The first time I really hiked Whitewater State Park, I was on a 3rd or 4th date with my now husband. He invited me to join him doing one of his favorite past-times. He gave me a strange look as he picked me up. I didn’t really understand why, until the end of our hike… My cream colored shorts were filthy, my white tennis shoes had mud all over them and my hoodie was soaked through with sweat…Clearly, I hadn’t dressed for the part.
This was almost 10 years ago now, and since then, I’ve learned to love hiking AND learned how to pack for a good adventure. We’ve adjusted here and there to include our 3 kids, but having this time in nature as a family has been a really great way to connect. I used to feel distracted and rushed to find the “destination” on our adventures, but over the years, I’ve really learned to enjoy the actual journey, not just the destination. Since that realization, I cannot get enough of the great outdoors!
I’m here to share a few of our tried and true tricks for ensuring everyone has a good time!
What to Pack
I learned early on that me having good footwear was essential to enjoying my hike. I have a pair of Teva sandals that I wear on our summer hikes and I use my tennis shoes for fall/spring hikes. My kids, however, can hike barefoot and be happy! For us, it hasn’t been worth it to get them extra footwear for hiking. They do best wearing their Crocs! They are easy to clean, are waterproof and can be great little climbing shoes! We also learned hiking sandals can be tough for kids because rocks and sand can easily get in. You can only stop so many times to empty sandals before this mama goes a little crazy!
Currently, our Osprey Baby Hiking Pack is also our hiking backpack. It has great storage! We throw in some diapers, wipes, water bottles and sweatshirts (if necessary), and we’re good to go. I often throw our travel first aid kit in there as well, just in case. The one time we don’t bring it, we need it! I’m usually a less is more kind of hiker. We leave snacks in the car to enjoy later and really just focus on our journey while we’re out there. If you’re kids aren’t used to that, I’d be sure to pack snacks so everyone is happier!
This summer, I got myself a Camelbac Water Mule backpack. It was great on our up north adventure! I think the kids may be getting smaller versions for Christmas…
I always make sure our kids are wearing clothes with pockets. They seem to find lots of trinkets on our hikes-rocks, sticks, leaves…I used to carry it for them, but I decided they can do that themselves! They each have a special place in their room to store their new found treasures!
What to Do
Our kids have been hiking since babies, so they’re used to just enjoying nature now. But, we do have a few tricks to pull out to keep them engaged.
We have the app Seek by iNaturalist downloaded on our phones. You can identify plants, insects, birds and fish using your camera and this app. The kids have LOVED finding new species. The app stores the different species you’ve identified as well. Best part? It’s free!
We also enjoy geocaching. It’s like a real live treasure hunt! We have the Geocaching app downloaded, and it gives us the coordinates for caches in the area. Each state park in Minnesota has at least 1 geocache hidden, but you can find them anywhere!
My favorite part of hiking is the conversations we have. Our boys talk nonstop it seems. We each tend to pair up, and get a little one on one talking time with them. It’s amazing the types of conversations we’ve had in the woods of Minnesota!
My husband has a great hiking/walking stick (thanks, Dad!), and our boys enjoy finding their own temporary hiking stick each time we go out. They spend a good chunk of our walk looking for the perfect stick!
Where to Go
Our favorite places to hike are the state parks north of Duluth. You really take in some beautiful sights! However, if you’re looking for a more local adventure, Whitewater State Park, Quarry Hill, Root River County Park, Chesterwoods, Gamehaven and Oxbow Park are a few of our favorite locations. Each place offers it’s own beauty!
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or someone who just wants to get outside, remember to enjoy the journey!