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How to Raise Little Hikers 🥾

by Allison Burch

I’ve found that one of our favorite activities to do as a family is to adventure into the mountains and hit the hiking trails. My four-year-old and one-year-old love it! Seeking out adventure is a thrill for them, and it ensures a good rest when we’re back at home (what parent doesn’t love that?). Kids thrive when their senses are activated, and hiking makes sure to hit all five. The warm sun beating down on their faces or the cool fall breeze kissing their cheeks, the smell of forest, the sound of leaves crunching beneath their feet, the view at the peak of the summit, and the taste of all the yummy snacks you packed all work together to excite little bodies and provide for an epic adventure. Sounds great, right? But, how do you prepare your kid for success while on the trails? Check out the tips below to help raise happy hikers.

Start 'em young!

When you expose young children to something routinely, they don’t know any different. They grow up learning that hiking is normal and just something that your family does, they don’t question it. We started hiking with Everett when he was around two years old and took Nora on her first hike at six weeks old. We’re raising our kids to expect to hike!

Make sure they're prepared

Dress them appropriately, cover them in sunscreen, pack water and snacks. Nothing is worse than a cold, sunburnt and hungry toddler being dragged around.

Choose appropriate trails

Expecting a two-year-old to walk 6 miles with a 1,200ft elevation gain probably won’t end well. Instead, research trails ahead of time and find one that works for the youngest in your party. BONUS: choose trails that have rocks, creeks, beautiful views - interest points that speak to your little ones. Out and back trails that have little variation and excitement may not be a great choice for your kids, or for you.

Allow them to play and lead

Leave your drill sergeant cap at home, let your kid play! Allow them to put their feet in the water, to climb the rocks, and to scavenge for different color leaves. Encourage them to be the leader. What kid doesn’t get a thrill when setting the pace and feeling in charge?

Invite a friend

The more the merrier! Friends make everything better, for kids and adults.

Use positive language to when referencing your hike

Prepare your kid for a fun day, not a difficult workout. Talk about all the fun they’re going to have and the exciting things they’re going to see. Follow up the hike by asking them what they enjoyed and what made them feel proud.

Encourage them to be responsible

My oldest thrives on rules and responsibility. If yours does too, teach them early about not leaving a trace. Not only does this help to bring up helpers, but also little humans who have a heart for caring for our Earth and keeping nature wild and free.

Allison is a Denver Metro resident who has commit- ted to facilitating a bond between her kids and nature. She shares that journey with you through her blog ( and her Instagram account (@PurpleMountainMama) in the hope that it inspires you to do the same. Children that have a relationship with nature tend to seek the good for their community which benefits the world as a whole.

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