How to Plan a Family Hiking Daytrip - Raising Outdoor Girls and Boys

How to Plan a Family Hiking Daytrip - Raising Outdoor Girls and Boys

How to Plan a Family Hiking Daytrip -

Raising Outdoor Girls and Boys

Hiking is one of the best ways to experience nature, get some fresh air, see something new and get in a little (or a lot) of exercise. And exposing your kids to these things can create some core memories and lessons that they will take with them for a lifetime.

Go along with me as I lay out our hiking routine from planning and packing to the trail and back home.

 Girls Hiking - Kids Hiking


Our family prefers in and out hikes that highlight a view, especially waterfalls. So the first thing I look at when choosing a trail is what the marquee feature is. I start making a list of a bunch of options. Then, from there I dig further in on a few details. I mainly consider the trail length, difficulty or elevation changes and distance from our home. There are a ton of apps and websites that provide all of these details. My go to is AllTrails.

Once you have narrowed down the list to about 3 or 4 trails, present them to your family. Particularly the kiddos. Letting them have a reasonable say in the trail you take will get them excited for the adventure for sure. But it will also prepare them for the hike so they know what to expect. It will also start to teach them how to navigate choosing a trail for themselves or even the family eventually.

As you get closer to the day of the hike, you will want to make sure you have everything you need for the day as far as gear goes. In our family everyone, and I mean everyone who is going in and out on their own two feet, carries a pack with supplies for the day. Unless they are an infant being carried, then they have their own backpack. I think it's important for even a three-year-old to have a small pack. Not only so that they feel a part of the experience but also to realize that everyone has a role and responsibilities.

Check out our in depth look at what we pack in our backpacks for a typical day hike. If you are hiking with girls of any age, there are some things you should consider and pack in addition to the obvious.

Before you head out on your journey make sure you have detailed directions to the trail head and are aware of the parking situation. Also, always, always send the trail info and trail head location to someone not on your hike. Let them know what time you are heading out and what time you expect to get off the trail. Make plans to send a text or phone call letting them know you've ended the trek safely.

Our hikes always include a picnic lunch at the halfway point or once we have arrived at whatever our view destination is. So, I totally recommend that someone's backpack be a cooler backback of some kind to keep sandwiches and drinks cool. If you are doing a summer hike, a cold coke is an amazing thing halfway through. When our youngest daughter was really little her job was to carry everyone's potato chips or other light snacks in her backpack. Being lighter on the way back allowed her to collect rocks, sticks or whatever else she found interesting on her way.


Girls picnic lunch on hike. Hiking with kids. Outdoor girls.


We usually make a Subway stop on our way and pack those in. Of course, making sandwiches ahead at home is a timesaver and a little more cost effective. We have just found this to be easiest for us. A pro tip for you, do not put any condiments on the sandwich. Take packets or a little travel container with your mayo and mustard to put on your sandwich there so you don't have a soggy lunch.

We hit the trail as early as possible in the day. This is for several reasons. The most important being that you want to make sure you are off the trail by nightfall if you have only prepared for a day hike. And keep in mind that it gets dark a little earlier in woods than out in the open. But other reasons being that we like to take our time. If you have little legs in your group, this really isn't an option, so you'll want to consider this when planning your day. As well as how many miles your trek is.

Once you find the trailhead and you are off your adventure has officially begun. While I think looking back at my parenting so far, I feel like I did a decent job at getting our girls outdoors and fostering a connection to nature. But what I would do differently on those hikes when the girls were little is that I would be much more intentional. I am sure that I pointed out funny looking trees or rocks. Surely if we spotted a creature it was talked about. But was more casual than with a purpose. Don't pass an opportunity to google something that is curious. Or share some knowledge that you may think is obvious with your children. But even more than that, seek them out.

girl outdoors pointing at dragonfly. Girl on a hike. Kids on hikes.


An app that identifies trees and plants is a great way. Word of caution though, this can become addictive and if not careful will allow you to drain your cell phone battery, which isn't recommended. I still completely suggest downloading an app though, but make sure that you are paying attention. My favorite is the app PictureThis.

Commemorate the day! We began a tradition while on our adventures of looking for a rock during our hike. On this rock we would write with a Sharpie the trail name and the date. So it had to be the perfect rock. Big enough to fit the information. And flat enough on one side to write on. It became the challenge of the day. Once back home we have a jar on display that holds these rocks. One of the benefits of hiking as a family is creating core memories and we find that this solidifies that in a way.

Commemorate hiking trips. Jar full of rocks with trail names. Hiking with kids.

 Related Read: 8 Ways to Bring Nature Into Your Home

When you've reached the end of your trail and you are back in your car there a few things I started packing for after the hike and leaving in the car or truck. Baby wipes are great for cleaning up a bit before loading back in. Everyone is likely sweaty and dirty. If you did a hike that involved water, then keeping some beach towels on hand so everyone can dry off if not dry already before climbing back in your vehicle. But one of the best things we started leaving behind in the car is another small cooler with cold water and/or sodas. A box of cookies or some other treat to boost everyone's blood sugar helps keep tired girls (and mom and dad) from getting too grumpy.

Family Hiking. Kids outdoors. Girls Outdoors.

I heard a quote from a tour guide we had on kayaking excursion that has stuck with us. He said, the definition of ADVENTURE is not knowing the outcome.

Hiking with children is guaranteed to be an adventure. But one you will treasure and so will they. Keep looking for ways to nurture the outdoor girl or outdoor boy in your crew.


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