Hiking can be a great opportunity for families of all sizes and ages to enjoy the wondrous landscape of Glacier National Park.
You will find trails of all different complexities, some for the experienced adult hiker, but many suited for young and first time hikers.
Following are some tips to help you make the most of such an adventure, and avoid challenges that may arise when you forget that hiking through the eyes of children can be much different than adults.
Hiking can be loads of fun, healthy and educational wrapped into a memorable vacation experience that just may have your kids wanting to return for more.
Bring snacks. And lots of them.
Kids love snacks and while they are walking and using their bodies, they need to be fed. It’s wise to have a mix of snacks from healthy to not so healthy. The not so healthy ones to be used as bribes of encouragement “if we make it back to the car, you can have fruit snacks”. Make sure, of course, they are snacks your kids love to eat (or you may not have the leverage you need to go all way).
Naturally, aside from snacks, bring lots of water. It should go without saying, but when it involves food, it’s important to clean up after yourself and bring back any garbage.
Take your kids on hikes that have interesting features.
Kids are more likely to enjoy hiking when there is something they’re trying to find, or reach and explore. Most kids are fascinated with waterfalls, especially when there is a pool of water at the bottom that they can splash around in. Bring water shoes so the rocks don’t hurt their feet. Hikes that have small streams to throw rocks into are always fun. And of course, hikes with animals along the trail can be very exciting for kids (adults too). Large trees and lakes are always intriguing, which you’ll have no trouble finding in Glacier Park.
Don’t expect to get the typical workout when you’re hiking with kids.
Be prepared to go slow, safety is your first priority. Once you get rid of any workout expectations, hikes will be a lot more pleasant. Of course, if you do want a workout, pack extra water!
Play games along the way.
If your child is getting bored or saying the dreaded, are we there yet? It’s good to have a few games up your sleeve. Assuming there’s more than one adult on the hike, run up ahead and hide behind trees and jump out and scare the others. Kids love being startled. Another fun game to play is “I Spy” or have scavenger hunts along the way.
Use your surroundings as a game, you can count things, or look for trees that resemble things. Skip stones, the furthest gets a prize. Look for animal footprints.
Don’t set a time limit.
Try not to schedule a hike in between other activities on the same day. Things happen, and it’s best to just enjoy the day outside with your little ones, without the stress of a time limit.
You may also encounter unforeseen weather, ensure to pack lightweight rain gear. Make it fun to find shelter.
Make lists or take pictures.
Capture things that you’re children find interesting along the way. When you get home, you can research them, learn what they’re called and a little bit about them. On the next hike, they’ll be to spot these things and already know something about them.
The next hike will be all about finding new things, taking pictures or making notes. Even sketching things they come across can be a fun moment.
Bring friends along for the fun.
Your children may enjoy hiking a little more if they can share the experience with a friend.
This works on the first hike to help mitigate thoughts of boredom or anxiety, but it’s even more effective on subsequent hikes when your child can educate a friend.
Allow your kids to touch, and feel, and fully experience the nature around them.
It’s great watching kids explore the outdoors, climb dead trees, stomp in puddles, get dirty and have fun. Try not to put too many limits on what they can do, because they learn through doing and using their senses.
Of course, don’t allow them to kill plants or damage nature, but if it’s already on the ground, not connected to any living source, go for it. Touch it, smell it, play with it and treasure the outdoors. Then leave it for someone else to enjoy. Remember, try not to bring anything home except for memories and photos.
Enjoy the journey.
Turn your phones off, there’s rarely cell phone reception anyways. Except for taking pictures, let kids run free and breathe in the fresh air. Hiking is good for us, enjoy this time and create memories.
Remember, hiking adventures are about nature.
If all those fails, bring bribes.
Not every child is guaranteed to love hiking, at least not the first or second time out. Bring special treats, or promise a trip through the McDonald’s drive-thru for ice cream or cookies at the end of the day.
Hiking, like any outdoor adventure is not without risk.
You need to have a first aid kit on hand, everyone should have a whistle hanging around their neck, and the adults should be armed with bear spray.
It is also important, without instilling too much fear, discussing how to handle various situations should they occur on your adventure.