We started hiking with our kids in Yellowstone while they were still babies. Because of that, we’ve embraced some mindsets and strategies to foster a pleasant hiking experience for everyone. We want them to be happy, safe, and motivated to keep going. (And we want them to be motivated to go out hiking again.) With that in mind, here are a few things to keep in mind as you’re planning your time on the trail.
- Yellowstone is Bear Country: While we don’t want to scare our kids, we do want them to respect the reality of where we’re walking. From staying alert to making noise, we can kids how to do their part in staying safe in bear country. (Read more about that at Yellowstone’s NPS site.)
- Distance: There is a limit to how far little ones can walk, especially in the mountains, where the trails almost always seem to go straight up—or down. Here’s a guideline to use for a starting point for how far kids can hike: one half-mile for every year of age. This may be less on a trail that gains or loses elevation. Here are 5 of our family’s favorite short hikes.
- Pace: S L O W. They may run ahead, but in the end their little legs mean they move more slowly than we do.
- Plan for breaks: My kids love to take breaks. They don’t have to be a long one, but they do like to find a log or a rock and sit down. Bonus: It’s a good opportunity to make sure everyone is hydrated. (Keep this in mind when you’re estimating how long your hike will take.)
- Bring plenty of water and more food than you think you need: Make sure they (and you!) stay hydrated and fueled. (You can read about a trail fuel failure that frequently comes back to haunt me in the form of a “Do you remember that time . . . ” story at the dinner table. Find it here.)
- Bring an umbrella stroller, even if your young one is beyond stroller age: With all the boardwalks in Yellowstone, a stroller is an energy hero. It allows the little ones to conserve energy because they can ride rather than walk. It conserves grown-up energy because we don’t need to carry worn-out kiddos. And, as a bonus, strollers also encourage an occasional much-needed cat nap, cutting down on the potential for fatigue-induced meltdowns.
- If you’re looking for some short hikes check out this post. (Note #3 & #4 on this list are particularly kid-friendly.)
I often join with the writers at these links.
- For more information about short day hikes in Yellowstone, check out this online guide from the National Park Service.
- Feeling overwhelmed by planning your Yellowstone vacation? Let me help you map out a satisfying Yellowstone experience. For more information or to schedule, contact me here.
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