The Great Outdoors: Hiking is the PERFECT Family Activity

family hiking
I'l never get tired of banging this same drum! Hiking is the PERFECT family activity. So here's a little bit inspiration for where to go with the family and a few tips for those venturing into hiking with the children

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The moment my then 7 year old son summited Ben Nevis, he was beaming.

He had worked his backside off getting up there having never previously summited a Munro ever. He’d done smaller hill walks but was determined to get to the top of Ben Nevis while we were on holiday in Scotland. It was a long, tough day for him. But he was so proud of himself once he’d completed it and still talks about it now more than 18 months on and he continues to hike.

So, for me, hiking is a perfect activity for adults and children to do together with a whole raft of health benefits (mental and physical). Let’s talk about family hiking, the advantages of it, a few tips and some places to go!

Benefits of Hiking for Families

Hiking as a family not only elevates heart rates but also the bonds between loved ones. Imagine a playground so vast that it engages every sense, boosting not just physical but also mental health. That’s the natural gym the UK’s landscapes offer. As families navigate trails together, they share challenges, victories, and the kind of quality time that doesn’t require a power outlet. Each step taken is a moment to connect, free from the distractions of digital buzz.

Some of the many benefits:

  • Physical Health: Hearts get pumping, calories are burned, and muscles are challenged, leading to improved cardiovascular health and physical fitness.

  • Mental Wellbeing: Nature’s tranquility can reduce stress and anxiety, offering a refreshing mental reset for all ages.

  • Family Time: As a team, families learn to communicate, collaborate, and support each other

  • Unplugged Moments: Disconnecting from technology encourages engagement with the environment and each other, fostering rich, in-the-moment experiences.

And even with young children, hiking is very feasible. Just adapt the trail and the route based on their age and capabilities.

My son is particularly into scrambling and just looks at scrambling led routes as a huge playground.

A child scrambles on Halls Fell Ridge blencathra 

Top Hiking Destinations in the UK

Make no mistake. You can find beautiful hiking trails all over the country, even on your doorstep. A quick online search or the use of an app like AllTrails or OSMaps will show you trails you may not even have known existed right on your doorstep. During lockdown, I had my children out and about on routes I didn’t know about. You don’t have to get far from a main road for children to feel as though they’re in the middle of nowhere and on a big adventure.

So by no means do you have to travel to enjoy hiking as a family. But if you do want to take a trip some of the most beautiful hiking destinations in the UK include:

  • Lake District National Park – With its stunning lakes and dramatic fells, this park offers a variety of trails that accommodate all skill levels. Windermere and Keswick are great starting points for family hikes, with plenty of scenic spots for a delightful picnic.

  • Peak District National Park – Known for its captivating valleys and moorland plateaus, hiking in the Peak District provides families with an array of easy to moderate trails, perfect for soaking in the natural beauty and perhaps, spotting some wildlife.

  • Snowdonia National Park – For families feeling a bit more daring, the rugged landscapes of Snowdonia await. The Llanberis Path to Snowdon’s summit is a challenging yet rewarding hike, offering panoramic views that are sure to amaze.

  • South West Coast Path – If coastal hikes are more your speed, the South West Coast Path stretches over 630 miles, giving families the chance to explore the cliffs, beaches, and coves at their own pace.

  • Cairngorms National Park in Scotland: There’s everything here from high munro summits (the UK’s second highest peak, Ben Macdui, sits here) to beautiful woodland walks. A family friend route is Glen Doll to Corrie Fee which is accessible even to pushchairs. For those who want to hit a mountain or two, you can extend the Corrie Fee walk to summit the munros of Mayar and Driesh

And by no means is that an exhaustive list!

How to Prepare for a Family Hike

Before you venture into the wild whispers of the Great British countryside, a splash of preparation can turn a family hike from a trial to a triumph.  Yes, you’ll need layers, kit and essentials like waterproof. But if you’re hiking with kids, my experience is that the snack selection is just as important as the waterproofs! Apparently Haribo is the secret to summiting Ben Nevis, according to my son. A few essentials to make sure you pack include:

  • A map and compass, because GPS doesn’t always enjoy the great outdoors as much as you do.

  • Sturdy footwear to keep those little family paws – and the big ones – happy and blister-free.

  • Sun protection, even if the UK sun seems as mythical as a polite conversation on the London Underground.

Snack-wise, think non-perishable, energy-packed treats. Consider the noble granola bar, the unsung hero of sustenance. And hydration? Vital. Make sure you have plenty of water with you! So, lace up, pack up, and be ready to conquer the natural beauty with your kin – one step at a time!

Involving Children in Hiking

Transforming a simple walk into an adventure is key when it comes to involving children in hiking. It’s not just a trek; it’s a chance to become explorers, to learn about the natural world, and to collect treasured memories along with the odd pine cone. To keep those little legs moving and spirits high, consider these tips:

  • Scavenger Hunts: Create a list of natural items to find along the trail, turning the hike into a game that challenges their observation skills.

  • Nature’s Classroom: Take the chance to teach children about local flora and fauna. Every leaf and bug can be a story waiting to unfold, fostering a love for nature and an appetite for learning.

  • Snack Breaks: Keep energy levels topped up with healthy snacks. Trail mix isn’t just tasty; it’s fuel for the journey!

  • Storytelling: Use the surroundings to weave tales of adventure, maybe even involving magical creatures that live in the woods or the history of the land.

By engaging their curiosity and imagination, hiking becomes more than just exercise; it’s a playground for a child’s mind, helping to strengthen family bonds amidst the beauty of the UK’s landscapes.

Using a Walking Route Planner

Embarking on a family adventure through the UK’s lush landscapes can be both exhilarating and daunting. Here’s where using a walking route planner becomes your secret weapon. These digital guides are like the Swiss Army knife of navigation, offering a huge selection of trails at your fingertips. With just a few clicks, you can filter for family-friendly paths, avoiding the dreaded “Are we there yet?” by selecting routes that match your children’s enthusiasm and stamina.

  • Benefit from real-time updates and weather conditions to keep your brood safe and dry.

  • Discover hidden gems and scenic picnic spots, turning your hike into a treasure hunt of natural wonders.

  • Use features like difficulty ratings to ensure little legs can handle the trek, preventing mid-hike meltdowns.

Popular walking route planners like  Alltrails, ViewRanger or OS Maps not only make route finding a breeze, but they also provide a sense of security, allowing you to focus on making memories rather than deciphering maps. So before you lace up those boots, tap into technology and set the course for an unforgettable family journey. Have a map and compass (and know how to use them) as a back up where appropriate. Obviously you probably won’t need those hiking around your local reservoir! But if you’re doing a hike that needs any element of route finding, use tech by all means, but have a back up.

Safety Tips for Family Hikes

Some of this seems like common sense. But I couldn’t possibly write about family hiking without sharing a few safety tips:

  • Know Before You Go: Check the weather forecast and trail conditions. If dark clouds are gathering, it might be wise to save that mountain trek for another day. If you’re planning to hike hills or mountains, be sure to check the weather at all elevations and not just the base. Conditions at height are often very, very different to those at the start of the hike. Mountain Weather forecasts are plentiful online

  • Dress for Success: Equip your family with appropriate footwear and layers. Comfortable, supportive shoes are a trekker’s best friend, and layers are the Swiss Army Knife of hiking attire.

  • Stay on Track if You’re Not Navigation Confident: Stick to marked trails to avoid getting lost. Venturing off the beaten path can lead to more adventure than you bargained for if you’re out with the family or simply not comfortable with navigation yet. Marked trails are a great entry to family hiking and I personally prefer a well trodden route if I’m hiking with young children

  • Wildlife Wisdom: Teach your children how to act around wildlife. Admire from a distance and remember that feeding animals is the equivalent of inviting a bear to breakfast. Not a good idea. Not that you should encounter bears in the UK, mind! But you get the gist.

  • Emergency Readiness: Pack a first-aid kit, a whistle, and a flashlight. It’s like bringing a superhero sidekick along, just in case trouble shows up uninvited.

Adopting these precautions will help your family stay safe on the trail, transforming any hike into an exhilarating, worry-free quest through nature’s playground.

Conclusion

So, what you waiting for? Lace up your boots, pack your snack (don’t forget the Haribo) and head out for a walk!

 

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