I sat at the top of a mountain.
Bright blue skies and a scattering of wispy white clouds soared majestically overhead. A beaming sun shone down from above, heating us up, while a gentle breeze offered its cooling touch.
Mountains, some snow capped and others not, stretched as far as the eye could see. Pine trees and grass, dried by the sun, littered the land in a glorious show of greens and yellows. Snow sat in patches, often blindingly white where the sunshine reflected from its surface.
The atmosphere had a general hue of gold and blue. Everywhere I looked I saw beauty.
It was peaceful too; the only sound disturbing the silence was that of running water, which fell to our right from a mountain stream in little rivulets, cascading down from height in a constant flow, glimmering in the sunlight as it went.
Behind me sat my mum and dad; to my right, my girlfriend. We’d been talking and laughing before, but now we just sat, basking in our environment and trying to fix it in memory.
The remnants of our picnic lay around us. With a full tummy and heavy legs from the hike up, a wave of contentment washed over me as I sat in stunned awe of my surroundings.
I felt extraordinarily lucky to be alive.
I love hiking.
I love everything about it: the physical exertion, the beautiful landscapes, the time spent outdoors, the break from life’s usual hustle and bustle…the list goes on.
Alone or in a group, hiking is simply a wonderful pastime. And, in my experience, hiking with loved ones is even more special.
Indeed, the scene I described above took place at the midpoint of a hike I took with family in April last year, high up in the French Alps.
Reflecting on that experience, which was so utterly sublime, made me think about all the reasons why hiking is such a perfect family activity in general.
In an effort to convince you of this too, allow me to go through some of the reasons that came to mind! Without further ado, here’s why hiking is the ultimate family activity and how to make it work.
Why Hiking is a Great Family Activity:
The thought of hiking as a family might be wholly unappealing! It might sound boring, stressful, hard work and maybe even a bit risky. I get it, but I’m here to try and convince you otherwise! Here are some of the reasons I think you should give it a go.
1) You get to spend time outdoors
This one seems obvious, but in today’s world, where much of life can be spent indoors, at a desk, at work, at school, on a computer or playing video games etc etc, there is incredible value in getting outdoors.
In fact, a lot of research has shown how being in or around nature has a huge number of physical and mental health benefits. Spend time outdoors, in nature, and you will feel better.
Of course, this is true whether you hike alone or as a family, but where children (and adults!) are so often surrounded by and ensconced in technology, getting outside into the ‘real world’ is particularly beneficial!
2) You spend quality time together
Where life is busy and time is short, time together as a family is precious.
Going hiking and being together outdoors, in a collective endeavour, is an amazing way to spend time as a family. Keep in mind that there isn’t a lot to distract you when you’re hiking- for an extended period of time it is just you, your family and the outdoors!
As a result, the time you share together is high quality, intense and vibrant. In this way you communicate, engage, laugh, find out more about each other; all of which brings you closer.
3) Hiking is good for you!
Like a briefly mentioned above, walking, moving your body, breathing fresh air and just spending time outdoors are all amazingly beneficial for your health!
How often have you suggested to your kids that they stop watching TV and go play outside? Well, the great outdoors is the ultimate playground and hiking as a family is a great way to experience it.
4) Create a memory
Whether you’re climbing mountains or going for a stroll around a nearby park, walking and hiking as a family are awesome ways to forge abiding memories.
It is the quality time, the different environments, the beautiful places and the unique experiences that come together into one almighty memory making machine!
I know for a fact that I will never forget the time in the Alps that I described at the beginning of this post. It was so special, and so much better for having people I love with me, that it has left an indelible mark in my memory.
Experiencing anything extraordinary with someone you love always makes it even better. I promise that you’ll be reminiscing about funny stories and special tales from family hikes for years to come.
5) Bond in beautiful environments
Go hiking and you’ll find yourself in awe-inspiring places of natural beauty.
Confronted with the world and its sublime beauty puts life’s struggles and petty concerns in perspective; at least for a moment, those worries that usually dominate thought seem suddenly trivial.
Being in these environments as a family not only creates lasting memories, but it also brings you closer. There is something incredibly humbling about being in the great outdoors that highlights everything that really matters.
6) Learn about the land
And last in the list would be the added benefit of learning as a family about the land.
There’s nothing like being exposed to the outdoors to spark an interest in it. Say goodbye to tablets and iphones, and hello to geology, plants and wildlife!
There is so much to see and discover, especially for a child, that hiking is awesome for reconnecting with the outdoors and learning all about what resides there.
How to Make Hiking as a Family Work!
Maybe the thought of hiking as a family is a little daunting. And, especially for younger families with smaller children, I could totally understand why this might be so. After all, how do you make sure everyone stays safe and entertained, while still allowing you to enjoy the experience too?! Here are some ideas that might help.
1) Play games & make it fun!
For anything to be enjoyable to young children it obviously needs to be fun. The same is true for hiking!
So, play games, make it interesting, make it silly and/or incorporate challenges, goals and lessons. Why not invent scenarios (like you’re escaping from a bear and need to tread super carefully otherwise you’ll get caught!), or see how many types of animals you can spot, or light a fire, or see who can do the funniest type of walk?!
Whatever you decide to do, making the experience fun is sure to keep everyone engaged and make hiking a popular family activity.
Some ideas for games while hiking:
“I spy”: The classic, right? “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with…” Find something in your surroundings, give the others the first letter, and have them guess what it is! Why not do it around a theme, such as types of plant, or wildlife?
Hide and seek: Another classic that probably doesn’t need explaining! Walking and hiking usually provide ample opportunity for some amazing hiding places. Obviously, make sure the environment is safe!
Geocaching: Okay, so this one is cool. Proper geocaching is a bit like a traditional treasure hunt, but with a modern twist. Essentially, you have a GPS/mobile device etc to hide and seek containers (‘caches’) that are hidden all over the place at coordinates all around the world! There’s often a logbook inside that you open and sign when you find them, to prove you were there and found the cache!
Treasure hunts: If geocaching seems too advanced, why not do it the old fashioned way and just hide treasures in advance for your children to find along the way? Sweets and chocolate usually go down a treat!
2) Don’t make it too hard!
When you first start going hiking as a family, make sure the route you choose isn’t too strenuous! There’s nothing like pain and discomfort to turn you off hiking, especially if you’re a child!
Make the route suitable for everyone going along, so that you can all stick together. Make it easy, don’t go too far and don’t push yourselves too hard.
3) Don’t rush the hike!
Similarly, don’t rush the walk! Walking quickly is a sure fire way to tire people out quickly, but it is also an easy way to miss out on the benefits that hiking can offer.
Taking it slow gives you the chance to spend that extra quality time together, as well as enabling you to soak up all the amazing views and scenery that you’ll pass, as well as simply spending longer outside.
It is easy to see the end point of a hike as a goal; to see a quick hike time as a form of success. But it isn’t a race, in fact, I’d say hiking as a family should have the opposite intentions: the goal is not speed, but quality time together.
So, take breaks, walk slowly and pause frequently; make the effort to drink it all in.
4) Pack appropriately!
When you hike you want to be comfortable, so, if you need to take things with you, it’s important to pack light and only bring along what you need.
It will depend on where you’re walking, how long you’re going for and the time of year too, but good things to consider are waterproof clothing, insect repellent, a small first aid kit, an item of warm clothing, sun cream, and enough food and water.
The bag you take is also important: opt for a sturdy, waterproof bag with enough space and comfortable straps (preferably with a waist strap too!).
5) Eat well!
There’s nothing like a great meal to make hiking seem worthwhile. I love going all out on hikes, taking a whole bunch of picnic food and drink. I promise you, the effort you’ll put into the walk will make the food taste twice as good too!
Take snacks and treats to keep energy levels up and younger children happy!
6) Encourage and motivate others!
Sometimes hiking is hard! It can be hilly and over rough terrain, the weather can turn or it can be hot and uncomfortable; remember that little legs will be doing twice the work too!
So, as much as possible, with any kids and adults along for the ride, make the extra effort to smile, laugh, encourage and motivate them. Be extra complementary and offer rewards for all the hard work going on!
And there you have it, why I think hiking is the perfect family activity and some tips to make it work! Hiking is truly an amazing thing to do (alone and with loved ones!) and I hope I’ve been able to convince you to give it a go!
Do you have any plans to go hiking as a family in future, or any personal stories from past hikes you’ve done? Drop a comment below!
Guest post: Danny Newman is a travel enthusiast with a passion for writing and inspiring others to live fully. He runs a travel blog called Coddiwomp, which is dedicated to helping aspiring travellers travel for the first time. For Danny, the essence of travel is found in the feeling it elicits. He wants to inspire and support as many people as possible to experience this ‘travel feeling’. You can find him on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.