Question: Which form of exercise offers a total body workout and adults and kids can do it together?
Hiking with kids is good for the mind and body and a perfect way to experience the great outdoors while spending some serious quality time. You can go at your own pace — speed up when the kids have energy to burn and slow things down when they want to look under a rock, climb a tree or stop to look out over a beautiful vista.
What's the key to getting the most out of hiking with kids? Believing that "it's the journey not the destination that matters" helps because as we know, getting anywhere quickly and efficiently is rarely possible with kids especially when they are young. And why rush when there are beautiful things to see and enjoy as a family?
It does pay, though, to do your homework before you go and make sure your hiking destination is kid-friendly. Not every hiking trail is appropriate for little legs. Some hiking trails are only for veterans who've been hiking for years. To help you plan, here are our picks from among the most kid friendly hiking trails in the US.
Qualifying criteria includes eye-catching scenery for short attention spans, and flat trails for ease of access. You'll all have so much fun on these trails that before you know it, you’ll have little adventurers wanting to take on the tallest mountains in the country!
Great Hiking Trails for Kids:
- Mount Rainier National Park, Washington (Sourdough Ridge Trail)
A fabulous introduction for kids and wannabe mountaineers, containing stunning views of snow-capped peaks and meadows bursting with flowers. The Sourdough Ridge Trail is a one-mile loop with a very gentle elevation gain. Bookings are necessary as snow keeps this area closed for the majority of the year. Summer and early fall are ideal times for the trip.
- Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, Oahu
The favored kid-friendly pick in Oahu is the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail. It’s less strenuous than other options and great for first-timers, young trekkers—plus it's wheelchair accessible. Featuring stunning coastline views with occasional migrating humpback whale-spottings, this remains a true favorite among adults and kids who enjoy hiking.
- Acadia National Park (Ocean Path)
2.1 miles in length, Ocean Path offers a leisurely stroll that kids will be able to handle just fine. Unwinding across a rocky coastline with tons of cool features, including tide pools that are home to some fun and unique creatures. A great attraction for young hikers that will nurture their burgeoning knowledge of wildlife.
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii (Thurston Lava Tube)
What's cooler than a lava tube? Getting to walk through one! Kids of all ages will love getting to experience this natural wonder. Thurston Lava Tube is a great way to stretch the whole family's legs while teaching your kids a little earth science!
- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado (Dunes Fields)
We’re hesitant to call this a hiking trail, as it’s just a great big sandy theme park ideal for family outings. Home to some of the tallest sand dunes in North America, make sure your kids bring a sled along for some wicked-fun sand-related activities.
- Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky (Frozen Niagara Tour)
What's just as cool as a lava tube? How about a trek through the underground caves of the Frozen Niagara Tour? A quarter-mile round trip taking a little over an hour, this adventure in spelunking — have some fun quizzing the kids to see if they can guess what that word means! — features some spectacular cave scenery including the Rainbow Dome and Crystal Lake.
- Riverside Walk, Zion National Park
A wheelchair-friendly alternative to the more famous Narrows, Riverside Walk is easy enough for young kids and beginner hikers. The trail is picturesque, surrounded by beautiful rocks. It runs around a mile before reaching the Narrows. That spectacular gorge, with walls a thousand feet tall, is far trickier terrain, but it's a good place to talk to the kids about hikes to add to the family bucket list before turning around and heading back.
- Bear Mountain Loop Trail, New York
Although this trail features some minor rock scrambling, we still find it pretty accessible for kids. It’s a 90 minute drive outside the city, which is perfect for any city-dwellers looking for a fun weekend trip. This hike offers some breathtaking views over the Hudson River as the big payoff.
- Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail, San Diego
On paper this is a 7 mile hike, so you should plan accordingly. However, it's 7 miles over largely flat terrain. This makes it a perfect first hiking trail for kids, even younger ones. The area itself evokes a real sense of Native American history, stretching back 7,000 years, so if you do a little homework together there will be plenty of cool history to talk about with the kids as you go.
- Muir Woods National Monument (Trails Along Redwood Creek)
Prepare for magical forest scenery — trees up to 250-feet tall that are on average 600-800 years old. Lucky for you, it also includes easily paved trails and loop walks of a half-mile to a few miles in length. A very kid friendly entry-level hiking trail that is the perfect opportunity to introduce your kids to jaw-dropping, majestic scenery. Now that's cool!