How to hike with a toddler

Before having a baby, I was on a mission. A mission to hike all the 14ers in Colorado (for everyone who is a little more sane than I was, or who doesn’t live in this peak plentiful state, a 14er is a mountain that is at least 14,000 feet above sea level at its peak. It is an exclusive club, and it’s a big deal to do all the 14ers, let alone just one). Then, when I was pregnant, reality hit; I was so tired and literally afraid to do a lot of the active things I used to – including running and hiking. And how was I supposed to continue my valiant pursuit of conquering every 14er with a baby on my back! Eeek!! The dream was over, crushed, kaput; mission-impossible- I would never be joining the club. Fourteen out of 56 – not bad – but nowhere near my ultimate goal.

I’d like to call it ‘being busy’, but the year my little one was born, she was a newborn in the middle of the summer and I was busy recuperating from childbirth, attempting to get more than 3 hours of sleep at one time, and making failed attempts at getting back into shape. For me, it wasn’t hard to lose that baby weight. That wasn’t the problem. What was, and still is hard– is having the energy to be able to train and work out like I used to. So, needless to say, walking around the neighborhood pushing a stroller was my form of exercise for the better part of my little one’s first year of life. That, and running around doting on that little princess and trying to keep things semi-clean around the house!
Now that things have “calmed down” (haha, who am I kidding!), we have started becoming more active as a family. I have taken many adventures outside the confines of our 2 bedroom apartment to explore the wonderful outdoors again, only now we have a chunky, adorable baby in tow that we get to introduce to the great outdoors! And I’m here to share some tips about how to make your day trips just as pleasant, enjoyable and successful as they ever were!
You may be thinking, “what’s so hard about hiking with a baby?” Well, a few things make it a little more difficult than just grabbing the baby and hitting the nearest trail. Read on to ensure you’re not turning around for a bottle or a baby sweater or those snacks and extra diapers you forgot to bring, and spend more time on the trails enjoying the great outdoors with your family!

Preparation is key. As with pretty much anything involving outdoor excursions (who am I kidding, I prepare for everything, outdoor or otherwise) preparation is incredibly important. I’d venture to say that a good amount of those accidents you hear about on the news are related to someone being unprepared, or unsafe. Granted, there is always the unknown, and you can’t actually predict nature. But you can still be prepared, for whatever Mother Nature decides to throw at you.

Pack extra, carry light. I prefer to ensure I have everything we could possibly want, but only carry with us what we absolutely need (how many snacks does a one year old really need?). Necessities include plenty of water, food, and clothes based on the weather. Extras in the car include non-perishable snacks, extra clothes including jackets that are not appropriate for the weather, shoes, extra wipes, blankets, etc. based on where you’re going and how long of a hike you’re planning!

Dress in layers. This is a must with all hiking, because it tends to heat up throughout the course of the day and as you start working up a sweat! Not only that, but carrying an extra 20 lbs really adds up when you’re going uphill, and the heat from your baby’s body will surely make you break a sweat! I highly recommend layers that are easy to take on and off quickly. Pockets are a plus, too.

Distribute the weight. In the past, I would just take a water bottle and maybe a snack with me for shorter hikes (under 2 hours). Now, that’s not an option. We have a backpack carrier that holds just the little one (no pack), which my husband usually carries, and I carry the backpack full of all our STUFF. If you’re a single parent or on your own for the day, I’d recommend keeping to shorter hikes. I like splitting up our load, where we each carry some of the weight so you’re not thrown off balance and are able to maintain your base of support with proper distribution. Carrying a lot of extra “stuff” puts you at risk for falling, especially when you’re thrown even slightly off balance when slipping on gravel or misjudging a step.

Dress for the weather, and then some. I assume you won’t be doing an all day hike, climbing an upwards of 10,000 feet, scaling knife backs, or going above the tree line, but you still never know how the weather may turn. At least in Colorado, those storm clouds can roll in quicker than you realize, and I would much rather carry an extra few ounces worth of sweater or rain jacket instead of being cold and wet. There’s surely nothing that will ruin your hike more than being cold and unprepared.



  • Backpack carrier
  • Your normal hiking gear! No need for me to list here 🙂


For the baby/toddler:

  • Hat
  • Shoes
  • Sunscreen
  • Change of clothes
  • Jacket/sweater – check the weather where you will be hiking, and consider elevation gain
  • Gloves
  • Shoes/socks, if baby is at least standing, I might recommend shoes to protect her feet when you take her out of the carrier
  • Water bottle
  • Milk – optional. May be a good idea to have in the car if you plan on having the little one take a nap during your drive!
  • Snacks, be sure to pre-package as appropriate.
  • Burp cloths or other versatile cloths to use for spills and messy eating
  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Blanket – good for a midday hike with a picnic, or even if you’ve got snack time that overlaps during your hike. Also serves as good padding for diaper changes.
  • Trashbag – gotta pack up those stinky diapers! And please, make sure you pack out what you pack in. Any containers, wrappers, dog poop, I don’t care. Help keep our environment clean!


Start early, and know that you can ALWAYS cut your hike short or cancel if somethings happens last minute. You babe is sick, the weather took a turn for the worse, or you (whoops!) forgot the water bottles on the counter. Things happen! Don’t beat yourself up over the little things. As parents, pretty much nothing goes as planned, and we’re pretty good about rescheduling.

And if you’re feeling really inspired, check out my post on camping with a baby!

Let me know what you can’t live without during your family hikes!

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