Tips for Hiking With Kids, From a Trip Reporter and Mom of Six
Valene Ramseyer has been a hiker since she was a kid. Now, as the mom of six kids of her own, she likes to get out regularly with her family. We talked to her recently about hiking with her kids, and why she enjoys trip reporting.
Valene Ramseyer, also known as trip reporter Ramfamhikes, has been a hiker since she was a kid. She camped with her family and, when she was 12, went to summer camp. That summer camp experience turned into a lifelong love of nature, a biology degree and a few naturalist jobs.
Now, as the mom of six kids (13, 11, 10, 7, 5, and 1) of her own, she likes to get out regularly with her family. We talked to her recently about hiking with her kids, and why she enjoys trip reporting.
Why do you enjoy hiking with kids?
I enjoy showing them new places and exploring with them. I think it's good for their health because of the exercise and good for their mental health. Nature has been a respite for us during the pandemic.
I also love teaching them about nature. Nature is a great classroom!
What do you enjoy about writing trip reports? And what encouraged you to start trip reporting?
I joined a Facebook group a few months ago called PNW Hiking With Kids and that has really inspired me. There was a thread about what makes a trip report that is useful to parents. Ever since thinking about how to respond to that thread and thinking about what is helpful for me, I try to put that in my report.
I enjoy documenting my adventures with the kids and just want to help other parents feel more confident getting outside with their kids. I think being outside with your family makes a big impression on a kid's childhood. I want to make beautiful memories with my kids and if a small thing like a trip report can help someone else do that I'm happy to help!
Do you have a favorite hiking memory you could share?
It's hard to choose just one. My most recent favorite is probably our hike to Old Robe Canyon. When we got down the set of switchbacks the kids were captivated by the scenery.
There was a deafening chorus of frogs to greet us and as we walked further down the trail, my kids kept exclaiming how magical everything looked. The trees were dripping with moss, frogs sang everywhere, there wasn't anyone else on the trail for the most part, so it felt like discovering a fantasy land. We witnessed a woodpecker pecking for his breakfast near the ponds surrounded by horsetail. They were also amazed at hiking on century-old train tracks and loved the waterfall at the end of the trail. It was just a magical sort of day and the kids loved it.
Valene’s tips for hiking with kids
- RESEARCH! Look at maps, check the weather and be prepared for navigation. And read trip reports so you know what to expect. Kids feel more confident when Mom (or any caregiver) knows what's up.
- Look for hikes with a payoff — water, view etc.
- Get kids involved in planning. For older kids, give them parameters and let them pick your hikes.
- If you can, hike with friends!
- Dress properly for conditions.
- Let kids make their own trail mix.
- Put dinner in the Instant Pot or crockpot before you leave so you don’t have to rush home to make dinner.
- Always let someone know where you're going.
- Go potty before heading out. Bring toilet paper and a way to pack it out if necessary.
- Know where the closest ER or urgent care is.
- Bring snacks, water, lunch
- Have kids pack their own stuff
On the trail
- Take breaks.
- Be observant. You might miss something cool, so don't rush!
- Keep little kids close.
- Take pictures! And make older kids your nature photographers.
- Gradually increase mileage and elevation for littles.
- Take a photo of the map at the trailhead, if there is one.
- Older kids should buddy up with youngers for another set of eyes.
- Stay close to the mountain, not the cliff!
- Hike on a weekday for less trail traffic.
- Be adventurous! You can do it!
After the trip
- Enjoy some hot chocolate and strawberry tea at the car!
- Nature journal after your trip. (Works for both kids and adults.)
- No sticks! (For littles — ask me why!)
- No running!
- No whining!