Cam was 4 years old when we visited Yosemite National Park in California, which needs to be on everybody’s bucket list by the way. This particular hike was a 2-mile hike to the top of a waterfall. As a novice hiker, it wasn’t until about halfway in, that my burning thighs helped me to realize going to the top of waterfall meant we would be hiking uphill for the majority of the journey.
I didn’t intend for it to be this pivotal parenting moment, but there we were, a quarter of the way from the top and Cam wanted to quit. To be honest, we all did. It was hard. But Diakandrus never quit and so we pressed on, tears and all. Afterall the best views come after the hardest climbs, right? Most definitely. For days, both my aching muscles and my little man would say, “Remember when we didn’t quit mom?” “Remember when we made it all the way to the top, mom?” Oh, I remember little one!
I think it was after that trip that hiking started becoming our go-to family activity. While the views of Northeast Ohio can’t compete with the views of Yosemite the benefits for us remain the same. Hiking teaches endurance and perseverance. We push through when it is hard, and we take each hike one step at a time. It allows us to get away from the hustle and bustle as a family and just be. And if you’ve read any of my other posts you probably know that I believe time spent matters more than anything else. I also believe in building healthy habits for your kids. Hiking instills a habit of exploration while keeping your body moving.
Each hike leaves us with a growing appreciation for our Creator and this beautiful planet we’ve been given. We see His details in everything, from the leaves of the trees to the stripes of a caterpillar to the changing of the seasons. We study the plants and creatures we come upon. We talk about respecting the environment and encourage our kids to follow what inspires them.
When the twins were born, everyone told us our hiking days were over. You can’t possibly take two infants into the woods. Wrong. You absolutely can, you just can’t be quite as spontaneous. Preparation is required. The twins went on their first hike at about 4 weeks old, and at 18 months now they haven’t slowed down.
Here are a few tips for hiking with the littles:
- Consider your timing. When the twins were babies we were very specific about our hiking time. We liked to feed the babies in the car before heading out on a hike, that way we knew they were full and we didn’t have to rush through the trail. They slept a lot in their carriers when they were really little too.
- Bring snacks and water. I always have snacks. If I could write a parenting book, I’d have a whole chapter dedicated to the importance of snacks. We always have at least one water bottles in our pack, but I started also throwing in a granola bar or baggie of pretzels too. On a long hike, a little snack break goes a long way.
- Leave the diaper bag in the car. It’s heavy and you won’t need it. Throw one diaper and a few wipes in your carrier.
- Have the right carrier. I started with the Classic Ergo. But quickly upgraded to the Ergo 360. I found that the babies enjoyed looking out at the trees and colors of the forest instead of always facing me. Now that they are older we use a Kelty carrier. Don’t limit them to the carriers. Take time to let them out, let them explore, wander, and learn too.
- Dress them appropriately. Kids tend to get cranky when they are hot or cold. Layer them so they can strip down if needed. Don’t forget if you are wearing them, they will get pretty warm in the carrier quickly as they are up against your body.
- Have a change of clothes and towels in the car. If you are anything like me, your first instinct is probably to tell your kids to stay out of the mud and water. Resist it. Instead let them get dirty, like really dirty and have a change of clothes when you get back to the car.
- Research your hike. Know the intensity and duration about what you are doing. Keep it short while they are little, up to 2 miles max. There are a ton of websites and blogs with specific details so you know what to expect. Google is your friend. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
- Let them explore. Let them swim in the rivers, dig in the river bank, hunt for bugs and climb trees.
Local friends here are 5 great hikes for children under 5:
- Henry Church Rock Trail (Formally known as Squaw Rock). If you have older kids, pack bathing suits (if weather appropriate), there’s a place to jump and swim under a waterfall. (South Chagrin, Ohio)
- Cascade Valley Metro Park has a few different trail options depending on how adventurous you want to be. (Akron, Ohio)
- Twinsburg Ledges Trail @ Liberty Park is a GREAT hike for little ones. The loop leads to a cave and nature center, as well as a nature-made playground area. (Twinsburg, Ohio)
- Brandywine Gorge Trail. We like to veer a little off the trail and head under the bridge to throw rocks. You can often see chickens and goats on this trail, as you pass an inn that has both. You will pass over the top of the falls toward the end of the hike. (Sagamore Hills, Ohio)
- Rocky River Nature Center is a new favorite of ours. The nature center is phenomenal, it’s free and has so much for kids of all ages. There are several different trails to choose from. We made a day of it, visiting the nature center, packing a lunch, and then finishing with a family hike. (North Olmsted, Ohio)
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” (John Muir). Adventure on, friends.