Hiking Activities for Kids


Track a gigantic legend in the finding Big Foot activity.
Track a gigantic legend in the finding Big Foot activity.
Publications International, Ltd.

For adventurous kids, the best playground ever is the great outdoors. These hiking activities for kids provide ideas for making your next family hiking trip even more exciting, educational, and fun!

­Remember, no one (kids or adults) should go hiking alone. Always make sure your child hikes with a buddy. Not only is it smart to travel in groups in case there's an accident, most of these hiking activities are a lot more fun with two or more people.

So pack some knapsacks, grab a few bottles of water, and hit the trail with your child, using these hiking activities as your guide.

On The Right Track

Who else is hiking the trails with you? Your child can become an expert animal tracker and discover who lives along the path.

Finding Big Foot

Whether your child believes in Big Foot or not, it's great fun to find 'clues' of his existence anyway and record them in a journal.

Shoe In, Shoe Out

What kind of shoe is kindest to the environment? Discover what kind of footprint your kids leave when they go hiking.

Hiking Back In Time

People hiked trails for thousands of years without the help of modern equipment. Pack for your next trip the old-fashioned way.

Knee-High Hike

Change the way kids see the trail when they change their bodies' position.

Historical Trails

There are trails of history everywhere you look. Encourage your child to learn the heritage of their area when they discover the footpaths of their ancestors.

Greetings On the Trail

Since carving messages into trees and rocks is a nature no-no, kids can learn how to carve messages into mud and sand for fellow hikers.

Keep reading to get started with a hiking activity that teaches kids about the tracks of animals on your trail.

Find more summer activities for kids:

On The Right Track

Humans aren't the only ones who love hiking. With the on the right track hiking activity, kids can find out which animals hike right along with us when we're at play in the great outdoors.

By keeping their eyes carefully trained to the ground, kids can learn a lot about the animals on the same trails that people hike. Watch for their tracks and other clues that give away their paths.

What You'll Need:

  • Notebook
  • Pencil or pen
  • Books on animal tracks from the library

Encourage kids to keep their eyes down and search for animal tracks,doing their best to draw the tracks they find in a notebook.If racks are too difficult to spot, look for animal droppings (even animals have to process the food they eat -- it's all part of nature). If there are droppings, tracks won't be far behind. When everyone's back home, check to find out who might have left these tracks behind. It's nice to know you're never really alone.

Track down a hiking trail legend with the activity on the next page.Find more summer activities for kids:

Finding Big Foot

Track down a legend with the finding Big Foot hiking activity.
Track down a legend with the finding Big Foot hiking activity.
Publications International, Ltd.

With the finding big foot activity, kids could be on the path to tracking down this mysterious monster. Is 'Big Foot' more than a myth? Hike through the local wilderness and search for fun and furry clues -- even if you don't quite believe.

­Tell your kids to keep their eyes peeled for clues that could have been left by Big Foot. Give them some garden gloves so they can safely forage around. If they see a clump of hair tell then to grab it -- it might be a piece of Big Foot's fur. Spy a tiny piece of bone? Maybe that was Big Foot's afternoon snack. Is that a cave in the distance? Kids can make a note of it. It may be Big Foot's home.

When your adventure crew gets back to camp, write down everything you saw and make up a campfire story about all the things you've found. Kids will have fun trying to scare each other silly.

On the next page, kids can learn how the kinds of shoes they wear affect the trails they hike.

Find more summer activities for kids:

Shoe In, Shoe Out

The Shoe In, Shoe Out hiking activity gives kids a better idea of what kind of ecological footprint they're leaving -- by examining the actual footprints they leave.

We think hiking boots are best for hitting the dusty trail. But this experiment shows that sneakers could be healthier for the wild and wonderful plants seen see along the way.

Lay out small cuttings from six or seven of your kids' favorite yard plants. Tell them to take a few normal steps over those plants with their sneaker-covered feet. How do the plant bits look? Did they survive the 'hike'?

Now have kids slip into some hiking boots and repeat the experiment. Are the greens squashed?

Hiking boots are much tougher on plant life than ordinary sneakers. The next time your kids go for a hike off the beaten trail, put them in their favorite sneaks and do the indigenous plant life a favor.

Kids should enjoy their sneakers while they can: The hiking activity on the next page might just require them to leave their fancy gym shoes at home.

Find more summer activities for kids:

Hiking Back In Time

When kids go hiking back in time, the "good old days" are up close and personal. People often call hiking "getting back to nature," but today's hiking supplies make it a pretty modern activity. So why not take an adventurous kid back in time by hitting the rugged trail the old-fashioned way?

What You'll Need:

  • Large square of cloth
  • Walking stick
  • Beef jerky
  • Water
  • Dried fruit

Pack your child's pack the way the pioneers might have. Instead of a fanny pack, grab a square of cloth and tie it around a walking stick. Forget the snack bars and sports drinks. Pack some beef jerky, water, and dried fruit. Ask you child to consider that hiking was for a long time a means of transportation, rather than something to do just for fun. When kids get this perspective on hiking, they'll hike back to the present with a whole new appreciation.Show kids how to get a new perspective on an old trail with the hiking activity on the next page.Find more summer activities for kids:

Knee-High Hike

The knee-high hike activity gives kids a whole new perspective on their favorite outdoor pastime.

Take kids out on their next short hike on all fours, just like a puma, chipmunk, or hyena, and their outdoor perspective is bound to change.

What You'll Need:

  • Long, sturdy pants
  • Protective gloves

Be sure to dress kids in pants sturdy at the knees and give them gloves to protect their hands. Then head for the trail. Ask them what they see from this animal-like position. What do they smell? How do they feel? Do the kids begin to get a sense of how vulnerable some creatures of the wild might be? It's a whole new world.

To take kids out on the trails that our ancestors took (at knee-high or regular height), check out the activities on the next page.

Find more summer activities for kids:

Historical Trails

History will come alive when kids walk historical trails of famous explorers, pioneers, or early Native Americans. What paths of history are near your hometown?

What You'll Need:

  • Guidebooks to local trails (check your library)
  • Composition book
  • Pencil

Our Historical Trail and Scenic Trail systems began in the 1920s as citizens began piecing together hiking trails on historical routes. It was their vision that led to the National Trail System Act of 1968. All the trails are for foot traffic only, and most of them cross several states.Check the following list to see which Historical Trails are near you. Help your child make a trail notebook so that they can keep a record of the trails they've been on. Include some history of the trails in the book and mark the segments they've hiked. Our trails are:

  • Iditarod National Historic Trail (Alaska)
  • Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail (Mexico and Southwest U.S.)
  • Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (Missouri to Oregon)
  • Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail (Illinois to Utah)
  • Nez Perce National Historic Trail (Idaho, Wyoming, Montana)
  • Oregon National Historic Trail (Missouri to Oregon)
  • Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (Tennessee to North Carolina)
  • Pony Express National Historic Trail (Missouri to California)
  • Santa Fe National Historic Trail (Missouri to Santa Fe, Mexico)
  • Trail of Tears National Historic Trail (Georgia to Oklahoma)

Find ways for you and your hiking buddies to greet fellow hikers on the next page.

Find more summer activities for kids:

Greetings on the Trail

Greetings on the trail is a simple hiking activity that shows young hikers how to connect with other intrepid adventurers along the trail.

In earlier times, explorers marked trees and rocks to help them retrace their steps or communicate with other explorers. In today's campgrounds, carving trees and rocks isn't allowed. But kids can etch a message in the dirt for the next hiker.

What You'll Need:

  • Stick
  • Water

Show kids how to use a sharp stick to carve a comment -- their name, a message, a warning about a slippery rock -- into the soil. If the dirt is too hard, add a trickle of fresh, clean water (water with no leaves or dirt in it) and then carve the hello. This kind of greeting is one way your child can reach out to other nature lovers without damaging the natural setting they came to see.Find more summer activities for kids:

ABOUT THE ACTIVITY DESIGNERS:

Contributing writers: Maria Birmingham, Karen E. Bledsoe, and Kelly Milner Halls.