A Successful Hike With Kids

I talk a lot about hiking on CampingBlogger, because it is something that we enjoy on our family camping trips and it is a great way to keep the kids busy, for an afternoon. If you are new to camping, though, you might be wondering if hiking is something that your kids – or even you, will actually enjoy.

A gorgeous day at the lake, but the weather can change rapidly at this elevation

A gorgeous day at the lake, but the weather can change quickly at 5,700 feet

Over the Fourth of July holiday, one of the places we camped at was Lassen National Park. On our last afternoon in the park, we drove back down to Manzanita Lake at the western entrance, to hike around the lake. As family hikes go, this one is perfect. It is 1.6 miles around the lake, which is a great distance for our two younger ones, who are 5 and 9. It is also nice and flat, since the trail follows the edge of the lake.

Baby geese on Manzanita Lake

Baby geese on Manzanita Lake

During our first two days in Lassen, the only wildlife we had seen were the numerous pikas throughout the area. I had high hopes that we would have better luck around the lake, and I wasn’t disappointed! We had barely hiked 200 feet, before we came across baby Canada Geese perched on a log, just off shore. Is there anything cuter than baby geese? If you are trying to stretch a short hike with kids, being able to spend some time watching wildlife is a great way to do it.

Little daredevils having fun on a fallen tree

Taking advantage of a fallen tree

Wildlife isn’t the only attraction, around Manzanita Lake. The girls had a lot of fun walking out onto a fallen tree. We try to take advantage of these “fun breaks” whenever we can, and there are always a lot of things to do around water. Breaking up a hike like this can make it an easier experience for the kids, who might enjoy skipping rocks, or poking mud with a stick, more than just hiking.

One of the keys to hiking with kids is patience. Patience to let them walk on a log, watch baby geese, throw rocks – some of the “kid things” that they don’t get to do, back home. This can be frustrating if you are trying to get somewhere, but when you are just entertaining the kids for an afternoon hike, it is much easier to move at their speed.

The weather changes rapidly at 5,700 feet and we were soon hiking in light rain and hail

Weather changes rapidly at 5,700 feet and we were soon hiking in light rain and hail

Half way around the lake, the weather began rolling in over the mountains and we were soon hiking in the rain, and even some hail. Early July in the mountains is always an adventure – we had also had some weather come up on us a week earlier, in the Oregon Cascades. That was a much longer hike, though, and one without the kids – so I was curious to see how they would react. Watching them laugh and jump around in the rain quickly reminded me of how much I liked that, when I was a kid! Maybe our generations aren’t so different, after all. I’m not a kid anymore, though, so out came the GORE-TEX® Paclite® shell that I keep with me, exactly for these situations.

This doe decided to grab an afternoon snack

This doe decided to grab an afternoon snack

Other than the kids having a great time getting wet, another benefit of the rain was that it got some of the local wildlife up and moving, in the afternoon. When we are camping in the coastal mountains of California, if the kids want to see deer we have to schedule our hikes fairly early in the morning. Needless to say, the kids don’t get to see a lot of deer! The rain lasted about 20 minutes and we soon spotted a doe, just off the trail.

It was the perfect end to a perfect hike, with the family. The two youngest ones headed off to the store with mom for some firewood and I went with our oldest daughter back down the beginning of the trail to find the jacket that she had left hanging on a log. They grow up so fast – 10 years old and already acting like a teenager!

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20 thoughts on “A Successful Hike With Kids

  1. We went hiking up near Lake Yamanakako near Mt. Fuji last year and the weather was perfect. It didn’t get that cold at night. However, this year it was raining off and on before we arrived and this year it was full of tiny life. We saw at least 6 different types of spiders. We saw spiders that made webs and the ones that would pounce on their unsuspecting prey. Tons of fun! It’s funny how a good rain really makes the hike worthwhile.

  2. Roy, I live in SE AZ, and take my kids into the mountains all of the time. It is one our favorite things to do as a family. I run a small site about some of the different types of walkie talkies out there, and I was curious if there is any particular type or brand you use. My experience has been that most advertise one range and deliver another. Any advice?

  3. I would love to plan hiking trips with my family however, I don’t know any great hiking spot at all. Maybe we’ll start just walking around the park and also, we’ll ask around regarding any great hiking or camping spots. Those are really great pictures and I can’t wait to go on our first family hiking trip.

  4. This is what I’m talking about. There is so much to do when you go camping. You can do it alone or with a group. Kids of all ages enjoy it.

  5. I love it Roy, I can’t wait to hike with my kids. My son is 20 months and I have another on the way. My wife and I were first introduced to hiking in 2002 when we stumbled across the Appalachian Trail. We couldn’t believe that you could walk to Maine from Georgia. so by 2004 we tried it. our first hike, the AT. How could a person grow up not knowing about this?! We have posted the entire journey on our website.

  6. Hiking with the kids is a lot of fun especially when they encounter wildlife for the first time. They appreciate more than we do. Even for the little things/creatures they see. Hiking is a perfect bonding for the family.

    • Yes, Phoebe, it is a lot of fun to watch them grow-up with an appreciation for the outdoors. Hiking with the kids is a great activity to nurture that!

  7. BRAVO! Your blogs are right on target! Regardless of age, Mother Nature offers people the best form of entertainment available today. In spite of what most young people think, a short trek through the woods offers more adventure than unlimited texting. More first-hand knowledge than watching a DVD on a cell phone and more exciting tails to tell friends than seeing their favorite band in concert. Camping, hiking and exploring the great out doors is the ultimate rush in life.
    Keep up the good work!

  8. Great post Roy. As a father of two little ones (3 & 5), its good to know there are others out there who are in the same boat. While you might not cover as much territory, the pay off is often times sweeter in the end. Like you and others have mentioned, you take the time to really take it all in. Thanks again!

  9. We’ve been hiking a lot this summer but now that our kids are teens, it’s much tougher to pull them away from friends and social activities. We’ve succeeded a couple of times though. We’ve been going into Washington on the Lewis River trail…another flat hike next to a river but with 400+ year old trees..amazing.

    • We took a spin through a stand of old growth douglas fir, when we were up in the Cascades, this summer. We are so used to brown, now, that it shocks us when we get into some deep, Oregon forest 🙂

  10. Looks like you had a blast even despite the weather! I like the reminder to be patient when hiking with kids. When it was just me and the hubs, we always timed our hikes. With kids though, we stop more often, point out wildlife, etc….probably stuff we should have done more before!

    • You know, I think you are right, Melissa – when it is just the two of us we are always pushing-through to get to the waterfall, or the lake, or somewhere. We take it a lot easier with the kids and spend a lot more time enjoying the experience.