With older kids, share intriguing history about the trail, especially if you know there are fascinating ruins and sites along the way. Tap the Seek app to identify plants, fungi, and birds or download a Geocaching App to unveil hidden treasure boxes in the woods using GPS coordinates.
6. Choose the right backpack
The unsung hero of the hike may be a parent’s backpack. You want something that fits comfortably, has a ventilated mesh backpanel, ample compartments, and is lightweight so that when you inevitably end up with a kid on your hips, you don’t feel too weighed down. Arc’teryx’s Aerios 15 or Mountain Hardwear’s JMT 25L do a great job of holding the essentials. If you’re hiking with a baby or a toddler and need space for all of the things, the Getaway Bag from No Reception Club has countless practical pockets, customizable shelves, and a sealed-off spot for soiled items.
Older kids will be proud to schlep their own stuff, so strap on Camelpak’s Mini M.U.L.E. with its built-in hydration pack, or Osprey’s Tempest Jr., which has proven to fit a notebook, stuffed animal, an ultralight rain jacket, a map, compass, snacks, tissues, BioLite headlamp, a small container for nature keepsakes, and a 20 oz. Hydro Flask water bottle (decorated with stickers).
Looking to fill up those backpack pockets and pouches? Here are a few things you’ll be so glad you brought on your hike: surprise treats, Nocs waterproof binoculars, nomadix’s UPF 50+ bandana towel, a LifeStraw Peak Personal Straw, extra Smartwool socks, gloves from Polarn O. Pyret (which also created the most comprehensive outdoor school directory in the country), hand warmers, a first aid kit, and a satellite communication device such as the Garmin inReach, which may come in handy should you lose cell signal and need a rescue service or want to check in with loved ones.
7. Plan an après-hike
The fun doesn’t have to end at the final trail marker—especially if the hike gets cut short. Instead of jumping back in the car right away, zhuzh up the outdoor affair with an après-hike. Let kids linger in the fresh air and wild setting, playing travel-friendly corn hole or a memory game using items found in nature. Plus, having a bonus adventure everyone can look forward to before the ride home will keep spirits high throughout the hike.
You can also pick trailheads that start at a scenic area, where you can roast s’mores or hot dogs over a mini portable fire pit like Solo Stove’s Mesa, cuddle up next to your kid on Kelty’s loveseat, and share favorite moments from the day. If there’s a chill in the air, add a cozy layer with Therm-a-Rest’s Honcho Poncho, an organic blanket from tentree, or a fleece set from Stio—and consider inviting another family to join the new trailgating tradition. If you’re on an overnight campout, level up the post-hike celebration by making pizza in an Ooni oven and spotting constellations in the sky.
8. Book lodging with on-site trails
Campsite booking platform Hipcamp provides a hiking search tool for properties with on-site and local trails, while glamping companies with nationwide destinations like AutoCamp and Getaway offer beautiful kid-friendly paths within easy walking distance of your Airstream or cabin. With 85 miles of hiking trails and a Junior Naturalist program for kids 5 to 12, Mohonk Mountain House—which is located 90 minutes north of New York City—is the ultimate haven for nature lovers. Little America Hotel Flagstaff offers a multi-sensory experience along its 2.3-mile loop, which is lined with volcanic rocks, wild flower meadows, and ponderosa pines that smell like maple syrup.