Winter can be one of the best times to hike when you live in a destination location, like we do here in Summit County. Summer trails are CROWDED. I do love to see so many people out and exploring, but I also enjoy hiking as a way to get some space...so winter hiking is awesome.
Convincing kids that going for a hike can be like getting an act through Congress, so trying to convince them to go out in the winter can be especially challenging. As with everything, the key is to make it fun and as comfortable as possible. A cold kid is a cranky kid, so lets start there.
Make sure to have all the layers, and a backpack to carry things in. We've talked about dressing for the winter weather before so I won't belabor it (check out our corresponding post Gearing Up for Winter), but don't skimp here. It is hard to recover from being too cold. Hand warmers are great too, but make sure your kids can tell you if they are getting too hot on their little hands!
In that backpack, make sure to have plenty of water and snacks. If your kiddos have a water bladder backpack (like a Camelback), then they can carry water too! Sometimes having a responsibility like this helps to motivate! If it's really cold, use warm water in the bladder and put it on under their coat...it will keep them a bit warmer and will prevent ice from forming in the tube.
In the winter, I see a lot of people on hard packed trails with snowshoes. One of the fun things about well traveled trails in the winter is that they can be navigated in just boots. We have snowshoes for both of our girls, but we only break them out when we are hiking in un-tracked snow that requires a bigger surface area to stay on top. Hiking boots or winter boots are so much easier for kids to manage and will help preserve energy in their little legs!
For stability, hiking cleats and poles can be really helpful in the winter. The cleats slip onto any shoe and are a game changer when it comes to traction on the trails. Heck, I wear them in my driveway.
So how to make the hike fun? One of the great things about hiking in the winter is that it changes the dynamics of the trail. Hills go from daunting obstacles to places where kids can sled down on their butts (or knees) :) There are animal tracks to follow, iced over ponds to slide around on, and scat to identify (it is much easier to see scat on snow than mixed in with dirt!). You can make the hike into a scavenger hunt, play follow the leader, or do charades while you walk.
When it comes to hiking with kiddos, it's about the quality of the adventure, not the distance you go. There are days when it can be a struggle to go 1/4 mile, and others where we will be out for 2 hours, no problem. Keep your expectations in check and enjoy breathing the cold winter air - there is really nothing quite so refreshing as a winter walk in the woods!
Stay Wild and Free!