When you think of activities in Colorado, one of the items that is most likely toward the top of the list is hiking. But hiking with kids puts a whole new spin on the activity. How exactly does one prepare for this?

Hiking with Kids Tips

My post will mostly focus on what I pack in my backpack, but I’d like to briefly mention a few other details related to hiking as a family. For clarification, when I say “hiking as a family,” I mean one to five-ish hours of hiking on easy to moderate trails. This does not include hiking in the dark, backpacking, or climbing 14ers with children. If you need advice on any of those topics, you best look to another writer 😉

Use apps and websites to determine best trail for your family. Only you know what your kids can/can’t handle and what kind of experience you’re looking for when you hike.

Realize weekends and summer will be busy. If you are looking for solitude while you hike, it’s better to stay away from busy days and times of the year.

Some trails close or are not maintained during winter and inclement weather. Most trails will be partially or fully shaded, which means in winter you will most likely encounter ice. Forestry service might close an area if trees are down, there is a major washout, or the road leading to the trailhead is dangerous. But they typically expect hikers to use common sense when hiking.

Some trailheads require parking fees. Especially in the Manitou or Broadmoore areas. Don’t skip paying the fee and risk getting a ticket. Not a fun way to end a hike.

Be Prepared

So what exactly do I bring with me when I hike with my kids? Great question. I want to be as prepared as possible without bringing too much.

Your Backpack is Key

First you need a durable, good-fitting backpack. We aren’t talking school backpacks. You should get a backpack that is intended for hiking. It has plenty of pouches, pockets, and straps where you can store gear, water bottles, trekking poles. There will also be toggles and/or buckles for helping your pack fit your body properly. The back should be stiff and sturdy with cushioned support along your back and shoulders. Because winter is considered “off-season” for hiking, you can probably find a good deal on a quality backpack right now.

It’s What’s Inside that Counts

Below is a visual of everything I would include in my backpack for a warm-weather hike with my family. (**Not pictured: I usually carry both my girls’ waters in my backpack and my husband carries the boys’ waters in his. I also should have included bandages in this picture. But last time we hiked, I used the ones I had and I forgot to replace them!)

Starting on the bottom right and going clockwise:

  • My car keys are always on a substantial carabiner that I clip INSIDE my backpack. Nothing would ruin your trip faster than dropping car keys down a river. Keep them secure and put away.
  • Wallet. It’s always a good idea to keep your ID and health insurance cards on you…and not leaving anything valuable in your car while you enjoy the great outdoors.
  • Water bottle. Please don’t go hiking without plenty of water. My husband usually brings an extra bottle of water for refills as well.
  • Arm band phone case. I don’t always use this, but I have it just in case. I’ve also used a watertight pouch around my neck for my phone as well.
  • Small bag for mommy things. Sometimes we drive out of town a little ways for a hike so I like to keep Dramamine with me for the car ride. There’s also chapstick, a tampon and a pen. This is where I also keep bandaids.
  • Emesis bag. I’ve hiked with people who get altitude sickness but it doesn’t hit until we are in the car after. I always keep a bag handy, just in case.
  • Lotion. You get dry hands at high altitude. I try to be prepared.
  • Hand sanitizer & Wet Wipes. You never know what your kids are going to touch when you’re exploring outside. Deer poop they mistook for pebbles? Yuck. But you’re prepared, so no worries!
  • Sunscreen. Even in the cold months, that Colorado sun can cause a sunburn!
  • Selfie stick/tripod. Sometimes, there’s an awesome photo op and no one around to take your picture! Now you won’t miss the moment!
  • Hat/headband. If I’m not already wearing it, I’ll bring it just in case.
  • Snacks. This might be the most important thing to have on hand when hiking with kids. Granola bars, trail mix, fruit, nuts, jerky, and even homemade treats are our favorite hiking snacks. And don’t underestimate the power of sugar if your kids are getting cranky. Fruit snacks solve a world of trouble on the trail. And finally…
  • Trash bag. Don’t be that hiker who leaves their trash. Bring any kind of empty bag to put your snack wrappers and soiled wet wipes in and toss it when you get back to a trash can. The wildlife and future hikers will be so grateful.

Cold Weather Subs

If I’m hiking with kids in colder weather, I sub out two things. I nix the hat and headband and add in a beanie and gloves instead. And being a mom, I’m probably carrying everyone else’s beanies and gloves, too. Ah the mom life, carrying everyone else’s stuff!

Happy Trails!

What do you keep in your hiking backpack? Does your family have a favorite trail or do you try a new one every time you hike?