By: Maren Voss, ScD, Professional Practice Extension Professor of Health and Wellness
Family hikes can build both fitness and strong family bonds. What's a better way to bond as a family than being out in nature? Heading out for a family hike is a great way to take a break from devices and connect with each other and the outdoors. Kids and teens today seem to be as busy as their parents with school, sports, activities, and spending time with friends. Time as a family can quickly become limited. Hiking brings the opportunity to be together and have an adventure that everyone can enjoy and remember.
Exploring the outdoors boosts physical and mental health, and reduces stress. Couldn't we all use a stress reliever? On the trail, away from cars and other dangers, children are free to roam, trek up a hill or devise a strategy to cross a stream. Young children can make their own choices, test limits and accomplish what they set out to do. Teenagers can find opportunities to build life skills like resilience, grit, planning and organizing skills.
One of the most important things about hiking with young children is to follow their lead, and to remember that they will more than likely take a long time to hike a short distance. When hiking with the entire family, choose trails that are challenging but doable for everyone (Trails like the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge, Mount Timp, and Cecret Lake all offer different levels of challenge). Lucky for us, Utah is full of hikes for families of all ages and experience.
An added bonus to hiking is that it can be inexpensive, depending on the type of gear you already own and the hiking that you plan to do. Have tennis shoes and comfortable clothing? You’re halfway there. Add in some water and a few snacks in a backpack and you’re set. A good first aid kit is handy as well.
Intermountain Healthcare suggests these safety tips when hiking with the family:
- Know the Trail. Cater your hike to the weakest or youngest member.
- Use the Buddy System. Pair children with adults for added safety.
- Take Plenty of Water and Snacks. Especially watch out for kids and infants who can lose fluids quickly.
- Watch Out for Water. Warn children about hazards of flowing or still water.
- Gear Up and Wear Sunscreen.
- It's Ok to Be Noisy. Noise can scatter unwanted critters.
- Become a "Tree Hugger" Tell kids if they get separated, hug a tree, and stay put.
In summation, the benefits of hiking as a family are tremendous. This inexpensive activity provides plenty of opportunities for families to bond and create memories together. It doesn’t take long to learn how to get started hiking and find trails that are waiting for you and your family to explore.