Hiking With A Toddler: Choose Your Hike

It’s the first week of summer! The weather is nice and the trails are beckoning. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some basic tips, tricks, and tutorials to help you get out and hike with your toddler. This morning, I will walk you through how I find and choose a hike that is appropriate for my family. Stay tuned for upcoming posts about what to bring with you, how to pack a basic first aid kit, and some suggestions for hike-friendly snacks to enjoy on the trail.
Hiking With A Toddler, Part One: Choose Your Hike • twokidsintow.com

Doing practically anything with a young child requires extra planning, gear, and attention. To keep our hikes as simple as possible, I look for decently maintained trails that are easy to navigate. All of the hikes Luke and I do are on trails in established parks.

Find a park in your local area or in the vicinity of a place you’d like to visit. One of the easiest ways to do this is to look up your location on Google Maps and scroll around for green areas. Take note of the names of nearby parks, forests, and recreation areas so you can look them up online. If you plan to hike regularly, keep a list of these places to make it that much easier when planning your next outing.

Research the established trails using the park’s official website or a hiking app. Most regional, state, and national parks have detailed maps and trail descriptions online. You can usually get enough information about the park trails and other amenities from these sites to decide on an appropriate hike, but in some cases, you may need to continue your research.

If you can’t find a dedicated page for the trails in your park, or if you haven’t gotten all the information you need from the park’s website, you can usually fill the gap with a trail guide site or app. Most popular hiking websites have advanced search features to filter hikes using specific criteria. Most hike descriptions also include directions to the trailhead and necessary pass and/or fee information.

Choose a hike that is appropriate for your toddler’s interest and ability level. Some kids like to walk on their own, some kids enjoy riding in a carrier, some prefer a bit of both. Plan accordingly. The descriptions on your park’s website and your favorite hiking app should give you an idea of the distance and difficulty of the trails available to you.

One to four miles is typically a good distance for us, with a very rare six to eight miler every once in a while. Depending on his mood, Luke alternates between hiking on his own and riding in a carrier. Our shorter hikes tend to be the ones he wants to do more walking. When I want to cover more ground, I carry him.

Let go of your expectations and enjoy your hike for what it is: an opportunity to experience the outdoors with your child. Toddlers are unpredictable. You can plan everything perfectly and your hike can turn out completely opposite of what you expect. Take what you can get.

Most of our hikes do not go exactly as planned. Some hikes are cut short by toddler meltdowns. Some hikes rack up mile after unplanned mile because our moods are good and our energy levels are high. Some hikes are more fun and some hikes are more frustrating.


Hiking with a toddler is challenging, but I can honestly say that we both get something good out of each and every outing.

More from the Hiking With A Toddler Series:

Hiking With A Toddler: Gearing Up for Winter

It’s slow this year, but it’s happening: the temperatures are steadily dropping and the forecast is littered with promises of snow here in Colorado. Although this isn’t my first winter with kids, this is the first winter I am planning on continuing our regular outdoor...

read more

Hiking With A Toddler: What To Bring

You've done your research and chosen the perfect hike. Now that the 'where' is taken care of, what do you need to bring with you? This post contains affiliate links. For more information about how affiliate links are used on this blog, please read my disclaimer. ON...

read more

About The Author

Jessie Emslie

Jessie Emslie writes from her home at the foot of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she lives with her husband, her two boys, and her dog and cat. She is happiest exploring the outdoors with her baby on her chest, her husband and her toddler by her side, and her camera in hand. Jessie documents her everyday adventures on Instagram and her blog, Two Kids in Tow, where she shares stories, tips, and guides to inspire other young families to go outside and explore the world together.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hello, I’m Jessie

I write from my home at the foot of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where I live with my husband, my two boys, and my dog and cat. I am happiest exploring the outdoors with my baby on my chest, my husband and my toddler by my side, and my camera in hand. Read more...

June 2015
« Apr   Jul »