Hiking with Kids
Berkeley Parents Network >
Advice about Playing >
Hiking with Kids
What would be the ''average'' hike a 4 y.o. would take? How about
a 3 y.o.?
My 4 year old can go on pretty long hikes. Once we took a wrong
turn in Tilden and ended up going the loooong way around. I think
it was about 3 miles, maybe 2+ hours hiking. It really depends on
the energy level of the kid that day, but I would say a long hike
would be 1 hour. Plan on one hour but allow yourself the
flexibility to either stay longer (i.e bring plenty of snack food
and water) or cut it short (be prepared to carry the kid a long
distance or bring a stroller).
At that age, our hikes were about 1/2 mile to a mile. From
the Little Farm to Jewel Lake worked well. After 5 they can
do a lot more and do much better with friends along. Always
bring extra 'snacks'.
I've been hiking for almost 10 years with kids, and read
somewhere that kids can hike their age ... i.e., one mile for
every year. This has held out pretty well in my experience.
They always CAN hike their age if it's pretty flat, whether they
WILL hike their age is another question altogether.
We use lots of motivation, including songs, stories, and this
silly faux hide and seek game where you pretend to hide but
don't do it well, and the finders have to make you laugh. (we
limit the hiding b/c of poison oak off-trail.) And, candy when
things get bad. One day I got 3 kids (ages 3-6) up a very
long & steep hill after they had already hiked 5+ miles by
promising one m&m every 20 steps. And if they counted too
fast they had to start over again...I had a very limited supply
of m&m's and it had to last. They loved it.
My daughter will be 3 in two months and can do 2 miles without
a problem, but the walk we take her on is totally flat. Hills
are a completely different story...not sure she could walk even
one really hilly mile without needing help.
I did not see the original posting, but I can tell you, as an
avid hiker, that my 1 year old already goes with us 'hiking'. I
choose the distance (maybe 4 miles) and he walkes as much as he
wants to, usually around 20 minutes, then wants 'up'. Then he
goes in the backpack, and we sing, discuss tree
genus/species :) flower colours, the sky, birds.. we stop and
have snacks, another walk for him, etc. until we're done
hiking. He just loves being outdoors, loves looking at
everything, I get a hike in and if he's tired, he'll even fall
asleep in the pack. I realize that a 4 year old is much bigger,
but my brother has a 4 year old and they hike with their 1 yr
old, and again, as long as you have someone who can walk with
him on their back, lots of opportunities open up. Just think, a
full pack is 45 lbs or so, so schlepping a kid... Also many
paths in Marin (Alpine Lake, etc) you can take a jogging
stroller if you can't carry your little one..
Re your questions:
1) Is there any kind of insect-repellent that is safe to use on a baby's
My opinion is no - don't use anything on a tiny baby. I used "flappy" hats
and loosely-tied bandanas on my kids and generally keep them inside around
dusk - the prime mosquito-biting time.
2) My baby loves to be carried in our over-the-sholder baby sling, but with
her now 14 pounds she is getting too heavy for that (at least if you want
to go for more than just an hour or so). We tried a snugli, which is
uncomfortable for both her and us. Is there any backpack-type thing that
works at an early age? Is there any kind of expandable backpack seat that
can already be used now (with some kind of head support, I guess) and still
in a year or two?
'Til my kids were 6 months old, we used a Baby Bjorn front pack which were
better constructed than most front packs and therefore could last
comfortably for longer.
I would like to respond to the person asking about backpacks for
babies. Our son has always loved to be outside. From when he was
little we put him in a Baby Bjorn frontpack which we and he loved.
One downside is that at about six months he got too long for it and we
had to move him to a backpack carrier. The other downside is that
these are very expensive, but I've seen used one's at Lauren's closet
on College. I highly recommend our backpack carrier, too. We have
the ToughTraveler Bronco, which we ordered by mail directly from Tough
Traveler (I have only found the top-of-the-line Stallion around here).
Its a great pack for day hikes, and my son seems to like it even more
than he did the frontpack. We have used both types of carriers on
hikes of 5-8 miles, with both carrier and carrie-ee being happy and
Last summer we tried hiking with our then 2-year old son. He refused to go
into the backpack, which he had previously really enjoyed. Given that he's
a huge kid, it would have been hard to carry him very far anyway. He
wanted to walk, but stopped as soon as we started walking. I read somewhere
that is a characteristic attachment behavior of that age. They want the
parent to be still and be a home base, and then they will range widely
around the parent. When the parent is moving, they stop, as it gets them
worried when the security base is in motion. Thus, we found that hiking and
2's were not a good fit. We were camping, so we ended up not going further
than 50 yards from the campsite. When the adults finally stopped trying to
walk, Aaron explored absolutely everything in range and had a great time.
This summer has been a completely different story. Our now 3-year old just
climbed a mountain with us in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. He
hiked up nearly 2 miles, and back down, over rough terrrain, no complaints
or carrying... He just loves hiking, but we have to remember to be
attentive to making sure he is fed/hydrated, and pay attention to his need
to stop and watch bugs and hit things with sticks.
this page was last updated: Aug 15, 2008
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website during
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network