Hiking with 3 Year Old - Doable? Tips?

Updated on October 04, 2012
S.S. asks from Los Angeles, CA
16 answers

My husband and I are going on a double date with a childless couple and we're bringing our 3 year old son. The plan is to go hiking though some parts of the trail will not accommodate a stroller. Is this a really bad idea? Anyone gone hiking with a preschooler? tips?? thanks!!

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answers from St. Louis on

I went on a ten mile hike, mostly uphill, with my then two year old. Pretty much carried her eight of the ten miles. I learned my lesson! My legs felt like they were on fire for weeks.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

I wouldn't go with a couple that doesn't have kids but we hiked a lot as a family when mine were small. A jogging stroller is helpful but we went without one too after they were around two or three and never had a problem. It depends on the kid and their experiences to date. My girls have always loved walks in the woods and trails. When they were small we just allowed extra time and were mindful of the terrain.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Honolulu on

We have taken our kids hiking since they were 2 years old.
No stroller.
They walked. We took breaks when need be, and bring lots of water and sunscreen and hats.
We never ever, told them that they have to finish, the hike. Nor did we expect, to go all the way and back. Because, they were young.
We took them on hikes that were child friendly. EASY hikes. Hike trails here are rated by hikers. We research it before taking the kids on trails.
Thus my kids LOVE hiking.

Now, it depends on what kind of trail it is.... easy or hard type of hiking trail????
Some trails are simply not child friendly.
So you have to know the terrain.
Hiking trails are not meant, for strollers.

And, hopefully that childless couple you know, are patient. Because with a child per hiking, you have to go according to the CHILD's, ability and need for taking breaks. Also, they do not, walk as fast.

AND with a child and hiking.... you NEED to keep in mind that... you will NOT be able to do the ENTIRE hike round trip, if the child is simply TOO tired. You have to go according to the child's cues.
And watch for dehydration.
And you'll need to take breaks, for peeing etc.
Bring, a backpack with toiletries etc. AND EXTRA clothing too.
AND bring band-aids and Bactine spray etc. Just in case.
And, wipes.

To me, a couple without children or child experience, will not understand that they can't just ZIP along the hike. YOU will probably be the one, who has to stay behind with your child. You will not be able to keep up with an adult's pace... and that couple.

ALSO, when it is hot, and a child is tired, they can get fussy.
So you ALL need to keep that in mind. It is not the child's fault.
Do not for example, go on a hike when it is typically your child's nap time. Bad timing.
And make sure you bring SNACKS too, in addition to water and/or Gatorade... and also feed your child BEFORE the hike.

Then with all of this in mind, you need to decide if it is a good idea or not, to take your child.
This is what we have done with our own kids, since they were Toddlers.
And it was enjoyable. Because... we went according to our CHILD's cues and abilities and cues for tiredness etc. It was a family outing for "fun." Not about finishing the trail or going fast or on terrain that was simply not child friendly.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Since the other couple is childless, I wouldn't take a 3 year old boy. If you do you may keep them from enjoying children because they will never have any. (JK)

I wouldn't take a 3 year old boy on a hike of any distance at all. He will get tired or bored and will want to be carried and will whine if you don't. Unless kids are chasing and playing with other like age kids, they will not willingly walk for 100 yards. Or he will not want to stay with you and you will have all your attention focused on him rather than having a nice time with the other couple.

Good luck to you and yours.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from El Paso on

LOL. We hiked up to a cave when I was pregnant with our then 2 1/2 year old. It's not necessarily a BAD idea, but be prepared for him to get tired and want one of you to carry him!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

How long is the hike? I take my kids on a 3 kilometer hike each fall. It takes a lot longer with a three year old. We'd take lots of rest stops and stop to look at everything (which is kind of the point of a hike, in my opinion). I would definitley take the three year old hiking, but with other famiies with kids, not with a childless couple.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Like everything else, it depends on the kid the hike, your readiness, and that of your friends.

Be prepared for the worst case scenarios. 1 your kid won't walk and wants to be carried. 2. your kid won't walk in the right direction or at the right pace. 3. the bits of the trail that won't accommodate a stroller are too challenging to do for a kid, or with a kid on your back. 4. weather changes for the worse. 5. someone gets hurt.

We've done as long as 5K hikes with our 2 year old. We used a kid harness, and were prepared to carry him, and did carry him for much of the way. The stroller would have been more a hindrance than a help. Took about 4x as long as it would have if we didn't have DS in tow.

Just read what 8Kids had to say, and he's quite right, your focus, will probably be largely on your kid. Ours certainly was.

Good luck to you and yours,
F. B.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

i hiked with emmy. she was the kid that would whine to be carried in the mall, but while hiking that kid can wlak hours as long as she's picking up bugs, climbing up the rocks, trees, walking in the water and so on.
hiking with a kid is diferent as long as they like kids it will work...yuo'll have more people to help carry him when he's tired. pack lunch and lots of drinks and snacks. we would always eat somewhere cool like on top of a huge rock, beside a waterfall and so on
i think going with a couple without a kid is awesome! if theyre friendly they'll be more welcome to help carry and goof around then a tired couple with kids

i never used a stoller while hiking. thats not hiking thats strolling

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I wouldn't bring the stroller, it could be real hard for navigating. Does your little one walk with you on walks? I just took our kids, just turned 4 and 6 on a 1 mile hike today and they were fine. We would have gone farther but no one was out there and I got spooked for bob cats and such so we turned around. About 3 months ago we did it with daddy and walked closer to 2 miles. The 4 year old did get tired so I carried her piggy back part of the way off and on. Do either of you carry him piggy back easily? If you can do it easy then take him and plan on carrying him part of the way. I looked at it as extra exercise for me. You could get a kid carrier too. For me it was easier to carry her piggy back. =) Good luck on the hike.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

Not sure I'd do this with a childless couple... they're not going to understand how slow you need to walk, how many off-trail detours your preschooler will want to make, etc. But yes... you CAN hike with a preschooler. We go hiking with our five year old girls all the time, and started when they were about three. Plan that he will be able to hike for about a mile before getting tired. If you want to go further, you'll probably need to carry him. A back carrier is absolutely the way to go - so much easier on you and more fun for him than being carried on your hip.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

If you think he wont be able to do all the hiking get on of those child back packs that you or your husband can carry him on your backs. That is if they hold that kind of weight. That's what I would try to do.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

Hi bumblebee, I just wanted to let you know that when my husband and I go on vacations with our kids (ages 2 & 3) and want to hike on some of the trails we use our ergo's and carry them on our backs. If you have one or something similar they work great. Both of our kids love it and we have been able to walk from 1 mile up to 6 miles without any problems. Hope that helps. Have fun on your hike.



answers from Savannah on

It really depends on the hiking trail. Is this going to be a shorter hike, or 5+ miles? Also, how rough is the terrain? I went along with my niece's class on a hiking field trip. Most of the kids were 4 and all walked. I think it was a 3 mile hike. It is doable, as long as the trail is not too rough. I would bring one of those fans with the squirt bottles!


answers from Los Angeles on

Totally doable. Our daughter hiked to Tokopah Falls at age three. She had to be carried a few times, but we left *at* naptime to go on the hike.



answers from Washington DC on

Make sure you have a good back pack carrier, like a Kelty, and that the trail won't be so tough that you can't carry the child on your back.



answers from Las Vegas on

Has he been on other hikes? My now 4 year old son can hike 3 miles (after some preparation when he was about 3 and a half), but we always bring our Ergo carrier, and have ended up carrying him all but 1 mile on an 8.5 mile hike because it was freezing. Most kids that age hike slowly, they stop and smell the flowers, pick up rocks, it can be very frustrating for others (I can't stand it and he's my kid). I would say carry him in a carrier, and then let him walk the last mile or so, or let him walk and carry him when he is too slow or tired, unless it is short and everyone is willing to go at his pace.

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