It may be darker out, and the days may be shorter, but don’t be fooled. Winter is a great time to go on a family hike.
It’s a beautiful time of year to explore how the wet weather transforms different habitats. By this time of year, it’s all about the mighty evergreen. This winter time invites the urge to collect pine cone for crafting, jump in muddle puddles, and indulge in a post-hike hot chocolate & cookie break.
Kids also tend to feel cooped up this time of year. As much as we wish it weren’t so, they also feel our end-of-year stress. Thus hiking as a family helps everyone feel a little more calm, and helps kids get their wiggles out.
Here are a few reminders about hiking with kids in the winter to help you out:
1) Check the weather before you go.
Most days this time of year are perfectly fine for hiking. It may be drizzly, but so long as you dress for the occasion you’re good to go.
However…sometimes we experience more serious weather events. If you live in the PNW, be especially mindful of wind events that can bring extra hiking risks.
2) The weather might be different where you are going.
We all know we’ll run into different weather if we head to a mountain top. But it’s also important to remember that smaller elevation changes also impact weather conditions.
Is the trail on a hill or butte? Plan for cooler temperatures. Is it near the Columbia River Gorge? There’s a chance it might be windier. Know your location and plan ahead.
3) Don’t forget to bundle up the adults too!
We parents usually do a pretty good job of bundling up our kids. It’s kind of our job.
But ourselves? That’s easier to forget.
And let’s face it. Family hiking isn’t going to be very fun if your hands are so cold you struggle to open your child’s snack package. It’s not a bad idea to leave a few extra sets of gloves and hats in your car throughout the season…in case someone in the family forgets!
4) Layer up so that you can layer down. (And bring a backpack to carry those layers in!)
It’s a well known fact that hiking expends energy, and that energy warms us up. Thus, when winter hiking we need to be ready to layer down…and to carry those layers so they don’t drag through the mud! Whenever we go out, one of us always brings a backpack to carry the hats and scarves we inevitably shed after we start our walk.
This reminder has nothing to do with winter. Just our regular reminder, kids get hungry. :) And if you want to make it special, you could follow up that winter hike with a hot chocolate treat! ’Tis the season after all, and what a special way to foster the fondest memories around nature and family.
6) Embrace the mud.
Don’t be afraid of a little mud. Kids love to experience the world around them through tactile interactions, and there’s nothing quite like the squishy mushy fund of mud. And they’ll have a blast getting muddy.
Want some help figuring out where to go for a family hike this time of year?
Our Forest Themed Packets make great winter gifts. We recommend the Hoyt Arboretum Packet for a special conifer themed adventure, the Tualatin Hills Packet for a winter creature scavenger hunt, or the Canemah Bluff Packet to explore the moss among us.
Happy winter hiking!
Bryna R. Campbell