November 25, 2017

12 Best Hikes for Kids in Tucson

"Kid friendly" can mean all kinds of things. It can refer to the presence of chicken nuggets on a menu or the absence of profanity in a song or video. When it comes to hiking, we think kid friendliness should be measured by a few key elements:
  1. Length - For little legs, even a mile can feel like a ton of walking
  2. Variety - Shorter attention spans tend to do better with changing scenery
  3. Difficulty - If for no other reason than the guardian's peace of mind, keep it simple
  4. Goal - There needs to be a clear destination that is worth the trip
Equipped with those criteria, we've put together our picks for the 16 best hikes around Tucson, Arizona for kids. Each hike on this list is not too long or treacherous, is full of diversity, and has cool places that kids will want go to.

There is a range of levels among these hikes because we wanted to account for half-pint hikers between the ages of 4 and 12. In the second post of our 5 part series on Hiking with Kids, we noted that under our system, level 1 hikes are about right for the under 5 crowd, level 2 hikes can be good for 5-7 year olds, and anything 3 or higher are usually best reserved for kids who've hit their 8th birthday. If in doubt, it's always better to underestimate with a lower level hike than to get them in over their heads on a higher level hike than they are prepared for.

We hope you'll find some new favorites for your family.

12. Sycamore Reservoir - Level 2

0609 Sycamore Reservoir
The out-and-back hike to the old dam in the middle of the Santa Catalina Mountains has a few things that will appeal to young hikers.

November 03, 2017

Tips for Hiking with Kids: Part 5 - During and After the Hike

We've reached the end of the trail and it's been quite a journey. In this final post on how to hike with kids, we'll cover several important things to keep in mind about how to facilitate the hike, and a few key pointers to consider for afterwards.

During the Hike

It's taken us 5 separate posts in our series on how to hike with kids, but we're finally at the bit about actually hiking with kids. Here are our 13 best tips for the hike itself when you hit the trail with children.

November 02, 2017

Tips for Hiking with Kids: Part 4 - Keeping Them Engaged

Ideas to Keep Them Interested

For a lot of kids, especially those who are accustomed to staying indoors and staring at a screen, the excitement and novelty of a hike can wear off quickly when they get out on the trail. What once seemed like an adventure, full of possibilities, can become "just a lot of walking" in no time flat.

In that scenario, you could adopt a couple of different strategies:

Option A)
You could morph into a military drill instructor, pushing your young soldier up the mountain on a death march through relentlessly barking order at them (we don't recommend that).

Option B)
You could take advantage of their gullibility and motivate them through deception by promising untold treasures just around every other bend (we don't recommend that either).

Option C)
You could just put a little bit of forethought into the hike and make it fun. In our humble opinion, this is the clear way to go to ensure that everyone has a great time in the wilderness.

This part of our series on Hiking with Kids (start here if you want to catch up) is all about helping you identify some creative ways to engage your little hikers with different activities on the trail that will keep them interested and wanting to go out again. Here are our 9 best ideas for making hiking fun.

Photo by Madison Grooms
1. Make an Art Project
As you're hiking along the trail, there's a good chance your child is going to find a cool rock or a pine cone that they're convinced is better than all of the rest and they'll want to pick it up. Then the question becomes how you can harness that appreciation for the natural world.

One idea is to make an art project out of the available resources when you break for lunch. It could be a scene made entirely of seashells, or a sculpture of literal stick figures.

Whatever the task, they'll have to use their creativity, resourcefulness, and perhaps even their favorite find from the trail to complete the project.

Once the work is finished and you've documented it with plenty of photographs, it can be an excellent opportunity to teach them about leave no trace ethics as you deconstruct it and return the components to their proper places in the environment.

November 01, 2017

Tips for Hiking with Kids: Part 3 - What to Bring

Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse

What to Bring

Although packing light is generally the goal when hitting the trail, when you head out for a hike with kids, it can be wise to embrace the philosophy that says "It's better to have it and not need it, that to need it and not have it."

At the same time, anyone who has kids and has attempted to leave their house on time for an event knows that there is a lot to think about and prepare for when venturing away from the home with little ones.

So what's worth the weight to bring along when taking a child on a hike? Here's the top 12 things that we think should be on your packing list:

1. Food & Water
We realize that this one might seem obvious, but it deserves the top spot on our list for a few reasons.
  • First, it can be easy to think that sustenance isn't necessary for the short hike that you've got picked out for you and your youngster. After all, you can probably do it in only an hour or two, and anyone can go that long without a snack, right?

    Well, it's important to remember that those short legs and shorter attention spans can mean that you'll spend a lot more time exploring and playing out there than you anticipated. Plan accordingly and pack the snacks no matter how short the hike.

October 31, 2017

Tips for Hiking with Kids: Part 2 - Picking the Perfect Trail

Choose the Right Trail

Now that you've done you're homework, it's time to pick a trail for you and your child to hike together. These next 8 tips are all aimed at considering your kid when selecting which hike to take them on. Just as the great hike can ignite a new passion, a bad experience can make it an uphill battle to get them back out on the trail.

1. Find a Cool Destination
As much as we might say things like "Getting there is half the fun" or "it's about the journey, not the destination," it's important to remember that those tend to reflect a more mature perspective on hiking, as well as life in general.

For most kids, the primary reason to go hiking is to go somewhere cool to do something fun. It could be a pool they get to play in or a cave they get to explore, but they probably won't appreciate the beauty of a scenic vista, so find a hike that goes somewhere awesome.

2. Do Loop Hikes
Backtracking can feel boring, whereas there is some excitement in the unknown of treading a new trail. For that reason, it can be a good idea to find loop hikes instead of out-and-backs for young hikers.

Rather than battling the perception that you should be further than you are when they keep seeing familiar landmarks, you can let them explore the whole way out and back to the trailhead before they realize how far they've gone.