The Best  Picnic Lunch Ideas for the Hiking Trail

The Best Picnic Lunch Ideas for the Hiking Trail


Lunch is my favorite part of just about everyday. But it is definitely one of my favorite parts of our hikes. If you are hitting the trail for the day with friends or your kiddos, then check out how we have a picnic lunch on the trail. 




You will need a cooler backpack, a couple of ice packs and a picnic blanket included in your hiking gear. I recommend a blanket with a liner to keep you dry in case the best picnic spot turns out to be a little damp. 





The ice packs aren’t crucial. If you would rather keep the load light, you can forgo the ice pack. Although, the ones shown above are slim and pretty light.

I would still recommend the cooler backpack because they are good at keeping sandwiches and other food from getting squished. Also, if you put anything cold in, it will help keep it cool even without the ice, for a little while at least. 


However, if you are hiking on a hot day, taking a break and enjoying a cold drink and chilled sandwich may be an experience that will top the best steak dinner you’ve ever had. Well, maybe. 


You can toss in a couple of water bottles for a cold drink. If you think your blood sugar may need a little midday boost, think about packing a coke or energy drink. 


Better yet, a really good idea is to freeze a water bottle or two the night before and use those as ice packs and then have cold water to drink for the after lunch portion of the hike. 



Subway Pit Stop  



If you are looking for ideas beyond a round of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for your crew, consider making a Subway stop. Or whatever your family’s favorite sandwich shop is. 


Our family hiking routine is to make a pit stop at a Subway on the way to the trailhead. They are usually open early so making the stop and still getting on the trail early isn’t typically a problem. 


We do this for several reasons. For starters, everyone can get exactly what they want and I am not the one who has to make them. But also, it is a great way to load your sandwich up on fresh veggies for a healthy meal. So pile on the bell peppers, cucumbers, spinach and olives.


The most important thing is to skip the mayo and mustard or you will have a soggy lunch later. Instead, grab packets of them and toss them in the bag. You can even snag packets of olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper if you prefer. Don’t forget the napkins!


You can either pack one big bag of potato chips or let everyone pick their personal preferences of snack sized bags. We would usually let the youngest in the group be in charge of carrying these in their hiking pack. This way they are participating in the hike and responsible for carrying supplies like everyone else, but keeps it super light so it isn’t a burden. 




Home Style Lunches 


If Subway isn’t your hiking style or just not the agenda, then homemade sandwiches are always a good option. You can still make a great sandwich stacked with ham, lettuce and other veggies. Instead of packets of condiments you can spoon a little out into a small reusable container and spread them on at lunchtime. Just don’t forget to pack a plastic knife. 



Other Sandwich Ideas





Pita bread makes an excellent travel sandwich option. Especially for a salad filling. And, if you are making sandwiches for a crowd then making a batch big enough to go around is a great plan. Here are a few Pita bread and salad delicious hiking lunch ideas. 


  • Tuna salad

  • Tuna salad with avocado

  • Chicken salad

  • Egg salad

  • Egg salad with avocado






Bagel sandwiches are a great idea because the bread will hold up to a slice of tomato and not get soggy. They are also great because you can choose from a lot of flavor options. Everything from “everything” to blueberry bagels. Here are a few bagel sandwich ideas.


  • Fried egg and cheese

  • Nutella and banana

  • Pepperoni, cheese and pizza sauce

  • Cream Cheese, bacon and jalapeno and maybe a little hot sauce

  • Pile on the veggies and add a smear of cream cheese or hummus 



Non-Sandwich Options


Who says a picnic lunch has to be a sandwich? There are several options that would make a great trail lunch that don’t include two pieces of bread. Here are few non-sandwich, easy day hike lunch ideas.


  • Cold chicken fingers (Publix absolutely makes the best chicken fingers and they are just as good chilled). 

  • Pasta salad. Add in tuna, ham, pepperoni, roasted chicken, anything really.

  • Cheese, crackers, fruit, cherry tomatoes and hard boiled eggs. An adventure charcuterie of sorts.

  • Overnight oats



Make a Lunchtime Plan


Alright, you are all packed up and headed out. Before you start the hiking trail, decide where or when you would like to have lunch. Setting a goal will help make sure you don’t eat too soon and have everyone miserable later in the day when lunch has long burned off and energy levels and tanking. 


We usually figure out how long it should take to get to our destination point in the hike (the view, waterfall or whatever it is we are hiking to or our turnaround point). Then we set a time that should be about halfway there. When it starts to get close to that time, we start looking for a good spot to spread out. 


This is where that lined picnic blanket becomes the best thing you have packed. 



Beyond Lunch


You and your crew will be burning a lot of calories. Obviously make sure you have enough water. Keep enough healthy snacks separate from lunch to have a snack (or two) before lunch and a snack (or two) after lunch, especially on longer hikes. If you have kiddos on the journey with you, you may need two or three small before and after lunch snacks. Those little legs are going to be working double time, so keep them in easy reach. Here are a few trail snacks ideas of to pack in. 


  • Hard cheeses, like Babybel

  • Trail mix

  • Protein bars

  • Nuts

  • Nutella and crackers

  • Fresh fruits (a banana, apple or small bowl of strawberries or grapes)

  • Beef Jerky

  • Fruit leather

  • Pretzels

  • Dried fruit




After the Hike


Hiking has a ton of benefits. You get to connect with nature, get some fresh air and vitamin D. It is a fantastic adventure opportunity since you never know what you will see or will happen. One thing is for sure, you will work your muscles and cardio! 


A great idea for the end of a long hike is to have a treat waiting at the car or truck. So something I like to do is pack a cooler with ice, water and something caffeinated. And a box of cookies or some similar sort of treat. 


Gasp! I know, most hiking blogs are going to say no processed food, no caffeine, no sugar, no junk food. But, that just isn’t our family 100% of the time. Sure, we lean that way and try to make those decisions most of the time. But a cold coke and cookie when you are completely worn out is fantastic experience.



That's a Wrap


So to wrap it up, hop on Amazon and order a backpack cooler and picnic blanket for your next outdoor adventure. Consider letting a Sandwich Artist take orders instead of you. Do leave off the mayo and mustard but don't forget to pack them separately and put them on at lunchtime. And last, have a cold treat waiting for your crew at the end of the day.  


Hopefully, you have picked up a few ideas to use on your next hike. If you have some picnic ideas for a hike, let us know! Also, check out our Family Day Hike Packing List for more tips and suggestions. 

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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