Family time at Goblin Valley State Park.
Photo: Michael Kunde

5 Tips for Hiking Southern Utah with Younger Children

Written by Visit Utah

Hiking with kids is a great way to combine quality family time with exercise and exploration of the outdoors. Part of preserving wilderness for future generations is teaching children to appreciate and enjoy nature. Here are a few tips to help increase your chances of a successful hike, as well as make your kids want to do it again next time.

1. Plan Ahead

Kids are less likely to “roll with it,” when an important element is forgotten, so advance planning is essential, even if you’re just hiking a few miles. Pack a first-aid kit, water, snacks, sunscreen, and your phone. Tell someone where you’ll be, even if it’s just a short trail. And be sure to check the weather forecast and trail conditions (where applicable) before heading out, as everything can change in a matter of hours.

2. Bring Extra Clothing

Even if it’s summer, be sure to take ample layers so your child doesn’t become chilled on the trail if the conditions change. Make sure kids have adequate hiking shoes. Always pack a change of clothes for each child and save them in the car for your return from the trail.

3. Pick Trails

For kids, the hike is about the journey, not the destination. Pick an easy or moderate trail that has some features, whether it’s a lake, stream, waterfall, or something that will keep the child occupied and focus on a goal.

4. Take Breaks

Hiking requires a lot of energy and if children run out early, that lack of energy can make them cranky. Plan for plenty of small breaks for water and food. You can use energy breaks as a way to keep kids moving by telling them at the next feature, you can take a snack break.

Since the key to family friendly hiking is keeping the kids motivated and having fun, create games that combine the two. Play games like organizing a scavenger hunt to find things that have certain characteristics (color, texture, size, etc.), counting wildflower or wildlife species, looking for signs of wildlife, or creating rhymes about things you see.

Kids Exploring Nature on Their Own Terms

Whether you visit a Utah National Park or just head out for a local hike, there’s plenty here for the whole family to enjoy. Plan to check out some of the best family-friendly hikes in Utah for an experience that will make a real impression on your children. (Read: Why Your Kids Need a Utah Trip)

Watch the YouTube video below: “Start ‘Em Early: Kids Exploring Nature on Their Own Terms.” Utah guide organizations have gained national prominence in adventure education, offering multi-day youth programs that traverse Southern Utah’s iconic rivers, ancient canyons and cultural landmarks.