As a parent of teenagers, I've been fortunate to enjoy over a decade of hiking with my family. But as my kids grew into the tween and teen years, I discovered what motivated them to join family hikes required a few modifications. I hope these five tips for hiking with teens will help everyone happily explore the trails together.
Tempting Drinks & Snacks
If you've read Mom in the Outdoors: Raising Your Kids to Be Outdoor Adventurers, you'll know that I joke about leading my young children through the Alps one apple strudel at a time. Back in the day, hiking to the Lake Agnes Tea House in Banff National Park for a scone or to a mountain hut in the Alps for apple strudel and ice cream was a motivator for the kids (and adults).
Food still inspires us to hit the trails. On a recent trip to the Italian Dolomites, our hiking guide stopped in a shady spot next to a tree-lined pond and began unloading his backpack. He set out a container filled with fragrant chunks of Parmigiano cheese, grissini (Italian breadsticks), paper cups, water and chilled white wine. While we toasted our guide and each other, one of the members of our group leaned toward me and confided that for him, the food and drink consumed while hiking "is the reason why." Cheers to making tempting food and drink part of the hiking experience!
Consider a +1 (or more)
Another tip for hiking with teens is the opportunity to connect with others and not just other family members. If you are at home, invite another family with kids or one of your teen's friends along on the hike. If you are on vacation, join a guided group hike or arrange to explore the region with a local guide.
Another fun option is hiking with animals. At Nimmo Bay, we all enjoyed exploring the Great Bear Rainforest with one of the lodge dogs. But you don't need to limit your hiking companions to canines. One of our most memorable family experiences was trekking with llamas in Austria. It's possible to walk with these gentle and intelligent creatures in North America too.
(Technical) Clothing is Optional
With the days of selecting clothes for my kids to wear long past, I've had to swallow a few comments about their hiking attire. When I'm in the outdoors, I prefer and recommend clothing designed for movement and unpredictable weather. So, what happens if my teen wants to wear heavy cotton sweatpants and a hoodie on a hike when the forecast calls for rain? I'll mention that the clothes may be uncomfortable if it rains, and let it go. Getting into an argument about what to wear isn't worth it when the priority is spending time outside with my family.
While I'm mum about clothing, appropriate footwear is non-negotiable. Hiking shoes and proper socks are essential for safety and comfort.
Involve Teens in Choosing the Trail
Instead of advising your teen or teens where the family will be hiking next, ask for help selecting the destination. Utilize an app like AllTrails, check out the latest recommendations from explore-mag.com or visit the local tourism website to discover new trails. When researching and discussing the route with your teen(s), look for hikes with exciting features like a sky-high trestle, hilltop look-out or waterfall. And if you can work a picnic or restaurant stop into the route, even better!
Use Cool Gear and Technology
While I appreciate the opportunity to unplug from all but essential technology when exploring the outdoors, I often make exceptions when hiking with my kids. Using technology on a family hike can be an excellent way to engage tech-savvy teens (and other age groups). Download an interactive hiking app like AllTrails (mentioned above), so teens can use it to navigate while on the trail. Pokémon GO is another option. Your kids may want to open Pokémon GO on a smart phone and see what is available in the area. Geocaching is a fun activity to pair with your family hike. Learn more about geocaching here.
Hiking gear is continually improving. Visit your local outdoor store for the latest equipment and check out the Explore Gear Box to inspire your family's adventures.