A mother and her young daughter hike along a trail in the mountains.

52 reasons to take a hike with your child 

As a mother of a 10-year-old daughter, finding distraction-free time together is becoming increasingly more difficult. With my daughter active in competitive sports and robotics, a healthy social life, and academic rigour, finding those times to bond beyond my commitments is getting harder to schedule. 

Although something we both find important (and long for), time together requires more planning, schedule-juggling, and some give and take. With that in mind, we chose to sign up for an outdoor challenge we could achieve by enjoying what we can (basically) find right outside our door near Boulder, Colorado: trails. 

The 52 Hike Challenge is a challenge I’d seen before while cruising through my social media feed. I had fleeting thoughts of trying it, but I never got any further than thinking it might be fun. This year, however, I knew I wanted to find something to give me a push to get back into an active routine after breaking my arm last April and returning to education full-time after a long hiatus. 

While writing an article about outdoor challenges for the new year, I dug deeper into the ins and outs of the 52 Hike Challenge by reading through the guidelines: 

  • Complete one hike of at least one mile every week for 52 weeks
  • Flexibility to hike more during the summer or double up on hikes for more than one a week 
  • Can be done anywhere around the world
  • Sign up for free or purchase a package for swag 
  • Log hikes the way you want
  • A tree will be planted upon completion for those who sign up for a package 

Those guidelines seem simple enough, so I brought up the idea to my daughter. Beyond the motivation of quality time with her, I’m the type that does much better when I set a goal and let people know of my intentions. According to Health and Wellness Services at the University of Colorado, setting goals is helpful to “articulate the things that are important to us and help us develop our strengths.” 

My daughter quickly said, “Let’s do it,” without thinking of the full-on commitment. “I want to get out in nature more and spend more time with my mom,” she says. Well, with that said, she convinced me. A minute later, I was clicking the button to register. 

Here’s some of the reasoning behind the challenge we chose. 

Intrinsic motivation 

My husband and I each have our own thing that we enjoy doing one-on-one with our daughter. For him, it’s skiing and running. Since I first put her in a backpack, hiking has been our thing. She hiked 58 of the 65 kid-friendly hikes with me for my first guidebook, The Best Utah Children’s Hikes. So far, she has hiked 19 of the 30 hikes for my second guidebook, Hike The Parks Mesa Verde. “My mom and I have hiking,” says Emma. “That’s always been our thing, so this challenge is perfect!”

Health benefits 

Looking to get back into a routine of healthy habits, this challenge checks off all the boxes from goal-setting to building back strength and energy lost in the past year. 

The push and pull of my daughter coming into her own identity, especially while she’s inching closer to middle school, has her seeking more time to get lost in her thoughts and away from the stressors of pre-teen life. As she puts it, “I feel like myself. I feel alive when I am out in nature.” 

Hiking has many positive mental and physical effects that this challenge will provide us with:

  • Reduce stress
  • Strengthen relationships
  • Improve mental health
  • Promote sleep
  • Help attention/focus
  • Connect with nature 
A parent and their child walk together along a snowmobile trail in the winter.

Simplicity of the challenge  

With already busy lives, we wanted to choose a goal we thought we could be successful in meeting. While the guidelines state that the challenge goal is to complete one hike a week for 52 weeks of at least one mile a week, it can be modified to fit personal lifestyle and time constraints. We both like that we can concentrate on hiking more during the summer months when there are fewer daily commitments. It also allows us to use summer travel as a way to experience different types of hikes in new locations. Plus, I don’t need a push to lace up my hikers on a beautiful warm day like I do when I need to clean off the windshield or throw on the layers. The flexibility is also helpful to be able to fit in more than one hike a week when we have things like travel and soccer tournaments. 

Common goal

As we did some self-reflection and talked about what we’d like to do more of in the next year, we both expressed interest in getting out and hiking more. We both wanted to challenge ourselves to climb a few 14ers (14,000-foot mountains). And a planned trip down to Ouray, Colorado, for the Fourth of July had me dreaming of finally doing the Blue Lakes Hike that we missed out on the last time we were down that way because of the weather. “Since I wanted to hike more 14ers this summer, this challenge will help us prepare more,” says Emma. “We can also count the 14ers as one of the 52 hikes.”

We came to an understanding that not every hike would be epic. Some weeks we may just head to some local trails to hike where we’ve already been. For us, that’s okay since our main goal was committing to the time together. 

In the end

Long days, short years. That phrase has become ever more prevalent in my psyche as I’m on the verge of having a middle schooler. I truly hope we’re able to complete this challenge—if not for the distraction-free time together, then for the time to have open conversations. “I hope it gives us a chance to slow down,” says Emma. Slowing down… That sure does sound nice. 

Courtney and her daughter Emma hiking together in Utah.
Courtney and Emma began their 52 Hike Challenge on Jan. 3 while visiting family in Utah. 

If 52 hikes seems daunting, check out the 52 Hike Challenge Kid Series focusing on doing 52 outdoor activities (one a week but flexible) over the course of the year. And if you’re looking for other challenge ideas, check out these outdoor challenges to keep you motivated throughout the year.

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