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Hike it Baby Approved

10.26.15

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Hike it Baby Approved

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What does it mean to have a Hike it Baby approved adventure on Outdoor Project?

In general, family-friendly, Hike it Baby approved trails are well maintained, offer bathrooms and places to stop and rest, and are near civilization or have a lot of visitors. Loops are the best because you can add or subtract distance as needed. A prepared hiking family brings water, snacks, and supplies for everyone. Things like sunscreen, blankets, jackets, and hats can be packed in the car, but snacks, water, proper footwear, poles and a carrier should come on trail. 

There are several things to consider before embarking on a trail with our families. These include:

Length of Trail and Difficulty: 3 to 5 Miles

How hard is the trail when you consider that you will be carrying your baby or bringing your walking child? When you have a load on your front or back (or both, depending on your situation), is the trail still comfortable to negotiate? The extra weight adds up over the miles, so we usually advise sticking to under 3 miles with brand new babies and keeping it under 5 miles until you are more seasoned and ready for all day challenges together as a family.

Places to Stop: Yes

Does the trail have benches or rest areas along the way? Is it wide enough in some areas to pull over if you need to change a diaper or sit to nurse? Is there a shelter or indoor space at the start or end? Does the trailhead have bathrooms and changing tables? These factors are not a must, but they sure do make life easier, especially when your children are small.

Near Civilization or Visited by Many: Yes

While this may not appeal to the more serious hiker or those who enjoy the peace and solitude of an empty trail, it’s a good idea to start on trails that are near a city or town center or that are popular enough to have regular traffic. It’s a different world when you venture out with your little one, and it’s nice to know there are plenty of people around if you need help.

As your family grows, there are different needs based on the age of your children. Here are some suggestions Hike it Baby considers:

Newborns

When hiking with your newborn, you have the luxury of a mostly sleepy baby who is usually easy to tote along, as long as mom or an ample food supply is near. Young babies are more susceptible to changes in climate, exposure, etc., and new moms have less stamina when first getting on trail, so we recommend short, easy jaunts near home with a small bag of supplies like water, snacks and a diaper change kit with a few diapers. Trails should be well maintained and offer easy areas to sit and nurse, feed, or change a baby. Parks that offer loops near a visitor center with bathrooms and changing tables are a great find for families with newborns.

Infants

As your baby grows they will become more engaged and interested in the world around them. They may be able to handle longer outings as long as food and supplies are available to keep them comfortable. You may feel up to exploring moderately difficult trails with more mileage once your baby hits six months or so. Hiking poles, snacks for caregiver and baby, water, and a diaper or two with a changing kit are key supplies when hiking with an infant. Trails with bathrooms and a place to rest along the way are great. Mastering the art of nursing on trail can provide more freedom for mom at this point, too.

Toddlers

Once your child starts walking they become a more independent being, able to voice their wants and needs more definitely. For many families this means adding a variety of hikes to their calendar, some that work for the toddler to explore while walking and others that benefit the parents or caregivers by providing greater distances that require a child to be carried. Trails where toddlers will walk should be relatively flat with no sudden drop offs. Loops where you can see your child for a long distance are also nice. For adults with toddlers, trails that offer increasing loops that are easy to double back on when tots get tired or fussy are perfect. Bathrooms are always appreciated, especially while potty training or to wash those exploring hands. Bring snacks, water, a small pack of bubbles and other distracting toys. A picnic area at the end is a great place to let the little one run before packing up in the car to head home.

Small Children

If your small children are just starting to hike, start with short distances and slowly increase distances so their young legs get used to the miles. Again, trails with loops are great. There are also trails with nature learning play spots along the way that can be a family treasure if you have them nearby. Bring a lightweight carrier in case they get tired. Be ready to head home early if needed and listen to them. Head back BEFORE the meltdown so it’s a positive experience for everyone.

Pregnant Mamas

It’s great to stay active while you are pregnant, as long as you have your care provider’s approval. Check on the trail's difficulty and distance before heading out, and start with something shorter and easier to learn what you can manage. Trails with bathrooms are a must. Bring snacks and water. Rest when you feel winded. Stay close to civilization. Enjoy nature with your baby!

Hiking with Friends

Hike it Baby is a group for new parents and families to come together on trail. We believe in “no hiker left behind” and work to have at least one person, if not the whole group, stay with you if you need to stop for a diaper change, nurse a baby, take a break, or otherwise stop or slow down for the little surprises life with a baby or small child can bring. Hiking with friends or in groups is best when you have little ones, so check out the calendar to find hikes near you. Happy trails!

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