Hiking is one of our favorite things to do as a family. When I share that with people, it evokes a wide variety of responses.
- Some whole heartily love this hobby and begin rattling off some of their favorite trails or mountain peaks they’ve hiked.
- Some are curious and want to know how we hike with our young boys so they can do it too.
- Some want nothing to do with the outdoors and can’t imagine why we consider that fun.
What do you think about taking your family hiking?
I hope to encourage you that you and your family can hike and truly enjoy yourselves. There are countless memories to be made.
What are you waiting for?
Once you have the appropriate gear, it’s a very inexpensive hobby that brings you as a family closer together. It allows us to connect, be off of electronics, opportunities to challenge ourselves and discover native plants and wildlife. Children love the outdoors, so it is no surprise that they are eager to hop on the trails.
The Time is NOW!
The mild temperatures have arrived here in Northwest Florida, making it the perfect time to get on the trails. If you consider yourself a beginner hiker, this is an ideal location and the best time of year to get started!
99% of the trails in NWFL are flat, so you don’t have to worry about elevation. Florida and Alabama take pride in God’s country and take excellent care of the parks and trails. All trails I’ve been on in this area are easily marked, and some trails are paved or a boardwalk, making it easy to push a stroller, wagon, or wheelchair.
If you are hiking with young children, these are my top 5 tips:
I feel like this is a no-brainer, but snacks are crucial for making a hiking trip a success. Bring a variety of your kids’ favorite snacks in a backpack to keep them fueled and to avoid the inevitable demand for something to eat.
Infant: If your child is 0-8 months, I love the Ergobaby 360 All Position Baby Carrier. Our babies always fell asleep while hiking because of how comfortable they were in this carrier. You can use a baby carrier beyond six months if you and the baby are comfortable.
Older babies and toddlers: Once your child is over 16lbs, you can upgrade to a backpack-style carrier. We absolutely LOVE our Osprey Poco Child Carrier. It is a total game-changer, and I cannot recommend it enough! Thanks to this carrier, we have hiked so many miles with a happy or sleeping child. It is comfortable for the parent to wear, the child can join in the sightseeing, and there is extra storage underneath, so you still have room for your necessities. We relied on our children walking the trails around age 3.
Time of Day
You know your child’s schedule so take that into consideration. Don’t plan to start a 1-mile hike with your 4-year-old at 11:30 if naptime is usually 12. But if you have a child who may nap in a carrier, maybe naptime is a good time to go! It just depends on what works for your family. We like to go hiking first thing in the morning.
It can be exciting to want to hike to see something spectacular at the end of the trail! But if your toddler has never sat in the child carrier and it’s 2 miles out, and then back, the waterfall can wait. Start with 1-mile hikes and work your way up to set yourself up for success.
Master of Ceremonies
Be ready to talk, teach, and sing! If your child starts to get antsy, get creative and distract them from their whining that they’ve been walking foreverrrrrrr. The more you engage with them on your hike, the more fun they will have.
There you have it! Now that you have these tips in your back pocket, you’re ready to hit the trails.
Here are my family’s favorite kid-friendly hikes within 100 miles of Pensacola, FL:
Tarklin Bayou Pensacola, FL
UWF Pensacola, FL
Big Lagoon State Park Pensacola, FL
Blackwater River Loop Milton, FL
Krul Recreation Area (within Blackwater River State Forest) Milton, FL
Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou Niceville, FL
Ponce de Leon Springs State Park Ponce de Leon Springs, FL
Florida Caverns Marion, FL (125 miles but so worth it)
Conecuh National Forest Andalusia, AL
Gulf State Park Gulf Shores, AL
Meaher State Park Spanish Fort, AL
Frank Jackson State Park Opp, AL