How to Pick the Perfect Hike for Kids of All Ages: Babies and Toddlers

Find trail bliss with expert advice from Hike It Baby's Jessica Carrillo Allatorre
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Photo courtesy of Wild Acorns Media

Photo courtesy of Wild Acorns Media

Our guide provides tips on how to pick age-appropriate challenges for your little hikers. Check out the full series here.

Jessica Carrillo Allatorre is the Executive Director of Hike It Baby, an online resource and community for families with babies and young children. She’s also the mother of a 2.5-year-old and a 5-year-old, and hikes with both of them in the hills in and around Beaverton, Oregon. “My 2.5-year-old likes to hike on her own,” she says, “so I’m always trying to make sure the trails we choose are free from hazards like steep drop-offs and fast-moving water. I want to feel comfortable letting my small kids hike on their own a bit.”

Carrillo Allatorre’s advice for parents with babies is to consider your own limits. What are you up for as you carry your little one in your child carrier? “And don’t forget about the weight of snacks and water,” she says.

When hiking during summer months, shade is always good for young kids (and for parents carrying young kids). Read trail reviews for information on whether or not the trail is shady, and when looking at topographic maps, seek out areas with lots of green.

Another factor Carrillo Allatorre cites: multiple trail options. “In an area with several options,” she says, “you can easily cut the hike short if a child is having a meltdown.” Or, look for loops that let you extend your hike. If your kids crush the first mile, you may want to keep the fun going. 

“I also like looking at areas that have a nice parking area, instead of having to pull off on the side of the road.” Parking areas allow safe loading and unloading of kids.

And there’s the issue of bathrooms. Seeking out trailheads with bathrooms—and having little ones use them before the hike—can save you from hassle on-trail. And since it’s rare to find a bathroom at a trailhead with a changing table, says Carrillo Allatorre, seek out trails with benches along the way, or at least fallen logs. “Benches and downed logs work great for changing babies, nursing, or taking breaks for snacks.”

Baby/toddler-friendly trail features:

  • Hazard-free
  • Mellow terrain
  • Multiple trail options
  • Safe parking area
  • Bathrooms at the trailhead
  • Benches or logs along the way

Hike It Baby launched a Family Trail Guide in conjunction with L.L. Bean in January of 2019, which now has information on 1200 family-friendly trails across the country.  

For tips on finding trails ideal for elementary school-aged kids, click here. And for tips on finding trails for pre-teens and teens, click here