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Taking non-hiking kids hiking (and making them into hikers)
posted by John : April 25, 2015

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Taking non-hikers hiking can be dizzying

Aw, Dad. I don't want to go hiking today! Can't we just have _________ and ________ come over to play?

More bone chilling words were never spoken in my house. My dear kids would rather play with their friends than hike with me in the rain. I just couldn't believe it.

In fact, I refused to believe it.

How about we ask them to go hiking with us?

Would it work?


(It worked.)

I had conned the kids into going hiking. But here's the rub: Their friends aren't quite as serious about hiking as we are. In fact, they don't hike regularly at all.


This isn't the first time this has happened to us. Most of our friends aren't quite as crazy as we are. In fact, none with kids are. So we've had non-hikers with us on trail quite a bit. Here's how we've made it work.

Choose small trips. Both Lillian and Henry did pretty epic trips this Summer. They've proven they can put in the miles and climb mountains. Their friends... that's not what they're into.

Instead of pushing the kids to their limits we find small, approachable trips that any kid can do. This trip was to Franklin Falls. Total round trip distance was 3.5 miles, but there was only about 300 feet of elevation gain. Easy enough for anyone.

Choose big payoff trips. Lots of kids (and adults, too) aren't necessarily thrilled at the prospect of just wandering down a trail. I think my kids have largely developed an appreciation for simply being outside. To make sure it's rewarding for kids that don't hike a lot I try to take them where they can't help but be impressed. Like the base of a 135 foot waterfall like Franklin. Heck, even jaded-old-me can't get enough of that.

Focus on them. This is harder when your own kids are young, especially if you're the only adult. However, even focusing on just a couple of events can make the new hikers feel special. The biggest challenge is making sure it doesn't come off as phony. Sometimes they can't tie their shoes, but kids can smell a phony a mile away.

Loops, loops, loops. Out and back is boring. Find a trail that makes a loop. The terrain is always fresh and different. On the return from Franklin Falls we took the Wagon Road Trail. It follows the original wagon road over Snoqualmie Pass. Better than the history though, was seeing new flowers and no other hikers.

Shareable treats. What advice about hiking with kids would be complete without talking about trail treats? None of mine! We had sugary and salty snacks that worked perfectly along the way and at the waterfall. A bag of popcorn and a bunch of cups for distribution let the kids snack while I snapped pictures. The dogs enjoyed the dropped bits, too.

We had a good trip to Franklin Falls in spite of (or because of) the rain, snow, wind, and sun. I feel like everyone won. I got a hike. All the kids got some exercise and weren't sitting in front of a screen all day and yet they had a good time. How do I know they had a good time? When I dropped them off at their house I heard this:

Thanks, Mr. John! I had a great time and want to go again!

More comforting words were never spoken in my presence.

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