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.

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