Tips for hiking with children

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You awake early with an exhausting hope of getting a quick start to your day. Lots planned, and even more to prepare. You see, when exploring the outdoors with kids (no matter what the age), the sole responsibility of groundwork falls on you. Especially when you’re a single parent. No matter if your setting off from camp or home. Still you have to make breakfast, prep packs, be sure you have enough food, snacks, water and emergency supplies on hand. And don’t forget the camera. My best photographs of my boys have taken place in the outdoors when they don’t expect it.

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Here’s a few tips on hiking in the outdoors with kids:

– When loading packs for the hike, always make yours the heaviest. Kids get worn out faster and tend to enjoy the hike more when they don’t have the burden of a heavy pack. Have them carry a lighter pack with just their water and some snacks, they do want to feel like an important part of the group. Then you can avoid the “Are we almost done” whining. Instead they focus on the beauty surrounding them.

– In your pack, always have a first aid kit on hand. This is just good practice no matter who you are traveling with, or even if you are alone. But remember, kids are a little more daring out there. They will grab, climb, try just about anything if you let them. Therefor the smaller injuries happen like clockwork.My boys playing in the Virgin River in the Narrows

My boys playing in the Virgin River in the Narrows

– Have a little extra water and snacks in your pack for the kids. Again, a lot less whining, and more enjoyment when the kids bellies are full. They have more time to focus on nature.

– It’s really just a good idea for you to carry your groups lunch. Partly to lighten the kids load, but also because kids like to play in water. And I don’t know about you, but I like my lunch dry. I don’t know how many times my boys have taken “unexpected” spills into the river.

– I wouldn’t say that you hiking in front or rear is necessary, just stay close together. If there are multiple adults in the group, one can lead, and one can bring up the rear. Children can have a tendency to wander. Always keep an eye on them, it’s easier than people think to get lost in wilderness. If you are traveling in Bear country, then it’s a good idea for an adult to lead the group.edited 139

– Remember to allow the kids to set the pace. Your hiking pace might be superman style, trying to get in a workout while also seeing the beauty surrounding you. But kids get tired much faster, make plenty of stops. Rest and replenish energy with drinks and snacks.

– If possible, allow the kids to have a friend come. Kids enjoy the company of other kids. It gives them someone they have things to talk about, something in common. Helps pass the time if they are less than enthused at the idea of hiking.

– Let the kids help decide where you are going hiking, maybe give them a few options of nice destinations, and let them pick which one. It will make them more excited to reach the destination.narrows 022

– Emphasize fun, kids don’t really like posing for pictures. Be sneaky about it. Tell them to take a break, dip their head in the water, or climb a small boulder. While they’re busy having fun, snap some pictures. These will turn out to be better than pose shots any day.

– Inform your children about the importance of Leave No Trace. We pack out what we pack in. Tell them why we need to preserve these areas. And why it’s important to stay on the trail, not only for safety reasons, but the environmental impact as well.

– Always give your children compliments, believe in positive reinforcement. Tell them how good they are doing, how strong they are hiking “all by themselves”. This makes them feel more independent and they tend to enjoy the hike more.
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– Inform the children about safety. What to do if they become lost, the proper steps to take if something happens to another in the group. Especially if your hiking alone with your kids. Remember, if something happens to you, they need to know what to do. Give them a whistle, tell them it’s for emergencies only. Blow 3 times of they are lost and to stay put,  it will help you find them. Also works to ward off Bears when approaching blind turns.

– As a single father of 2 wonderful, adventurous boys. I love taking my kids into the woods with me, or discovering the desert. But I’m very well aware how easy it can be to get lost, turned around, or injured. You must always keep in mind the safety of your children, as a first priority. A grand adventure seems really fun until your fighting for survival. Imagine how much harder it would be for a child if something were to happen to you.

– Always try to hike either with multiple adults, or in a setting where it’s HIGHLY liking you will come across other adults on the trail. Kids will get scared if something happens to you. Remember, they look to you for protection.edited 153
– Leave a detailed description of where your party is going. This is just good practice, and it may save your life. In most cases where hikers were lost and later found, it’s because they told someone where they were going. It’s much easier for search & rescue responders to find you if they can narrow the search area.

– Teach your kids survival tips. Stay together, never leave the trail. Maybe inform them how to build an easy shelter, conserve food & water. And above all, teach them to look for landmarks when on the trail. If you become lost or turned around, you can gain your bearings by checking your surroundings. Don’t just grab onto whatever looks to be “the way”. Make an educated decision based upon checking your surroundings. Sometimes EVERYTHING looks the same, but maybe someone in your party notices a landmark you didn’t.

– Dress for the elements. Even if it’s a sunny day, short pants and a tank top might not be a great idea. A sunburnt child makes for a miserable hike and will ruin the rest of the trip. Always bring along plenty of sunblock. Give the kids a hat and sunglasses to wear. Carry a jacket, you never know how quickly the weather can turn. Do not wear open-toed footwear, or cotton socks (they dry very slowly, and will give you blisters).
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– CARRY ENOUGH WATER… This cannot be stressed enough.

Joshua Riggins is a single father who loves sharing the outdoor experience with his two young boys Kemry and Caelan. You can read about his adventures, as well as gear reviews and trip reports on his website:

Vertigo... Looking down from the top of Angels Landing

Vertigo… Looking down from the top of Angels Landing

As I make my way home from Zion national Park, through rain showers I realize how quickly Weather can come in. Knowing, that had we been in the Narrows when the canyon flashed, I wouldn’t be writing this now. It’s a hard pill to swallow when you wake up to slight overcast with blue skies. In your mind, you think let’s go. Why not? We can make it through? But the reality is, if there is an expected flash flood you should most definitely not enter a slot canyon. It makes me think of my boys, and realize I have more at stake than my own life, I have more to think about than myself. I must admit Dave was the rational mind between us all, he was the one who was 100% we’re not going. We are all adults, capable of making our own decision, I tend to take the advice of the group to make sure the wisest decision is being made. Usually the easiest decision is the bad Choice. Though this hike has exceedingly eluded me, I know it will be there tomorrow and I shall live another day to make this amazing trek.

Canyon Overlook before sunset

Canyon Overlook before sunset

When I arrived in ZNP, I immediately checked in with the Ranger station. Carefully viewing the forecasted weather conditions. Hearing the park service ranger say that it was currently on Flash Flood Watch. That they didn’t close the canyon until it was at Flash Flood Warning… He quickly informed me, it will move to a warning by Sunday. If they close the canyon, you can still enter at your own risk. But it is HIGHLY recommended against it.

Canyon Overlook

Canyon Overlook

I went back to camp and began to set up. I made some dinner and promptly decided to go watch the sunset from the Canyon Overlook hike. Best 1/2 mile hike I’ve ever done. With a steep drop to one the south into a shallow slot canyon. This made for a great view while hiking out to the overlook. Scrambling over slick rock, a man-made wooden bridge, up and down man carved steps in the mountain side. This hike is definitely easy enough for the novice hiker, but still satisfactory for any hiker seeking an awesome view. On my descent back to the road, I struck up a conversation with 2 sweet young ladies who were nice enough to take my picture at the overlook. Phoebe and Sophie told me how they were visiting from Phoenix and Chicago, and would love to hike the Narrows with us, if only they could stay all the way through Sunday. They were leaving Saturday afternoon. So we exchanged goodbyes, and it was lovely to meet you, and went our separate ways. I find it much easier to talk to and approach people on the trail.

The deer & the beer

The deer & the beer

The next morning, while cleaning up breakfast, I was visited by a Doe and her 2 young fawn. They walked right up to my camp table and straight through my camp. It made me aware how peaceful life is away from civilization. Discovering how time spent alone in the wilderness is the best cure for a life hang-over.

Hydroflask keeping me cool at elevation

Hydroflask keeping me cool at elevation

Just before noon, I set out to summit Angels Landing, a classic hike in the canyon, they say everyone (not afraid of heights) should do. Though I passed pretty much all the hikers I encountered that afternoon. I was a bit disappointed by the large amount of people I saw on the trail that day. This hike is only second to the opening mile of the Narrows bottom start. It’s hard to find serenity 1,500′  above the canyon floor when you have people trying to act tough and climb a pinnacle atop the tower. That my friend, is how statistics are made. Though I do not regret making this epic hike, I’m not in any hurry to go back unless it is in the winter time. I would love to see the valley covered in glistening snow.

Recovering after my summit with Good2Go

Recovering after my summit with Good2Go

     I found that I can descend from a hike in Ludicrous speed… As when I was younger and we always ran down the trail from a climbing approach. Now I walk, but in “stay at home mom” speed walking fashion. I passed everyone on the trail, catching those who left 10 minutes before me. And met up with Dave at the lower Emerald pool. We got back to camp and checked in one more time with the ranger station. No good news on the flash flood situation. And we had pretty much made our decision, the Narrows would have to wait for another time. Plan B I thought would consist of hiking Observation Point. Another amazing hike that was still on my ticklist. The rain had arrived at camp, so we decided to take a quick hike to Canyon Overlook, so Dave could see this awesome 1/2 mile trek. And since cooking at camp in the rain pretty much sucks, I threw out the idea we go to Zion pizza & noodle. Good pizza, good beer, and good-looking waitresses. The blondie that works there is especially nice. And after a few beers, we had a nice a little chat with her about my kick ass 5.10 bandana, only to find out she is a climber. She gave us a nickname… The “Zion Hooligans”. And kind of taunted us about not hiking the Narrows the following day. Telling us she would be the first person to say “don’t go in if there’s flash flood warnings… But we looked to be in good shape, we could probably rally and make it through in time.” Soon after we for there, our 3rd joined. Jordan arrived to find out we had pretty much decided the Narrows was a no go. But we would still make the most of the weekend and crush an elevation hike.

Dave killing it @ Zion Pizza & Noodle with a Tankard

Dave killing it @ Zion Pizza & Noodle with a Tankard

Jordan & Dave making their way up Observation Point

Jordan & Dave making their way up Observation Point

     The next morning we awoke and began our ascent up Observation Point.  An 8 mile round trip hike gaining 2100′ in elevation, with the best view of the canyon there is. Over looking this site, you see how the Virgin River has carved the canyon throughout millions of years. The hike parallels an amazing slot canyon (that I will most definitely return to discover). And takes a switch back path carved in the side of a sandstone wall, no wider than 4′. When you reach the viewpoint, you can literally lie down on your chest and look straight down the canyon walls. The view makes Angels Landing look infantile. We did the entire hike round trip in 4 hours, an hour of which was looking over the view, discovering the slot canyon and snapping pictures. Our timing was impeccable, the rain didn’t come in until we had almost reached ground level again. Since we had a flood conditions coming down, we opted for pizza again, and Dave and I got a little drunk. Taking a walk in the rain through the campsite, we noticed 2 young ladies struggling to erect their tent in the dark. “My sister said it was idiot proof” exclaimed one of the girls. It took us almost an hour, but we succeeded, and I told her she could let her sister know “she met 3 idiots in Zion”….
Jordan sitting on a bird perch

Jordan sitting on a bird perch

     The water in Zion National Park came down so fast that day, it went from 90 CFPS in the morning to 4,000 CFPS in the early evening. Forming a waterfall half way up the main canyon. Water pouring over the sandstone walls, where there isn’t normally a waterfall. We quickly realized, we had made the correct decision. I’m usually the one who is always ready to weigh reward over risk. I remind myself of my own mortality. Sometimes the strongest hiker, climber, back country adventurer is the one who makes the correct decision. If you’re not clear of mind, making the educated, proper decision, you needlessly place your self at risk. As I live everyday for these sites and experiences. I imagine, I won’t die for it…

Jordan & I looking down on Angels Landing from Observation Point

Jordan & I looking down on Angels Landing from Observation Point

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Products used on the trip:

TETONsports packs


Good2Go Bars

Columbia Sportswear

American Backcountry
Have you ever had to change plans mid trip?
Have you ever had to make a tough decision that may have saved your life?