Having a baby can set you back a little from your adventurous ways, even if you’re an outdoor enthusiast. Hiking with babies requires more than sturdy hiking shoes and a backpack. Read these hiking tips before your first foray into the woods as new parents.
Tips for Hiking with Babies
We are neither avid hikers nor devoted nature enthusiasts, but we like to visit national parks during a road trip. It’s a great way for us to experience geographical diversity during our travels. Even better, we don’t have to spend days camping or hours on long hikes to enjoy what national parks have to offer.
These tips, learned on our first time hiking with a baby, can make a hike with a new baby or young kids fun for everyone — parents, too.
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1. Make it Part of a Bigger Trip
If you’re worried about an entire trip based on staying in the wilderness, then decide to spend a just one day dedicated to the highlights of the park. We visited Joshua Tree National Park as part of our two day road trip to Palm Springs, California. During our fall foliage visit to Portland, Maine, we took a day trip to Bar Harbor to for a family hike at Acadia National Park.
2. Know Your limits
We assess our physical limitations when planning what to do at the park with baby. We enjoy going on a short hike, then driving around to various look out points.
Many of our outdoorsy friends have been hiking with babies since the little ones were a few months old. They carry them in slings or baby carriers. But my first baby absolutely hated being restricted and the child carrier was of no use. We were concerned about how to make the most of visiting a national park, which was highly unlikely to be stroller friendly.
We were creative in our approach to visiting the park. Driving through a well mapped out route helped us cover a lot of ground. We enjoyed a lot of scenery from the car with occasional stops at look out points when we took the baby out for fresh air, did short walks and posed for pictures.
We have had more luck with our baby-carrier-loving second baby and have been able to take longer day hikes.
3. Save Money
A visit to a national park is a multi-generational activity that is very economical. As entrance fees are charged per vehicle, it will only cost a few dollars for a car full of passengers. It is ideal getaway to include extended family or helpers without adding too much cost per head. There are even several free admission days each year at national parks.
4. Mix it Up
Not every outdoor adventure has to be a hike. On a visit to Everglades National Park we took an airboat ride that included a guided swamp tour with a closer look at alligators. The location of the tour onset point and its duration played a key role in choosing this activity. We were mindful of the maximum time our infant son could be engaged on our laps. As long as he was held close and had a life vest, it was safe for him to take a boat ride.
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5. Plan a Picnic
This is one of our must-dos on any national park trip. Most parks will have restaurants or picnic areas with amazing views. Our lunch stop at Cater Lake with magnificent views of the lake is one of my favorite meals at a national park. A short walk broken up by a snack or lunch are a good way to spend the day in a national park with young children.
6. Bring Baby Supplies
We all know that babies need stuff. But you won’t want to carry a diaper bag over your shoulder during a mile hike. So pack a backpack with a few diapers (bring more than one in case of a blowout), a first aid kit (just in case), snacks, sunscreen and a sun hat for baby. One parent can carry the baby in a baby backpack or carrier while the other carries the backpack full of baby supplies.