A sister and brother dig a hole in the snow.

5 tips to make your family winter hikes memorable

Editor’s note: This post was updated on Jan. 13, 2021.

For a lot of people, hiking in the winter with kids can be a little scary. Parents and caregivers fear it’s too cold outside, and they don’t always know how to properly prepare for a winter adventure. Fear not. Winter brings something magical to the trails and with a little bit of knowledge, you can make it extremely fun. Plus, learning to navigate snow and ice is a big part of becoming physically literate for those living in cold climates.

If you are hiking with babies or toddlers, you want to be extra attentive because little children often can’t tell us if they are too cold or too hot, so you need to be the judge and check on them often. I’ve done a number of hikes with babies and the main advice I have for you is get a good carrier. It will be worth the investment and your back will thank you.

These five tips will hopefully help you get out and make your winter adventure memorable.

1. Start small

For your first hike of the season, you don’t need to go on a 10km trail. Start by choosing a 1-2km hike to see how your children cope in the cold weather and to test your winter gear. The last thing you want to do is have a horrible first experience, or you will most likely not be going back. Once you’ve done a few short hikes with minor elevation and you know your kids are enjoying them, you might be ready for a longer hike. You can slowly increase the length of your adventures as the winter goes and soon enough, going hiking in the middle of winter will be a normal thing for you.

2. Layer up

The key when you head out hiking in the winter is you want to stay warm. Dressing up with layers makes for happy hikers:

  • Your first layer should be a base layer made of either wool or polyester and be worn tight to the skin.
  • The second layer is meant to keep you warm. It can be a down jacket or your favourite hoodie or wool shirt.
  • The final layer should be waterproof and will protect you from rain, wind, and snow.
  • Make sure to pack extra socks, mitts, hats, and neck warmers for everyone in your backpack.

3. Make it fun

Get creative and keep the hike fun for your little ones. There are so many ways you can entertain your kids on winter hikes: you can stop and make a snowman or small fort, have a snowball fight, or you can even bring a sled or skis/snowboard to slide down on.

Hiking with other families can make the hikes much easier, too. Get a few parents to help each other out and kids always like to follow and play with other children. If your little ones had a blast out hiking, they will most likely want to go back on more winter adventures so, right from the start, make these winter hikes fun for them.

4. Bring snacks and special treats

Snacks always keep us going further and further, so pack more snacks than you think you need and make sure to pack some special treats, too. Even us adults like a little treat after a long hike. Bring some yummy baked goods, granola bars, pieces of dark chocolate—whatever will get your kiddos going. I love to bring hot chocolate in a thermos on those cold days, it helps warm you up, it tastes delicious, and it creates memories for life.

5. Be prepared for the car ride back home

After a long time spent playing outside in the cold, it’s always nice to come back to the car to a full set of dry clothes and wrap your kiddos in a blanket. It makes for happy car ride back home.

Happy adventures everyone! Enjoy the winter.

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