Hiking with kids is so much fun!!
One of my favorite weekend activities has been to go on long hikes, explore parks and woods, and enjoy the peace and beauty of nature!!
My kids love going to the park and we started taking them on hikes when they were 2 years.
The boys are 7 years now, and in the last couple of years we’ve been on frequent hikes and longer ones. We even went on multiple wonderful Rainforest hikes in Costa Rica.
To make things easier for all, there are a few steps we take. Here are the tips based on our experience.
1. Plan Well –
- Look up for trails that are doable for your child at their age. There are plenty of regional parks with short trails from easy to moderate to difficult. It just takes a bit of research. Don’t pick something that’s difficult for them, they can get tired and discouraged.
- I also look for places which have something fun to do in addition to hiking. There are parks with historic mines, museums, ranches, parks, harbors, petting zoos or animal sightings, lakes, etc. These added attractions get kids excited about the outings.
- Check the weather and plan accordingly.
- Make sure that the kids are rested and have had a good meal before starting on the hike. We usually hike in the morning and I make sure that the kids have had a good breakfast before we go.
- Sometimes a short nap after the hike helps my kids refreshed for the rest of the day.
2. Make it Fun –
- Pack some nutritious and fun snacks (they look forward to eating this during the hike). Some of our favorites snacks are – whole grain crackers and cheese, mandarin oranges/apple slices/berries/grapes/other fruits, kids energy bars (my kids like Clif kid Z Bars), homemade trail mix made with mixed nuts and dried fruits (I might throw in a couple of m&ms or chocolate chips for fun), sandwiches, etc. Don’t forget water, wet wipes and paper towels. And carry a bag to carry the trash.
- Give them a map and let them navigate. Kids love to look up the direction posts on the trails.
- Let them take a picture or two. I take pictures during the hike of wild flowers and scenery. And if the kids ask, I let them take pictures they want during the hike. We put the phone away after that so that we can enjoy the hike.
- Kids Binoculars or looking glass. Once or twice my kids have even taken their spy kits.
- A small backpack to keep their snacks, map, binoculars, etc. Keep it very light! Water may be too heavy for them to carry.
- Explain the surroundings and about the woods to the kids, they are eager to learn.
- This is a great time for bonding, for long chats, playing games (i spy, etc). We talk about trees and their importance. About animals. About our regional landscape. About the local history. About anything they want.
3. Safety Gear –
- Layered clothes and I recommend long sleeved tee and long pants in light breathable fabric. This protects from sun and there could be poison oak and poison ivy.
- Comfortable hiking shoes, waterproof is better. Kids like to jump in puddles. Carry an extra pair of socks in case their socks get wet.
- Sun protection – sun screen, hat.
- First aid kit – Take along some band aid, mosquito repellent, allergy medicine, etc.
4. Safety Rules –
You may want to talk to your kids about this and remind them during hikes.
- Stay on the trail.
- Stay close to parent/adult accompanying the kids. We have a 5 step rule which means they can only be 5 steps away from us at any time, and in sight. Have to remind them as kids do get carried away.
- Don’t pick flowers, mushrooms, and other items. My kids do pick up some small dried twigs or sticks sometimes, which is put back before we leave.
- Take frequent breaks as needed.
- Drink water and have a little snack, to keep hydrated and energized.
5. Rewards –
- Appreciating them on how well they are doing, encourages them to keep going.
- Sometimes we stop for a smoothie or other healthy treat after the hike. They look forward to it excitedly.
Hiking is very rewarding. My son asked me the other day during a hike, “amma, why do you like hiking so much?”. My response was, “because our world, our earth is so much more than just people. I like to see, experience, explore and learn about everything. It helps me relax the mind and be one with nature. And of course to get some fresh air and exercise and spend time with my babies”.
Here are some kid friendly hikes we’ve been on in the bay area and beyond (updated May 2020) –
- Uvas Canyon County Park – https://www.sccgov.org/sites/parks/parkfinder/Pages/UvasCanyon.aspx
- Ulistac Natural Area – http://www.ulistac.org/
- Ed Levin County Park – Spring Valley to Los Coches Ridge trail is a moderate 2 1/2 mile hike – https://www.sccgov.org/sites/parks/parkfinder/Pages/Ed-Levin.aspx
- Ed Levin County Park – Agua Caliente Tularcitos Trail towards Monument Peak is a moderate 4 mile hike – https://www.sccgov.org/sites/parks/Activities/Biking-Hiking/Documents/PixNParks-2020-Ed-Levin.pdf
- Alum Rock Park (our favorite and most frequented)! http://www.sanjoseca.gov/Facilities/Facility/Details/176
- Sunol Regional Wilderness – https://www.ebparks.org/parks/sunol/default.htm
- Edgewood Park & Natural Preserve – https://parks.smcgov.org/edgewood-park-natural-preserve
- Shoreline Park – https://www.mountainview.gov/depts/cs/shoreline/trails/default.asp
- Ano Nuevo State Park (check out the Elephant Seal guided walk)- https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=27613
- Tilden Park – https://www.ebparks.org/parks/tilden/
- Berkeley Marina – https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Parks_Rec_Waterfront/Marina/Berkeley_Waterfront_Facility_Map.aspx
- Guadalupe River Trail – http://www.sanjoseca.gov/index.aspx?NID=2833
- Penitentia Creek Trail – http://www.sanjoseca.gov/index.aspx?NID=2874
- Quary lakes Regional Recreation Area – https://www.ebparks.org/parks/quarry_lakes/default.htm
- Picchetti Ranch – https://www.openspace.org/preserves/picchetti-ranch
- Vasona Park – https://www.sccgov.org/sites/parks/parkfinder/Pages/Vasona.aspx
- Carrizo Plain National Monument (weekend trip, outside bay area) – https://www.blm.gov/programs/national-conservation-lands/california/carrizo-plain-national-monument
- Almaden Quicksilver Park – https://www.sccgov.org/sites/parks/parkfinder/pages/almadenpark.aspx
- Fremont Older Preserve – https://www.openspace.org/preserves/fremont-older
- Santa Teresa County Park – https://www.sccgov.org/sites/parks/parkfinder/Pages/SantaTeresa.aspx
- Alviso Marina County Park – https://www.sccgov.org/sites/parks/parkfinder/Pages/AlvisoMarina.aspx
- Cowell-Purisima Coastal Trail – https://openspacetrust.org/hike/cowell-purisima-trail/
I’ll be adding more to this list as we do more hikes, and will also try and include details of the trails.