In our road trip across the U.S., we have gone on many hikes with Jude.  We enjoyed hiking, with Jude in a backpack on Patrick’s back, in the Badlands, Yellowstone, Glacier, and Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island (the highest point in the San Juan Islands) as well.

Here are ten tips we have picked up about how to have a successful and enjoyable hike with a two-year-old:

1 – Pick a hike of reasonable distance with a realistically achievable elevation gain. For us, that’s usually about five-seven miles with a 2,000 foot max elevation gain.  Factors to keep in mind are your own endurance and physical fitness, as well as the two-year-olds patience for remaining in a backpack.

2 – Make sure you have enough energy to talk & sing.  We spoke to Jude a lot on the hike, pointing out different types of trees, asking him questions about colors, and identifying animals together.  See our Yellowstone post for singing in bear country, but singing is also great entertainment for toddlers, even without the added benefit of deterring bears.

3Make sure you are not exceeding an altitude that is safe for your toddler.  From our research, we determined that for us, that threshold was approximately 12,000 feet, and stayed well below that level.  We are not doctors, and do not know what is a safe elevation for every child.  Do you own research, and keep in mind that acclimatization is also a factor for adults and children.

4 – Consider your toddler’s nap schedule.  We tried to avoid naptime, but found Jude could easily doze off in his pack when he felt like it (until we stopped moving to enjoy a view), because motion helps Jude sleep.

5 – Stuffed animals make good pillows.  I was always willing to bring Elmo along, because he could double as a pillow to make Jude more comfortable when he got tired. We also have a snap-on pillow that came with his backpack.

6 – Baby Squeeze foods are best for minimal mess & clean garbage when hiking.  Bring goo energy packs for the adults – they can be eaten while hiking.  In a pinch, we’ll give Jude a goo pack if it doesn’t contain caffeine.

7 – Bring plenty of water in a container(s) your toddler likes to drink from.  I tried to get Jude pumped up about holding his water. When he did, he drank from it more often, which was important, especially in some of the hotter places we hiked like the Badlands.

8 – Bring extra sunblock, insect repellant, a hat & glasses for your toddler if it’s sunny.

9 – Be prepared not to spend as much time on the summit as you’d like to or are used to; a toddler will not find the views as impressive as you will.  Keeping a toddler who has been cooped up in a backpack away from the drop-offs can be difficult.  We saved lunch for after the hike; we found it easier to eat at the bottom.  (See number six above – we filled up on goo packs and other smaller items during the hike.)

10 – Make sure you have a map!  You may need to take a different (read: faster) route down.

We find that the ability to still do something we love and share it with Jude makes it far worth the challenges.

Top of Mt. Constitution, Orcas Island, Washington (7.2 miles)

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  4 Responses to “Our Ten Best Tips for Hiking with a Two-Year-Old”

  1. […] Year Old, also write about really helpful things like tips for air travel with a baby or toddler, sugesstions for hiking with a toddler, and offer the always useful packing […]

  2. Thanks for the tips. We have a two year old and have used many of the same tips to make it an enjoyable day. We have another newborn on the way so we will be going through it all over again.
    I always try to plan around sleep time. The boba carrier helps out a lot and allows us to get many more miles in than we normally would. Looking forward to 2014 and an amazing year with the kids.

  3. Fantastic blog – so many fab tips!

  4. Thank you for your tips, it’s very useful with me and my family.

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