Hiking with a Child: How much Outdoor-Time is Suggested?

Hiking with a child, or in our case with three of them and a dog for an addition 😉 ,Hiking With Children is my favorite outdoor activity with my family. These outings are usually longer, so I take them as an opportunity to spend more quality time with my family, me and my husband are more relaxed, because no major obligation is hanging over our heads in that moment, and children are just happy observing little and BIG attractions the nature has to offer every step of the way, and the communication between us is not interrupted by nuisances of modern society. And I didn’t even touch the overall health and well-being benefits of spending an active time in nature!

Hiking b.c. (before Children)

Mauntaineering Was Fun

Yes, it was different before we started our family. On our free days we took off and went rock climbing or mountaineering and we didn’t consider the time too much. Till the weather was good and the night didn’t close down, we were just happy outside. And sometimes even if it was pouring rain or we had to descend at the light of full moon rising – this was our choice and our way of living.




Hiking a.c. (after Children)Hiking With Children 1

Now … when our first daughter was born we had to make some adjustments to our life. The long hikes were over for some time, since we always tended to take our baby with us. We are just not of those parents who frequently leave their children with a sitter or grandparents and feel lighthearted about it. Sometimes yes, but not often.

As a mountaineering guide and whole life mountain enthusiast I was familiar with specific requirements hiking with children will bring to us. In this article I wanted to point out one of several aspects of hiking with a child – the time.


Duration of a Hike considering your Child’s Age


Age Duration Movement Type Outing Type
2 m to 2 y max. 2 h on fresh air, when the child starts to walk 30 min to 1 h of walking stroller, carrying, walking walks, occasionally very short hikes
2 to 3 y max. 3 h on fresh air, max. 30 min of constant walking carrying, walking walks, short hikes
3 to 4 y max. 4 h on fresh air, max. 2 h of walking walking with rests, carrying if needed walks, short hikes
4 to 5 y 3 to 4 h of walking walking with rests walks, short hikes, occasionally half-day hikes
5 to 7 y up to 4 h of walking walking with rests, very easy climbing routes with additional protection walks, short hikes, half-day hikes, occasionally whole-day hikes or more-days hike done in shorter portions


This table shows only guidelines, but I cannot stress too much, that you alone have the responsibility to take into the account your child’s well-being. It is crucial that you consider your child’s abilities and adjust your outings to him/her. Children are so very different from one another. The magic will happen when we all listen to and really hear each other and all of our needs. Or so it works in our family …

Climbing Easiest Routes

Only this way your child will develop/maintain positive attitude towards outdoors and nature. Forcing never works the positive way.

And sometimes it is better to take a rest after first 100 meters, let them eat their snack and the world will be brighter for them – and you. You can leave this kind of little victory to them, because otherwise your whole day may be ruined by whining and crying about shoes, pants, shirts, hair, heat, flies, boredom, eating, not eating, cold, sweaters, caps, drinks, no drinks, mosquitoes and other convenient problems … It’s your call – I just usually pick the lesser evil 😉 .

Some Quick Tips for Safe Hiking with Children


  • Plan the hike yourself (suggestions from children can be taken into account but thought over by an adult!


  • Consider yours and your children’s abilities realistically!Take Rests


  • Prepare in advance (drink, food, clothes, footwear, gear …)!


  • Do not hurry or force children!


  • The goal is to have fun walking in nature not to reach the mountain top by every means!


  • Take rests!


  • Let them (and yourself) enjoy the way!

How do I do It?

I must admit, we brake the above rules about duration of being on fresh air with children constantly. We just love being outside!

And when I first saw those recommendations I thought: What about camping? When you are camping, you are constantly on fresh air and it even improves your health in my opinion. So … to be short: I know my children, I know they love the nature. So I let them be outside on fresh air as long as they desire if possible. But I know also, that sometimes they have enough and just want to play indoors. I gladly let them to do that, because I’m confident that next day they will be out again, in sun or rain, on grass or mud … 🙂


I think, that no matter where around the globe you live, the essence is the same: small children LOVE the OUTDOORS! 🙂 It is in their nature! And if we set a good example for them, they will be able to maintain their intuitive and inherent respect and love for nature and natural environment. And this is the base for their brighter future, don’t you think?


I would really like to hear about your experience with hiking with children, and if you have a question or two about this subject, please feel free to post it below!







  1. Kenny Lee

    I must admit, I lack time bringing my 4yrs old son outdoor. I know it’s a feeble excuse considering how much benefit it has to a child. I think I should start soon, as he is getting used to the urban life and has shown some reluctance to outdoor activities. I’m not sure I will start with hiking but probably a stroll down the park will be better as a start.

    1. Spela (Post author)

      Hi, Kenny!
      I agree with you. A 4-year-olds have their mind all sorted up and it’s harder to start introducing them to nature. A stroll down the park would be a great solution for starting in my opinion. Especially if you can include some fun activity along that (roller blades, scooter, bicycle, skate, or simply a ball to run after 🙂 ) and a small reward after it – little delicious snack or so. And don’t forget to take it easy yourself and maybe listen to birds or observe the ants with your boy. It feels good. 🙂

      Take care,

  2. Jenny

    A lot of memories came back when I read this! My dad used to take us hiking every weekend. It was so fun and a new adventure every time. I loved it!

    I would love to do that with my son. He plays a lot outdoors but during weekends not so much. I’ll try to do it more often.

    Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Spela (Post author)

      Hey, Jenny!
      Yes, the good memories, ha? 🙂 I love my memories about my childhood hikes too. It all about great feelings that you carry along into your more mature life. 🙂

      I hope you’ll have an opportunity to show your son the secrets of hiking someday. 🙂

      Take care!

  3. Reyner

    It is a very interesting topic there, I love hiking but never thinking of bringing my child there. After reading your post I will try to bring my child to go hiking. REally love this post

    1. Spela (Post author)

      Hi, Reyner!
      I’m glad you like my post! I would only like to suggest, that in case you want to take your child hiking, you educate yourself about this subject and about specifics and precautions a bit more. I’ll be posting more articles with deeper insight into this topic soon, so do stay in touch!

      Thanks for the comment! And have fun hiking! 🙂

  4. Matt

    Haha I like the chart. Its like you were listing the stats of a World of Warcraft character or something. It brought out the nerd in me! I do like your enthusiasm though to continue hiking despite having a child. Although he or she may not remember it I am sure the bonding experience will affect his or her personality and how he or she feels about you. Well done!

    1. Spela (Post author)

      Hey, Matt!
      OK, I really don’t understand the connection with the stats of a World of Warcraft characters – I’m totally ignorant about this subject … 😀
      But I do appreciate your comment. You would never thought how much can hiking mean to a child. Just last season my oldest daughter (then 3 y.) kept asking when we will go to the mountains again together, but we couldn’t due to our twins being born prematurely.

      I believe this shows not only that the children remember these trips, they internalize the experience and like it with pleasant emotions. A great prospect for the future, I believe, don’t you?

      All the best!

  5. Sarah

    We hike religiously with our boys every summer. Last year we had just two and we threw them on our backs. But now we have three and we’ve had to start having our 3 year old walk on his own. It’s certainly a drag sometimes when he slows down the pace. He seemed to do just fine, but complained that his feet hurt toward the end. He was on his feet for about four hours. I see now it was probably too much for him. But he sure napped long and well that afternoon!

    1. Spela (Post author)

      Hi, Sarah!

      Yes, the long naps after hikes are wonderful, I agree! 🙂

      About 4 hours of walking with your 3 year old: it’s quite long for what I see in my daughter. When she was 3 we did some hikes, that were 2 hours in one direction (measured together with several rests). And I think it was the optimal decision for us. We carried her for about 15 minutes, as she almost passed out on the way to our car – and the nap followed … 🙂

      If you are using baby carriers or backpacks, please do consider the proper amount of rests. Babies cannot be in the carriers longer than an hour at a time – it’s not good for the blood circulation or muscle development! But you probably already know that….

      I wish you pleasant and fun hiking with children!

      Å pela

  6. Ian

    Hi Å pela,
    Nice article! I’ve never tried hiking for longer than 30 minutes at a time with my kids. I think that I will take them out more now that I’ve read your article. The table that you included was extremely helpful and gives a good idea of the general limits for different age groups.

    1. Spela (Post author)

      Hi, Ian!

      Kids are actually capable of doing much more than we like to think and recover extremely fast after physical activity… Try it, you’ll see!

      Thanks for taking your time to read my article. All the best!

      Å pela

  7. Anke

    Hi Spela, I love how you encourage parents to spend more time with their kids in the outdoors. As you mentioned in your post, it doesn’t have to be the hiking trip. Just taking them to the nearest park or playground will get your kids outside and moving.Too often children are sitting on the computer or in front of the TV.
    Spending time with them together and exploring nature will not only help to build a closer bond with your kids but also contributes to keeping them healthy.
    Thanks again for your post. Cheers Anke

    1. Spela (Post author)

      Hi, Anke!

      Thanks for your positive comment 🙂 I’m glad to share some proven good ways to spend time with a family. This is the time the good memories and the solid bonds are creating!

      Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day!

      Å pela

  8. Caroline

    Hi, Me and my hubby used to love hiking, not that we are crazy enthusiasts, but we would often plan a lovely long walk when the weather was expected to be good.

    Since having our son (now 2 years old), we never really go out! We’re too scared that he will misbehave or be upset and ruin the scenic atmosphere, he’s never been an easy child! I do like your guidance on how long to stay out for, separated into the age of the child, but I’m still not sure we could go for a 3 hour walk with our little man!

    How do you keep the younger ones entertained? And do you just estimate that it will take you twice as long, so we would pick a walk that would normally only take us 60-90 minutes knowing that it will take much longer?


  9. Netta

    Hey Spela:

    The most amazing hike I ever went on was a three-day, two-night trip through the Haleakala Crater on Maui where I live. We spent the nights in the cabins there.

    We went in the middle of a heavy rainstorm in the afternoon of the first day. Our reward was the sight of spectacular waterfalls along the Kaupo Gap walls on the last day. Beauty!

    The most awesome thing about it was a little girl, Sahara, who was, I think, 7 years old at the time. Her parents have a very active outdoor life and Sahara keeps up with them marvelously. This crater trip was not her first and she was a trooper.

    She kept pointing out all the sights and showing me her favorite places. That was a cool thing.

    1. Spela (Post author)


      What an adventure! For the little girl especially! 🙂

      The nature seems different through eyes of a child. More colorful, more intriguing, more spontaneous, more interesting, much much more. And if they are prepared to share their perspective with you, you should be very grateful … 🙂 What do you think?

      Have a nice time hiking!

      Å pela

  10. Matt

    I was really intrigued by your post, my wife and I have 2 young children under the age of 3 and we love being outside. We plan to try and implement your tips for hiking with our kids….especially the one about letting them explore and take their time. Sometimes we tend to rush them along and not take the time to enjoy.

    1. Spela (Post author)

      Hi, Matt!

      Thanks for taking your time to read my post.

      I agree, it’s soooo nice taking kids out in nature. Even if you have to slow down yourself (sometimes it’s just what YOU need…) 🙂

      Have a really nice time!

      Å pela


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