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Published on May 23, 2019

Trails 101: Hiking with Kids

Some of our most enthusiastic trails users are kids. If you’re a new parent and new to hiking, now is a great time to make riding, hiking or biking trails a part of family outings. LA County trails hold plenty of adventures for families and opportunities to make memories that will last a lifetime.

Whether you are already a hiker or just starting out, there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re adequately prepped for a fun and kid-friendly outing. And remember, a day hike with the family is less about reaching a vista and more about exploring the trails!

First and foremost, have fun! Be flexible on the trail, take your time, and change itineraries when unexpected opportunities come up. Let kids help to set the pace. Slow down as they wonder at the beauty of a spider web or marvel at the miracle of a hummingbird. Indulge your inner child and explore the trail with them.

Start with shorter hikes and ample time! LA County trails offer a variety of shorter hikes with engaging destinations like scenic views or waterfalls, many of them close to home for LA locals. Kid-friendly trails taken at a kid-friendly pace with time to explore and investigate create opportunities to grow and learn as a family.

Engage, educate, create opportunities! Sing songs, count butterflies, skip rocks, practice reading trail maps. Pause for a snack break under the shade of a big oak tree or search the trail path for interesting critters. Exploring with kids is an engaging way to teach the next generation important principles about stewardship, conservation and caring for creatures, big and small.

Snacks, fluids, layers! Even the most kid-friendly hike can feel miserable to a kid who is hungry, thirsty, cold, or wet. Keeping your kids well-fed, hydrated, and warm and dry will help them stay in good spirts. Bring plenty of fluids, high energy snacks and layers to accommodate fluctuation in your child’s body temperature. And don’t forget the extra socks, trust us!

Safety Tips for hiking with older kids. After a couple of years out on the trails, grade school kids will eventually be ready for some independence… moving from “always stay within sight” to eventually “hike ahead, but stop and wait” for the rest of the family to catch up. Make sure each kid has a safety whistle and that they know how to use it if they get lost.

Keep an eye on the weather. Before you head out and even while you are on the trail, check the weather and be prepared to layer up and even cut the hike short if stormy weather heads in.

And last but not least, download the Trails LA County app to your smartphone. Accurate trail maps, up-to-date closure info, and offline mapping make it easy to have a safe and fun outing on the trail.