spring hikingThere are few things more pleasurable than a spring or summer hike with your family. Getting the kids out on the trails and spending quality time together costs nothing and yet can often lead to fantastic conversations you would never have otherwise. It's a big win.

Of course, spring hikes in particular can come with some issues, depending on what part of the country you are hiking in. Last year, my kids and I ended up covered in ticks after a fantastic five-hour hike near our lake house in Maine.

If you are prepared, though, a spring hike is about the most perfect way to spend a day. Here are five tips to make your hike as calm and fun and possible:

  1. Bring food: If you have children, it's vital to bring snacks if you will be out for more than a half hour hike. Overpack and make sure you pack your trash as well (no littering!). Bring healthy things they can eat while walking like granola, raisins, bananas, apples, whole wheat PBJ, and more. Don't forget wipes and hand sanitizer as well!
  2. Look out for bugs: Whether this means a clean sweep after you get home of everyone's hair and ears (places ticks like to hide) or tucking your pant legs into your socks and spraying a ton of bug spray, do what it takes to keep your family bite-free. Otherwise your fun day will become a nightmare.
  3. Games: Do a round of stories where every family member tells part of it. Or sing songs that you all know and love. Count every step to the next tree and create scavenger hunts for the way back down the mountain. Be creative. You don't always need electronics to have fun. Encourage kids to use their imagination.
  4. Backpack for kids: Kids under 4 may not make it all the way up the mountain, so make sure you have a backpack where they can go when they get tired (and plenty of sunscreen, to boot!). Let the little ones rest in there. For older kids, have them carry their own packs. It will help them for when they get bigger and want to plan hikes themselves!
  5. Don't bite off more than you can chew: Don't try to climb Kilimanjaro with a 4-year-old. Keep it simple. Most 4- and 5-year-olds can make it 90 minutes, so plan on that for your hike and assume anything over that will include some whining and meltdowns. Older kids, you can probably start to add a half hour or so for every year of age. You know your own kid and his or her limits. Try to respect them. Don't pick an all uphill, rocky climb for a kid who hates major obstacles. Start slow on flat, local trails and work your way up to the big guys.

Keep them well fed and give them plenty of rest and you will be surprised at how well hiking will fit into your regular, happy family life.

What are your hiking tips with little ones?