One of our favorite activities to do with our kids is to go hiking. Mike and I have enjoyed hiking together long before we had kids because we loved being outside, of course, but also because we were broke and hiking is free, so it was really a win-win. As we started growing our family, the free factor continued to appeal us and so, before we knew it, we were a family who hiked.
One thing I didn’t expect, though, was how much we would all enjoy this great family activity. I love hiking because we get to be outside, exploring our world together. I love that the kids can be free to roam, explore, and get dirty. They jump over rocks. They point out things and ask us thoughtful questions about what they see. Hiking naturally brings up great conversations about taking care of our world. About respecting plants and what our responsibility is to take care of these great parks.
Hiking is such a fun way to experience the natural beauty of our own state. It’s a great reason to pack up the car to visit a previously unknown part of Ohio! Plus, hiking gets us all up and moving. I love that we are modeling for our kids some healthy habits from an early age.
One of my friends asked for more info on the particulars to how we hike together as a family. How do we get the kids to walk? How far do we go? Where do we hike? Any helpful tips or suggestions to help other’s get started on their hiking journey?
As you can see from the main photo on this post, we are very serious hikers. We are basically pros. I thought about reaching out to REI to see if they’d like to sponsor the post but I thought it might be intimidating to interact with hikers of our caliber (wiiiiink).
Rest assured, you need not feel intimated by our vast hiking experience and know-how. We really are just like anyone else. We are simply a family with young children and no money, trying to experience nature without anyone falling off a waterfall. So far, so good.
Here is the thing about hiking with your kids, especially when they are little. You just have to get them used to it. If you have a three year old that you’ve never taken on a hike and you suddenly expect them to walk for five miles without giving you any grief, you’re proooobably going to be a little frustrated with the outcome.
I hate to break it to you, but kids are kinda the biggest whiners on the planet and they actively seek out ways to ruin the fun activities you have planned for them and your family.
With some time and consistency, they really do get over the fact that you are making them walk “forever” and start to really have fun. They start to realize that, “Hey, there are like, rocks and dirt and stuff and that’s kinda awesome.”
So my main piece of advice to anyone looking to take their young kids on hikes is to just take the plunge, expect some whining at first, but keep with it. Persistency really will pay off.
Ok, so how do we hike?
Since we enjoy traveling to new areas for a hike, I like to incorporate a “treat” into the experience. For example, I’ll pack plenty of waters and snacks (or even a lunch) so that we can rest after a hike and refuel with some healthful food. But then, I’ll have a fun stop planned as our way of saying “Thanks for putting up with parents who make you exercise and enjoy nature. Here’s your ice cream.”
Now, for the non-walking set, I recommend you wear your littlest of littles. You can’t use a stroller and it’s just not practical or all that safe to try and hold your baby while you hike. We use the Beco Gemini, in a print similar to this one. I know people will tell you that they like their brands of carriers but seriously guys, I’ve hiked up sides of mountains and down the other, descended rocky waterfall beds, and walked for miles, all while carrying my babies in this carrier and not once – not even for a second – did it hurt my neck or back. These things are pricy but man, they are worth every cent. Plus, the Gemini allows you to carrier front forward, front facing in, hip hold, and even allows for back carry (great for older/heavier babies). This thing, is the bomb.
Ok. Moving on.
Ohio has some amazing parks, and we’ve only scratched the surface of all the amazing places we have available to us to hike. Here is a list of some of our favorites:
Wooster Memorial Park
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park
The Wilderness Center in Wilmott, Ohio
Silver Creek Metro Park
Glen Helen, Yellow Springs, Ohio
Clifton Gorge, Clifton, Ohio
I’ll be honest with you about how far we hike. We tend to hike for several hours at a time and we go for several miles. We enjoy hikes that have clear cut paths and hikes that are a little more rustic. We don’t do anything serious or dangerous, but we explore the occasional off-path area that catches our eye. Again, I think this really just comes down to persistence. Kids will get used to anything you have them do on a regular basis – even hiking. We don’t really baby them. For example, our 2 1/2 year old may whine from time to time, but he knows we aren’t going to carry him piggy back. The exception would be if we know he simply isn’t feeling his best or if he were to get hurt. Or, if we happen to take a path that is just waaaay longer than anticipated. This has happened before and it’s not ideal but we all survive and hey, it’s all part of the experience.
Northeaster Ohio families! If reading this inspires you to get your family out on a trail then you should consider checking out a Summit County Metro Park. I’ve teamed up with Summit County Metro Parks to promote their Fall Hiking Spree, which is a fun incentive program that is a part of the largest and longest running event of it’s kind nation-wide.
- Sign up on their website
- Download your participant form
- Complete at least eight designated trails (but only one Hiker’s Choice) between September 1 and November 30 to receive rewards
- Update your form as you hike your chosen trails
- When you’ve completed a minimum of eight trails, drop off the form to receive your rewards (See form for locations)
As you hike, you will earn badges that you can add to your very own hiking staff (free for Summit County residents, for purchase for anyone outside the county). See how many trails you can hike and badges your family can collect!
If you participate in the spree, share photos of your explorations using the hashtags: #SMPspree and tag me @hisgirlfriday14 so we can follow along in the fun!
What about you? Do you hike with your kids? What tips do you have for families about to attempt hiking with little ones for the first time? Any favorite trails out there? They don’t have to be in Ohio – let me know your most treasured hiking spots!