Saturday, August 31, 2019

Families who hike together, stay together

Family of Hikers
Modern families are busy! Children's schedules are filled with school events, sporting practises, dance recitals, tutors, etc... We even structure children's time with their friends (also known as 'play dates').  Parents find themselves dividing and conquering taxi duties to meet the relentless demands of getting their children to their scheduled activities, all while trying to balance their own work obligations and keeping the house clean and maintained.    

There seems to be fewer opportunities in a week to spend time as a family.  The traditional image of the family sitting together at the  dinner table has been replaced by family members grabbing food on the go, while rushing to get to the next work commitment, soccer practice, or game. Although this has been great for the fast food industry, it has created a havoc on family cohesion and feelings of togetherness.  

Not taking the time to connect as a family can have devastating consequences.  Over time, family members can feel disconnected, empty and without sufficient positive family memories to bank on in harder times.   

Hiking provides an opportunity to counter the pull in a million different directions.  There are many great benefits of hiking with children. Hitting the trails allows families to explore, discover and appreciate nature, to enjoy amazing views, to get family members (including parents) off of their devices, and to carve out time together from the busy schedules of work, school, house chores, and organized activities.


Hiking as a family provides the opportunity to carve out time with kids and helps to unify parents and children. Dedicating time on the trail helps to increase family cohesion and connection and helps to repair ruptures of separation due to work, school, activities, and just being a busy and active family.

Research has been clear about the health and mental health benefits of walking, and especially hiking in the outdoors. 

Walking in nature makes the body stronger and the soul hardier. But while the benefits of spending time in nature has been document, it seems to be an insufficient explanation of why families go hiking.

Science has also recently connected hiking to improved family cohesion and connection. Being in nature (and away from busy schedules, devices, other commitments) provides a peaceful background that allows for time for family members to reconnect, communicate, discover and to grow closer as family members.

Hiking as a family can produce an emotional centre of gravity for family members. A group of researchers from Norway found in 2016 that carving out time as a family to hike can strengthen core family relations.

Family on Trail in Vermont

Spending time on the trail can give each member of the family a vacation from the strains and stresses of everyday life and helps the family focus on just spending time together without the distractions.

Although all family vacations are supposed to help families reconnect, most destinations actually create more stress than benefit (e.g. dealing with crowds and traffic, the constant bombardment of lights and noises, trying to figure out where to eat, kids on their phones while parents are at the bar, etc...).

Unlike most family vacations, nature provides a peaceful background that is devoid of the lights, noises and smells of crowded amusement-style vacations and free from the distractions of everyday life. The troubles of work, school, and non-family relationships are far removed from the hiking trail and so you can just focus on your next step, your next view, and your next great conversation with your children.

Hiking with children provides the opportunity to drop all other obligations and just focus on the time spent together without disturbance. Nature creates a natural enclosure around families while on the trail, which helps families enjoy just being together at that moment.

Here are some ways to carve out your schedule to increase family cohesion and to benefit from the time spent on the trail:

  1. Commit to hiking as a family at least once a week.  Family hikes can range from a couple of hours to a couple of days. Although you probably don't have the time or money to fly out to exotic locations to hike bucket list mountain tops, there are probably lots of smaller hikes nearby that you can do without having to carve out too much time from your busy schedule. 
  2. Commit to hiking in all seasons.  If you live in an area with snow in the winter, do not let the colder weather deter you from your goal.  There are plenty of options to hike year round, including snowshoeing, hiking on known winter trails, cross-country skying (not hiking, but has the same benefit because it uses many of the same trails).  
  3. Include hiking trips in your calendar.  Too often, spending time with family gets pushed back on the 'to do' list because of competing demands of work, school, activities, appointments, etc.  Make spending time with your family a priority by including hiking trips in your calendar so that you make appointments around this time, rather than wait to see whether you will have time at the end of the week (which you probably won't!).
  4. Become an expert of your local trail systems.  By scheduling weekly hikes, you will need to do some research about the various options in your area.  This is a perfect opportunity to engage children in hiking by having them be part of the research and to be part of the decision making.  Also good to have them write down their thoughts about each hike so that you can compare notes and keep the conversation going even when off the trail.
  5. Make hiking part of your family identity.  There are many ways to infuse space for hiking in your busy lives, even when not on the trail.  You can, for example, include family hiking photos on your family room walls, give each other hiking gifts for birthday presents and special occasions, find ways to integrate hiking into other activities, watch movies about hiking, and come up with hiking bucket lists. 

Hiking close to home


Hiking provides families with the opportunity to get out of the hustle and bustle of everyday life, enjoy and appreciate nature, and spend time with each other.  But consider hiking as a bio-dome around your family that blocks the interruptions and stresses from the outside world while providing the opportunity for parents and children to enjoy family life, reconnect and recharge.  Family cohesion helps children grow happy and healthy and provides a protective buffer from the stresses of modern life.  

Hiking is not just a recreational pastime in nature, its an active time that helps families reconnect, energize and helps build strong lasting family cohesion.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Getting kids dialled in for hiking

Engaging children to explore while hiking

Hiking can be a great family passion. Making the hike engaging and entertaining for children will help to pass the time and to get through the tough spots on the trail. Here are some tips for making a long day fun and educational.

Flora and fauna identification

Forest on Jewell Trail of Mt. Washington

Children are like sponges for information. Before heading out on the trail, do some research with your children. Learn about the common types of trees, shrubs, plants and flowers they many encounter. Edibles along the trail (e.g. blueberries) are also fun to identify (and eat!).

Also good to teach them about vegetation they should be avoiding, like poison ivy, oak or sumac. 

You can create a 'score card' and laminate it (so it does not get wet) to identify the different types of vegetation and bring it with you on the trail to help identify the flora and fauna they are observing on the hike.  Observing the surrounding, rather than hiking by them, can create a great dialog during the hike with kids.

Sounds of the forest

Listening to the sounds of the forest

There are many great sounds in the forest, from birds chirping to the sounds of howling wolves (depending on your location of course). 

Teaching children about the different sounds of bird songs or the various sounds of frogs (chirp, croak, ribbit, peep, grunt, etc.) is a great way to feed their love of learning and an appreciation of the outdoors. When they hear a bird, for example, you can play a game with them to see if they can identify the bird. If you spot a frog, see who can make the sound of that frog. 

The geology around you and under you

Exploring caves near Blue Mountain, Ontario

The study of rocks and rock formations is fascinating, especially when you are hiking on them and when they are all around you.  Rather than just jumping from rock to rock (which can also be fun), try investigating how the rock was formed and the type of rock you are walking on.  Are you walking on granite, igneous, quartz, lava, shale, banded iron, glacial, sandstone?  How can you tell the difference among the various types of rocks?  

Creating a sheet that can help identify possible types of rocks and formations on a hike in a specific location can help inform the discovery of rocks (and educate the parents about the different types of rocks too!).

Animal tracking and spotting signs of animals

Capturing animal tracks on hikes

Animals leave signs in the woods that tell you that they have been on the same path as you are hiking on, including a track, scat or dropping and hairs or feathers. 

There are great books or laminated sheets you can get before you head out to help teach children learn about these signs left by animals. 

When you come across a track, kids can identify it and figure out what direction the animal was heading. Scat or droppings also helps to identify what animal was on the trail. 

Kids are always intrigued by animals and knowing how to identify them is a fun way to engage them on the hike.

Scavenger Hunt

Getting the kids involved on the trail
Now that you have equipped them with some knowledge of the flora, fauna, rocks, and animals you may encounter along the trail, you can set up a scavenger hunt. To do this, you just need a little research, some creativity and a hiking notepad that can write when it's wet.   

Create a list before you head out of things you want them to find along the trail, such as a specific tree, mushroom, flower, bird, rock, animals track, etc.  When they spot these items or hear them, they can note them in their books.  To make sure they work as a team, it is best that they all look and hear for the same items as this creates a fun game and helps them to bond on the trail.  

Games along the trail

Playing games on the trail 

Before cellphones and other devices, parents used to play games with their kids to help pass the time on long drives.  Hiking is one of the activities you can do as a family that still affords you the opportunity to play these games, since it's too difficult to walk on trails while playing on their phones because they may walk into a tree!  There are several games that you can play while hiking and many of these you probably played with your parents on those long drives (but in case you forgot, we are providing a list of examples below).
  • Name that tune: Someone hums a tune and everyone else tries to guess what it is. Who ever guesses it right gets to go next.
  • Story telling: Someone starts a story and then the next hiker says the next line, then the next and so on. The stories can be very silly but so much fun.
  • Word connect: Someone says a word, the next person says a word that is related to that word, then the next person says a word related to that word and it keeps going.
  • What do you want to be: Each hiker tells what they want to be when they get older and the adults can tell about what they wanted to be as a kid.
  • The alphabet game: Starting with the letter A, identify something on the trail that starts with that letter and then work your way through the alphabet.
  • Close up: Have someone run up the trail a bit and snap a picture of something extremely close up. The other hikers have to try and identify the object in the picture.
  • Twenty questions: One person in the group thinks of a person place or thing and the rest of the group has twenty questions to figure it out.
The games are endless. Have an idea of a few of them so you can keep your children engaged along the trail.  Feel free to comment below about some of the games that you have played while on the trail.

Taking the time to talk with your kids on the trail

Sometimes it is just nice to have casual conversation. Rather than sitting across from your kids and asking them questions (and not getting responses), hiking provides a diversion from face to face communication and helps children to talk at their pace and their comfort level.

Allow the kids to bring up topics as they come up. Maybe there has been something bothering them at school and they have been waiting for a good time to talk to you (without all of the other distractions) and hiking allows time to vocalize their worries and to get help from you to problem solve. Or perhaps they have a funny story to share or they have questions about something they have been curious about. 

Allowing free dialog always creates interesting conversations. It may not involve the whole group but allowing hikers to pair off and chat is a natural way to enjoy the woods.

Independent hiking

There are always places on the trail for children to have a little independence and allow them to hop over rocks or other obstacles to master the outdoors. 

Allowing children to be independent on the trail teaches them to be responsible, while helping to achieve confidence while hiking.

Walking over fallen logs or creek crossing on rocks gives them small feelings of success and accomplishment.  This allows them to develop their hiking skills and creates a greater sense of confidence on the trail. 

While it is easier for parents to have young hiker follow the exact path taken by an adult in the lead, it does not teach children to be creative and to learn ways to overcome obstacles.  

Fun at the top

Reaching the peak of a mountain is an accomplishment and should be celebrated, but allowing children to explore the summit and to engage in this amazing environment helps them feel connected to the summit experience and develops a sense of curiosity for the tops of mountains.  


Hiking is extremely rewarding and fun for the whole family, but hiking can also engage children to learn about the importance of environment  nature, the ecosystem and the geography.    

Creating fun, interactive, educational and engaging games along the trail can alleviate boredom, fatigue and can pass the time on a longer hike. 

Monday, August 26, 2019

Peak seeking with kids means making the most of the summit

Flash on top of Mt. Washington

Enjoy the summit

We see too many people who quickly take their picture at the summit of the mountain, only to start the descent without fully enjoying the time at the summit. Hiking to the top of a mountain is an amazing experience, especially when you are above the tree line and in the clouds. It is a proud moment for all family members when you reach the peak, so make sure you savour it and enjoy every moment. Without careful planning, you may not be prepared to take full advantage of the top of the mountain. So we offer these tips for making the most of the summit with children.
Prepare for the top of the mountain

Weather can be drastically different at the peak. Higher altitude can bring changing weather and temperatures. With no tree cover, the wind can be strong and chilly even in the summer months. Rain can also be cold, especially if there is little shelter to help you stay dry. Having the proper clothing for the top of the summit allows everyone to stay safe on the peak and allows you to spend a little longer on the mountain top without having to rush off due to the weather.

Staying warm on Giant in the Adirondacks

As your body temperature begins to cool, adding layers and something to block the wind will help keep your body heat from plummeting. Kids lose heat fast so important to bring hats, gloves, extra socks and layers of clothing for all weather.

Depending on your elevation, you should also make sure everyone has adjusted to the altitude. Acute mountain sickness (altitude sickness) usually occurs above 2500 meters and especially when elevation is rapid. Common indicators of acute mountain sickness include: headaches; nausea; vomiting; fatigue; and dizziness. But children may also show signs of refusing to eat or drink and appearing lethargic and not talking.

Although children are no more likely to develop acute mountain sickness than adults, it can be harder to detect in children and especially challenging to separate acute mountain sickness from the expected fatigue of climbing to the peak of the mountain. If at all concerned, you should not stay at the top of the mountain, but instead descend to an altitude that allows everyone to start feeling better.

Take a longer break

Resting on top of Wright Mountain 

With the proper clothing, good weather conditions and with everyone feeling in good space, the thrill of reaching the top should be celebrated.

Once on the top, it is good to give children the time to break and to get regain their energy levels. Although going downhill won't suck the energy out of everyone like going uphill, downhill requires everyone to remain focused, alert and feeling they have enough energy to navigate the downhill terrain.

A longer break also allows everyone to enjoy the magnificent views and to appreciate the opportunity to be above the tree line.

To optimize the experience at the top, it is important to plan your stay while the peak is not too busy. Find out from locals about the busiest times on the peak and try to avoid them by either going earlier or later. If crowds cannot be avoided, then pick a spot on the peak that allows you to take a break away from the crowds. Sometimes this means, taking your family picture at the peak, and then lowering off of the peak to a nearby flat rock area where you can have lunch without the interruptions of others around you.

Take off boots and socks

Boots and socks off on top of South Dix Mountain in the Adirondacks

The top is an excellent spot to let your feet breath by taking off your boots and socks. Lay the socks out flat on a rock so that they air out and dry (make sure you pick off any debris from the socks before the children put them back on their feet or this will irritate them when they get back on the trail).

This is also a great time to look over their feet to address any hot spots that may be developing (also good to check for insect bites as well).

There is no better place for a snack than on top of a mountain

Snack time on Algonquin Mountain
Although children can appreciate the views, they will be more likely to enjoy the opportunity to bring out the food that you all prepared for the journey now that you reached the top. This is the perfect time to pull out those snacks that the kids picked out from the grocery store and helped you make before the trek.

We have found that wraps are great options for snacks at the top of a peak because they are not messy, they are easy to take out of the packs and eat with no additional preparation and because wraps can be filled with all kinds of fun ingredients (we let the children choose their fillings for the wraps so we know they will like them once they get to the top).

This is a great time to use the powder drink mix in the water bottles (ice tea, lemonade, Gatorade, etc.)

Make sure you bring an extra resealable bag (zip lock) to carry out all of the trash so that you leave your resting area cleaner than when you got there.

Having fun on the mountain

Mountain Yoga for Kids

Although hiking can be a lot of work when climbing peaks, make sure you also make it fun for the kids. As we sit around enjoying our snacks, we like to talk about the hike and the peak. Ask your kids about the most memorable part of the day so far, what they will remember from doing the peak, and what they want for supper by time we get back down!

We like playing games with the kids, like 'I Spy' to point out specific items within our view (a lake, another peak, a type of vegetation, etc). It's a fun way to make them aware of their surroundings, without it appearing that they are back in school.

Each peak will have a unique feeling special features. Everyone seems to like something different from a mountain top so this is a great way to learn from the kids how they are experiencing the summit and what seems to be leaving a mark on them. 

A picture tells a thousand words

Panoramic view of mountain range in the Adirondacks

Do not forget to take pictures. It is hard to describe the view from the top but a picture can help (although a picture can never truly capture the feelings you had while there).

Before each climbing to the top of a peak, we make a sign that says the mountains name and the elevation. This provides a good way to prepare children for the task of climbing to the top, it helps to keep track of the peaks we have climbed and it makes for a great family photo. We have found that the kids also like individual pictures at the top, so they can share with their friends.

Homemade sign for family peak photo
Kids can also take the most amazing pictures because they see things differently on the trail. Allowing the kids to snap photos while on the top provides them the opportunity to be creative and to embrace the hiking experience.


Every peak is unique and another accomplishment. Although not every hike needs to reach a summit, reaching the peak of a mountain can provide children with a sense of accomplishment, knowing that they have completed the challenge. 

Take time to enjoy the top, as it is not every day that you will have the opportunity to sit on the top of a mountain and enjoy the clean crisp air, the amazing views and the bonding with your family. It is a feeling like no other!

Although the saying it is not the destination but the journey may be true, when hiking the destination makes the journey worth it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Family Peak Seekers Travel Adventures

FPS Algonquin and Wright in the Adirondacks


Top 10 reasons why early morning hikes are better with kids

Getting an early start to a long day of hiking

1) Starting early on the trail allows you to take more breaks. When hiking with children, it is important to be realistic on the length of time that it will take to complete the trail. Many rating and reviews of trails are done by avid hikers and their time will be much shorter than with children. Starting the trail early serves a few purposes. One you will need to take more breaks which increases the trail time.

2) Starting early on the trail avoids the heat. Early afternoon in the summer months is often the hottest time of the day. Starting early allows you to get a good portion of the trail done before it gets too hot, which can help decrease fatigue due to the heat.

3) Starting early on the trail avoids traffic on the trails. More popular trails tend to get busy as the day goes on, so starting early allows you to beat the traffic and enjoy the destination with less people.

4) Starting early on the trail increases your chances of finding a parking spot at the trailhead. As the trails get busier, it becomes more difficult to find parking, especially on trails that get crowded during the day. As they say the early bird catches the worm or in some cases a parking spot.

5) Starting early on the trail increases your chances to see wild life. As the trail becomes more travelled, the wild life tends to go deeper into the woods away from the trail.

6) Starting early on the trail decreases the chance of being the last one on the trail. When you are hiking with kids, its good to know that other hikers will be coming along should you ever get into a situation where you need help. If you are stuck on a ridge and you are the last group on the trail for that day, it may be a while before you can get help.

7) Starting early on the trail means that you get out quicker to do other activities. Even if kids love hiking, they probably want to do other activities as well on their vacations. Getting off the trail early allows you to fill in your day with additional activities or the kids, or just getting an ice cream before the store closes!

8) Starting early on the trail reduces your chances of having to hike in the dark. On full day hikes, you will want to take the necessary breaks to eat, drink and relax so that the journey is not too taxing for the kids (and you!). But coming off the trail in the dark can create problems, especially if there is a curfew in place.

9) Starting early on the trail makes you plan for the hike the day before. Knowing that you need to get up early in the morning, you will need to make sure all of the packs are ready to go, the hiking clothes are out and ready to slip on and that all of the food and supplies have been accounted for. If you way until the morning to do this, it will take up valuable time of sunlight and eat into your hiking daylight hours.

10) Starting early on the trail is fun because feels like an adventure. Kids seem to only get up early for special occasions (e.g. Santa) and so getting up early when its still dark or just getting light outside makes the hiking day feel extra special...even if they don't feel that way when you first wake them up!

Top 10 ways to make hiking fun for kids

 Kids having fun on top of Rocky Ridge Mountain in the Adirondacks 

The most important factor to consider when hiking with children is that it has to be fun. If it is not fun, you will face resistance even before the hike starts or you will hear "are we there yet?" until you get off the trail. Involving children in all stages of the hike (planning, preparing, researching, deciding when / where to take breaks, documenting the trips, etc.) is the key to a successful family adventure.

Top ten ways to making hiking fun for kids

1) Once you have determined the skill level of your little hikers, now you must look at trails match their skill set. Come up with several options and discuss with the kids the pros and cons of each trail. Allow them to ask questions and go through pictures of the trails to give them as much information as possible. If they are involved in choosing the hiking the trail, they feel involved and invested. 

Kids planning route on Centennial Ridge in Algonquin Park, Ontario 
2) Now that a suitable trails has been selected, it is now time to get the equipment ready. Lay the packs and other equipment out. Have each child go through and ensure they have everything they need. Show them how to organize their packs, as it teaches them how to be a good hiker and draws them into the experience. They may even point out pieces of their gear they wish to upgrade.

Planning for hikes at our campsite near Boston

3) Take them grocery shopping for food for the hike (e.g. snacks, lunch, drink powders for the water). Let them pick out snacks that are trail worthy and they find fun to eat. They will look forward to taking times and anticipate the yummy snack they picked out when they feel tired on the trail and need some extra energy to keep going.

Sharing a snack while on the trail 

4) Give them a job to do. Ask them to research fun games to play along the trail. Ask older children to help their siblings master technical parts of the trail. Give children specific items to carry in their packs (e.g. the snacks, water filtration system, etc.) and have them in charge of the items while on the trail.

Older brother helping sister to log walk 

5) Take breaks when they need it or at a fun place they can explore. Stopping at a place where they can do some rock jumping or throw rocks into a creek allows them to decompress and relax. Noticing the signs that your little hiker may need a break is important to avoid resistance towards hiking.

Having fun on the trail 

6) Be an educator of the forest. Teaching the kids about plant life they will see is a fun way to learn. Learning about different species of trees, flowers and shrubs can help them identify them on the trail and grow an appreciation of their surroundings (rather than just looking down at their feet on the trail!). Teach them about the fungus, mushrooms and edibles they can pick and eat along the way and those that should be avoided. Knowing what plants to avoid (like leaves of three let it be for poison ivy and oak) is important for safety on the trail. Kids tend to enjoy spotting the plant life around them and sharing it with the group.

Developing an appreciation of trees 

7) Learn to spot the presence of animals on the trail. There is so much wild life along the trail and signs of wild life to observe. From insects, birds, amphibians and mammals there are signs of them all along the trail. Learning about animal tracks, for example, can be a huge part of enjoyment on the trail. Kids can carry a small card that helps them identify tracks or scat along the trail and they can record the types of animals on each trail. Make sure you stop and engage in their enjoyment of all things along the trail. Another really fun game along the trail is identifying a bird or frog by its song. They can do research before hand to help them with this game.

Holding a red eastern newt on the trail in Vermont 

8) Allow each child to lead on the trail at some point. This allows them to feel like they are leading the group. They can point out obstacles along the trail and set the pace. Rather than always following the adults on the trail, they can become the leader. Plus it teaches them how to identify trail markers and how to read them. Just make sure you are aware of the trail conditions ahead and make sure they stop at any section that becomes too technical and where they need assistance.

Children taking the lead on the hiking trail 
9) Give older children the opportunity to be independent on the trail as this gives them a sense of accomplishment and the feeling that they can be trusted. As well, older siblings can assist their siblings on technical parts, which can give them a sense of pride. Let the children use the hiking equipment. If you need to pump water, let them find the perfect place to pump from the river and allow them to pump the water. Kids tend to love being included in hiking, so include them in all aspects of the sport!

Hiking towards independence and feeling on top of the world 
10) Capturing the moment. Most older children have some type of device that allows them to take pictures. Encourage them to use their devices for taking pictures (but not for checking their social media sites while on the trail!). You can also teach them to take pictures with the family camera that you use for the hikes. Children see the world differently, so having pictures from their perspectives will only enhance your photos and videos of the trip. Another advantage is that you will be able to have them take pictures of you too while on the trail!

Picture captured by Spicy of parents on the trail 

Safety on the trail: A little planning goes a long way

Hike trails that are within the skill level of your youngest hiker

Research is Key!

It is important to do research on every trail you hike. Look at the ratings, length and time the trail has taken other hikers. Consider if those posting review of trails are considered avid, average or a group of family hikers because descriptions of the trails will vary based on the experience of the hikers who are posting the reviews. 

For a hike that is rated difficult, you should research why it has been rated as difficult.  Sometimes trails are rated as hard because there are difficult sections, dangerous sections or because the trail is just long. 

For more technically challenging hikes, you should consider if your children are ready for that type of trail based on their ages, skill levels and whether they are able to hike long distances (without asking 'are we there yet' every five minutes). 

Some trails have a few different trail heads that can range in difficulty for you to consider (with kids, we always look for trails that are challenging but not dangerous). 

Longer trails can be appealing when hiking with children because they may be more 'kid friendly' even though it will take longer to complete.  Depending on the options, taking the less technical trail may be your best option for safety reasons when hiking with children. 

Sign in/out or register at the trail head

Many hikes have a sign in or registration book at the start of the trail. It is important to sign in and out of the trail and put the correct number of hikers in your party. There are a few reasons for doing this:
  • Rangers/staff need to know how many people are on the trail and how many have exited the trail and whether there are any hikers who remain on the trail after dark.  Many trails have a curfew so important to check if there is a time that you are expected to be off the trail. 
  • When registering, you can also check to see how many other groups of hikers are ahead of you on the trail. This is another important factor to know before starting the hike. If you are the first on the trail, you will have a better chance of seeing wildlife (or you may want to consider making more noise to alert animals so they keep their distance). 
Always register at the sign post before starting a hike

Know your limits

Never take on a trail that you have not researched.  Make sure you check the weather and the range of time that you may be on the trail.  Peak seeking is a passion not to be taken lightly. If the rating of a trail does not suit all hikers in your group, find a trail that does. If a hiker in your group does not feel safe, it isn’t safe. 

Safety on the trail includes children feeling confident to tackle the challenges they may face

Be prepared for anything

A clear sunny day can quickly turn into a thunder storm especially when peak seeking. Always expect rain/snow when hiking on mountains. Have rain/winter clothing with you for each family member. Rain coat/pants, winter coat, warm layers, toques and gloves are all important gear to protect from the elements and these should be easily accessible if the weather changes suddenly. Remember that hypothermia is a serious threat for hikers and one of the leading causes of problems on the trails when hiking mountains. 

Always carry enough water for the hike and plan your potential water sources before you start your hike by looking at the map for potential sources (rivers, streams, etc).  Hydration is another key to a successful and safe hike with children. 

Camel backs are a great option for children as they can drink water as needed on the trail (but you must monitor their water intake throughout the trip to make sure they are actually drinking the water in their camel backs).  Once children say they are thirsty, they have already started to get dehydrated. 

When hiking with children, it is always better to have too much water.  Although this will make the packs heavier to carry, it only takes a simple turn to get lost or misdirected which can increase the time on the trail. 

We also always bring a water pump and life straws so we can refill water as needed and available.  Knowing the route and potential water sources can help to plan when you need to pump water to make sure you have enough before moving on to places that may not have water supplies. 

Bringing food for snacks is always a good idea, no matter how short the hike.  Children burn a lot of calories on the trail and tend to get hungry a lot quicker than adults.  Having enough snacks to offer a hungry hikers is something we recommend.

Carry a compass and map that is water proof and learn how to use them before going out on the trail.  Many trails are clearly marked, but it is easy to miss a marker if you are not careful and end up off the trail and needing to find your way back.  At this point, it is too late to learn how to use the compass to find your way back and you probably will not be able to use your cell phones given that most parks do not have great cell phone coverage.  

If you do get lost and it is starting to get dark, it is best to stay put and start a fire if needed. Day light will help give you a better sense of direction by the way the sun comes up.  The sun rises in the east so it will give you a direction point.  Day light also helps to read the map easier.

Headlamps are a must for trips with children because you may find that it takes longer than expected to hike a trail with children, especially if they get tired and need more breaks.  Be prepared to walk out of the trail in the dark on at least one occasion!  

Although cell phone coverage may be intermittent at best, it is still a good idea to carry a full charged cell phone, as you may be able to find a 'hot spot' where there will be enough bars on your phone to make an emergency phone call. With your phone, they should also be able to track your location and send the proper coordinates for emergency help. 

Making sure you have all of your supplies before you head out on the trail

Be prepared to postpone a hike

There are several reasons in which you may consider postponing a hike. 
  • Technically challenging: Trails can be dangerous if your children are not ready for the challenge. If they are not ready (too tired, not feeling well, etc), consider postponing in for another time when they are better prepared. 
  • Weather permitting: Check the forecast frequently before you start. Weather can play a huge factor towards a successful hike. If it is raining for large periods of time, the trail may be slippery and create unnecessary danger.  As well, rain may make it cold and unpleasant, which will hinder the experience and contribute to time delays. 
  • A late start: When planning a hike, especially a longer one, you need to consider the start time. If you get a late start, you may be hiking out in the dark. Is your crew ready for a night hike? Do you have headlamps with fresh batteries? If not, be flexible and do a shorter hike that day and reschedule the longer hike for a day you can get an earlier start. 
  • You don’t have the proper gear: If you have being doing only small hikes, you may not have the proper gear to complete a longer hike (e.g. filtration system, proper fitting packs, headlamps, etc.). Heading out on longer trails without the proper gear can be unsafe so better to postpone these hikes until you are more prepared. 


Hiking is a great way to spend quality and quantity time in the outdoors. Doing your research before heading out, preparing the packs with all necessary equipment, choosing trials that are suitable for your family, are all key ingredients for creating positive memories while on the trails.  

Even with all of the planning, situations can arise and so it is important to keep calm and problem solve the situation, knowing that you have planned for these events prior to embarking on the trail.  

These tips are based on researching, reading, talking with others about hiking and our own experiences.  This is not an exhaustive list, but rather some of the key considerations for making sure your time on the trail with the children is both rewarding and safe.