January 21, 2018

Why you CAN and SHOULD hike with kids

Aster Park Lookout, Yellowstone National Park, Montana, Copyright Montana Vacation Blog

Hiking with kids can be a challenge.  Anyone with kids knows that life with kids can be challenging.  I am a firm believer that getting your kids outdoors and participating in nature is beneficial from an early age.  I am here to tell you that despite the challenges, hiking with kids is something that I believe you can and should do.

The first summer we had our first child, we were afraid to do anything for fear of harming her.  Just having a newborn was overwhelming enough.  Plus she hated being in the heat, so hiking was the farthest thing from our minds.

Fast forward one summer.  We started looking for an activity that we could do as a family, and still get exercise.  Hiking came naturally because we “walk” our dogs every day in an area of woods near our home that we are lucky enough to get to use.  My daughter’s first word was “walk.”  So there began our hiking adventures.

I think there were a lot of benefits to starting her young.  She has always loved being in her backpack because we put her in it as soon as she could sit without support, so she adjusted quickly.  She has really never known anything different. 

But even though she has always loved it, of course there are challenges.  She has taken quite a few naps in her backpack.  We have been several miles into a hike and realized we don’t have baby wipes.  (The baby wipes may or may not have been my husband’s doing — reminding me why I always pack the bags for our kids.) 🙂 

We have had to carry backpacks full of formula, diapers, water, snacks, emergency equipment just in case.  We have spent way too much time with children screaming in the car on the road trips to get to the trailheads.  I spend countless minutes watching other people get out of their vehicle and start hiking within 5 minutes, while we are left packing the kids and changing diapers for at least 30 minutes before we can start.

Neill family hiking with kids in Montana, Montana Vacation Blog

One time in Yellowstone National Park, my daughter dropped her new stuffed animal, “Benny the Beaver,” on a hike to Harlequin Lake.  She didn’t say anything, until we got to the parking lot.  Uh-oh.  My husband had to run back to the lake to get Benny.  Thankfully that hike is short and easy; there was no way we were leaving Benny behind.

Fast forward another summer, and the birth of our second daughter.  We were blessed with another baby who runs hot and does not appreciate being outside on these hot summer days.  So what do we do?  We hike earlier in the morning.  Hiking in the cooler weather is better for us, too.  (I say we hike earlier.  I should say, we try to hike earlier.  We never get going as early as I would like with a newborn and a toddler, but we don’t give up our efforts.) 

We are no longer as afraid of what may happen.  We never do anything that we feel is too dangerous, and we are able to laugh when we forget very important items.  My two-year-old has now hiked 17 trails in Glacier National Park, and my newborn is well on her way to catching up.  My toddler has also been lucky enough to do several trails outside of Glacier, including a few in Yellowstone National Park.

I have never once wished we hadn’t done a hike, or that we could change a day.  I come away from every single hike with my girls as an incredible day and a wonderful memory in my mind.  I am here to tell you that it is possible, and you will not live to regret it.  (We don’t, anyway.)  I hope that I am instilling in my girls a love for nature, exercise, animals, and the outdoors.  The things that they have gotten (and will get to) experience in these little years will stay with them forever.

I am here to tell you that hiking with kids is worth it.  Get out and enjoy the world with them in tow!  (Stay tuned for what happens when our girls get older and they have to start walking more on their own….)

Warm Wishes from big sky country,

Alex M. Neill

Montana Vacation Blog


Neill Family hiking the Rocky Point Trail along Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, Montana, Copyright Montana Vacation Blog 2014
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