August 23, 2014

Kid-Appropritate Hikes & Trails

 I love getting outdoors with my kids for several reasons:
1. It's a great way to get out of the house
2. It's free!!! Doesn't cost me money to go hiking, if you don't count gas money.
3. It promotes exercise and a healthy lifestyle for my kids.
4. I get some exercise out of it. I'm carrying 20+ pounds on my back plus helping my other child.
5. My children learn to appreciate nature, respect it, and learn from it.
6. I have a better appreciation for my surroundings, and feel rejuvenated after being outdoors, mentally, physically, and emotionally.
7. We get to socialize and make better friends when we invite others to go with us.
Really I could go on and on about how much I love being outdoors with my kids. I started hiking with my kids when they were ages 3 months and 2 years old. Then the Summer of 2014 I made it a goal to go on a weekly hike with my kids. Others in my neighborhood heard about our weekly hikes so I formed a hiking group.
Each hike we went on had to fit several criteria:
- It had to be doable for small children. The kids doing these hikes ranged from age 5 to less than 1.
- Distance could not be too far. All hikes were less than 1.5 miles total, most were about 0.5 miles or less.
- Hiking time had to take about an hour or less. Some hikes took us 15 minutes, others took us an hour or a little longer. Most of the time we make our hikes a half-day adventure because we bring a picnic lunch or really take our time, but in general the hikes can be done in an hour or less.
- Terrain could not be too difficult for a toddler to climb.
Here's a list of toddler-friendly hikes. Click on each link for more information about each hike:

Big Cottonwood Canyon Hikes:
Little Cottonwood Canyon Hikes:
Other Hikes:
*Tips for hiking with small children:
-Always bring water, enough for you and each child.
- Always bring snacks (granola bars, fruit snacks/leather, applesauce pouches, etc.)
- Wear sunscreen and bring hats for sunny weather.
- Wear good shoes! Kids need sturdy shoes to hike in so they aren't getting rocks/sand/dirt in their shoes. Flip flops will not cut it.
- Bring jackets for cooler weather. Often the temperature can drop up in the canyon. It may be 95 degrees in the valley, but 70 degrees in the high canyons.
- Carry a simple first aid kit. I have a small one the size of a pack of cards with basic first aid supplies including band aids. Even a small scrape can ruin a great hiking trip. Be prepared!
-Bring a camera or phone to take pictures! I love capturing fun hiking moments with my kids!
- Always let someone know where you are going! Tell them which hike and which canyon/area.

- Have kids carry their own supplies. I got my 3 year old a pack like this one that included a hydration pack (think camelbak). But you can also buy a small cheap back pack at a thrift store (I see them all the time for $1-$3). It teaches kids responsibility and ownership if they carry their own packs. They don't need to be heavy, often my daughter just wears hers and it has one granola bar in it.

- Final tip........ you can ALWAYS turn back early! I personally like the feeling of achievement from reaching the "end" of a hike. But I also know when to call it quits. It's good to push your child a little bit and help them get the feeling of accomplishing something difficult, but you don't want to push them too far. Go slow; at their pace, encourage them, and keep everyone hydrated while hiking, insist they take sips of water frequently. But don't be afraid to end the hike early if things aren't working out.

My favorite hiking/guide books for the Wasatch Range:
- Falcon Guide Best Easy Day Hikes Salt Lake City
-Moon Take a Hike Salt Lake City
- Hiking the Wasatch by John Veranth (updated version here)

Plus I always "google" the hikes and try to find better directions sometimes. There is ample information on the internet, but I like having books to take with me.
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