Hiking with kids

Spring has officially sprung, and to kick it off we went on our first hike of the season in Kananaskis this past weekend.  Felix and Max have been asking all winter to go hiking and I think this upcoming year Max’s feet will finally be big enough for ice cleats so that we can do just that, but for now we were waiting for snow melt.  Since this was the first hike of the season, it took me a bit of time to remember and find all the stuff we would need.  The hike was a last-minute decision and so I ended up packing way too much stuff and leaving the city way too late.  Usually I like to have the car packed up the night before so that we can roll out after breakfast and get to the trailhead before 10am; this way we typically avoid heavy weekend traffic and we can take our time on the trail letting the boys set the pace.  We still managed to pull of a great hike and now that the first one of 2016 is out of our systems, I feel like I’m ready to tackle all the ones to come.
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 Prairie Mountain

If you are thinking of doing some hiking with your kids and are looking for some tips or suggestions to get you started, here is my top 10 list of what to do and pack to get prepared:

  1. Plan ahead, check out the trail report for any advisories, see what the weather will be like, and make sure you have printed out a map on how to get there, the travel time, and where the trail head is before you leave.  Don’t rely on having internet in the mountains.
  2. Pack safety items, including bear spray, matches, a safety whistle and a pocket knife.
  3. Bring a small portable first aid kit (or make your own).
  4. Bring sunscreen and bug spray.
  5. Pack lots of water for you and the kids, making sure you bring extra to leave in the car for after the hike.
  6. Bring snacks for the hike and snacks for after the hike that you can leave in your car.  I usually bring a few treats on the trail if the boys are starting to fatigue (which usually happens when we are only 10 minutes away from finishing the hike and getting to the car), which adds that extra incentive and distraction for us to finish the hike.IMG_5572
  7. Pack an extra wet bag/baggies (you never know if there will be puddles to play in or a water bottle decides to break) and a pack of kleenex/wet wipes for emergency bathroom trips.
  8. Wear proper footwear:  it will make a world of difference in the enjoyment of the hike.
  9. Bring a pair of extra clothes for everyone.  I usually pack an extra pair of socks and underwear for the boys in my backpack and keep an extra shirt and pair of pants in the car for them after the hike.   They always come back covered head to toe in dirt and mud so a quick change before we drive home helps them feel better and saves my car.
  10. Pack a small towel to keep in the car.  Sometimes we come back from hikes and the boys are soaked from playing in a stream or puddle or really any body of water they can find.  It makes it so much easier to have a towel in the car for a quick dry off before heading home.

Optional, but also cool:

  1. Books identifying plants, birds, bugs, tracks and even scat.
  2. Binoculars or magnifying glasses.
  3. Print-out sheets for a hiking scavenger hunt (for free print outs click here).

***If you live in Canmore, Okotoks, Sheep River, Bighorn/Exshaw, or Banff, you can borrow a backpack from your local library filled with hiking activities, scavenger hunt material, identification books and more.  For more information about the Alberta Parks Adventure Discovery Pack click here.**

If you are heading out to the mountains, stay safe.  Tell someone where you are going, what hike you are planning on doing and when you will be back.  Make sure you bring bear spray and educate yourself on how to use it safely.  Do not spray it on yourself, other people, or your tent.  Bear spray is a deterrent, not a repellent.  Parks Canada has a great short video on YouTube that you can watch on how to use bear spray safely.  Also, keep an eye out for bear safety events.  Alberta Parks is hosting a Bear Day at the Canmore Nordic Centre that is free to attend on April 9, 2016 (tomorrow!).  For more information click here.  Alberta Parks also have a great printable PDF on bear safety.

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Stay safe and happy hiking!

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