Friends.

When you have a formal commitment, you’re more likely to stick to your plans and stay on schedule. Also, tweens and teens may enjoy hiking more with friends.

Stay hydrated.

Make sure to bring ample water for everyone, preferably in reusable water bottles to be eco-friendly. Take water breaks or encourage everyone to take frequent sips so no one gets wiped out.

Fuel up right.

Keep the group going strong by having a meal or snack before you start and bringing adequate and healthy foods for the hike. Check out these 50 healthy snack ideas you and your kids will love!

Collapsible silicone bowls* are an eco-friendly way to pack snacks and have the added benefit of taking up less space once the snacks are consumed!

Wear pedometers.

See who takes the most steps at various points in the hike. Pedometers can motivate kids to keep moving and can provide a good opportunity for older kids to practice their math skills!

Discover –let kids explore.

On the way there, make a list of things your children hope to discover. Have your own list too. When kids get tired, pull out the list –you can find five things in different shades of green, give names to the clouds or trees, share what you like most about nature, or do an impromptu scavenger hunt!

Have proper shoes and socks.

Socks are essential for hiking, not only for comfort reason but for blister prevention! Wear shoes that have been broken-in and provide some traction to keep you safe and prevent unnecessary falls.

Layer your clothes.

Shirts and jackets with long sleeves can easily be removed and tied around your waist if you get too hot.

Check the weather.

Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions. Consider wearing sunglasses, sunblock, layered clothing, and hats or rain gear.

Make sure your backpack is comfortable.

Load up your pack and walk around the house to make sure it’s not too heavy. Sporting Goods stores carry specialized packs as light as 6oz. Mini-kid friendly backpacks are also available, so young kids can carry their own water and snacks to share the weight.

Be Safe and bring first aid essentials.

Have a signal when serious help is needed –but stick together. Let kids come up with some safety guidelines –they can help pack the first aid kit too. Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, assorted size band-aids, antibacterial ointment, pain-relief medication such as ibuprofen, a wrap for sprains, and tweezers for splinters are essential items for a mini first aid kit.

Teach your kid to respect the earth.

Pick up all trash (that includes banana peels), even if no garbage can is in view. Carry a trash bag that can be used until you find a proper way to dispose of the garbage. Check out these trash free lunch tips.

Pack the day before.

Do not wait until the night before or the morning of (yikes!). This will reduce your stress levels, leave enough time to make a last minute trip to the store for anything you may have forgotten. Now you’re ready! Visit the National Recreation and Park Association to find the right hiking trail for you!

Heading to the beach next? Check out our best beach snacks and meal ideas.

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About the Author

Picture of Melissa Halas, MA, RD, CDE

Melissa Halas, MA, RD, CDE

Melissa is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with a master's in nutrition education. She is the founder of SuperKids Nutrition Inc. Read more about her Super Crew children’s books and her experience as a registered dietitian on the About Melissa and Shop page. Discover how nutrition can help you live your best health potential through her plant-based books and newsletter on Melissa’s Healthy Living.

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