3 Secrets to Backpacking with Kids


  • No pressure.
  • Destination.
  • Motivation.

The three secrets to a great backpacking trip with kids are really no different than the secrets to a hike or even great daily living with kids.  Keeping these secrets in mind, you can plan a great trip with your family.

1.  No pressure.  Remember that hurrying takes the joy away from any project.  If your lives are too hectic to schedule in a backpacking trip, wait longer.  Pushing ahead to do something you really don’t have time for will only make everyone unhappy.  Sometimes work, school, or other commitments require the days you really wanted to spend in the back country.  Release them gracefully, and move on to planning at a time which is better for everyone.

Another place to ease up on the pressure is on the amount of ground you are able to cover.  When hiking by ourselves, my husband and I like to keep moving, but the kids enjoy time in camp to explore, build “houses” and relax.  Keeping our mileage goals realistic helps everyone to have a good time.

2.  Destination.  Destination is everything in a hike with kids.  They don’t want to head out for a certain number of miles, or until they feel tired (this could happen in the first 10 feet!)  A waterfall, a great place to climb on the rocks, a lake, or even a certain view, helps kids to keep going cheerfully.  Try to research your trail well enough to find that sort of a location for your kids to hike toward, and the payoff is happier kids.


3.  Motivation.  Pack your motivation in your pack in the form of sweet and salty snacks to be consumed at set times along the trail.  Pack your motivation in your packs in the form of a special food or card game to be used at camp.  Boost motivation from the start by helping kids plan the destination and length of the trip.

Follow these secrets, and you too can have a great trip with your kids of any age.  Do you know another backpacking with kids secret?  Please leave me a comment.


Backpacking with Kids — Naturalist Basin, Uintas 2013

Our first backpacking trip of the season finally happened last weekend.  Although we had planned two other weekends earlier in the year, one was foiled by cold weather, and another by too busy schedule.  We were so excited to make this trip finally happen.

We went into the Naturalist Basin area of the Uintas, starting up the Highline trail just past Mirror Lake.  This was the first year Lucy carried a backpacking pack with her sleeping bag and clothes in it.  She weighs about 80 pounds, and we gave her 10 pounds to carry — a good start, we thought.  She did so fabulous, we couldn’t even believe it.  No complaining at all.  In fact, the view we had of Lulu and Max for most of the trip was just their backs as they led us along the trail.

lulu and max leading the way

We made sure of the more important things . . . Max was well stocked with sugary treats.

max with nerdsWe woke up on Saturday morning with a little buck patrolling our camp site.

two point buck in campWe also spotted this beautiful bird, who was not shy at all, but showed off to get his picture taken.  We think he is a pine grosbeak.

unidentified red headed birdThe wild flowers were fabulous this year.  We climbed to high meadows in the basin and enjoyed the view before having a quick snowball fight in July.

view from blue lake

The only problem we encountered at all was the mosquitos — huge as horses and swarming to carry us off alive at our second campsite, we scurried for home early in the morning because movement was the only was to avoid them.  A good time was had by all, and after a quick wipe-off and change of clothes at the car, we were ready to buy our “reward” hamburgers in Park City.

Have you been backpacking this summer?  Where is your favorite spot to go with kids?  Please leave me a comment.

Backpacking Paradise: Coyote Gulch with Kids

On May 11, we headed out for our second backpacking trip ever with the whole family.  It was the first time we had taken the little ones backpacking with us in the desert.  Backpacking in the desert is harder than the places we go in the mountains because you have to carry enough water for everyone.  Although we have backpacked places where there were no reliable sources of water, this trip would take us into a beautiful desert canyon with a creek running through the bottom.  We knew we would be able to find enough water to purify, so everyone got to come along.

Access to Coyote Gulch is on the Hole in the Rock Road outside of Escalante, Utah.  I know I’ve been talking alot about this area, and I have to say again — this is a desert rat’s paradise.  I wish I could live there.  I don’t think I would ever get tired of exploring.  About 33 miles down this washboard dirt road is the Hurricane Wash trailhead.  Again, I am not going to give detailed trip mileage, because it is easily found on other sites.   From the Hurricane Wash trailhead, the first 3 miles is a sandy open trail following the wash, but as water comes into the wash and you near Coyote Gulch, the canyon deepens and is quite pretty.  Once you enter Coyote Gulch, you are in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

The creek has huge meanders which have cut deep alcoves into the rock.  In these alcoves, springs and hanging gardens making a beautiful green contrast to the red sandstone.  There is an abundance of life in this canyon, with birds calling from every side, HUGE lizards, desert toads, tadpoles, fish and plenty of deer tracks (although we didn’t see any deer.)   We also saw a rattlesnake in Hurricane Wash.  This is only the second time we have ever seen a rattlesnake in our hikes.

The main high points usually referenced in the trail guides are Jacob Hamblin Arch, Cliff Arch (also called Jug Handle Arch) and Coyote Natural Bridge.  But every step of this gorge is beautiful with waterfalls cutting through sandstone ledges or water sparkling over sand, springs spraying through hanging gardens to the creek below, and huge cottonwoods making shade over boulders.

We packed into a beautiful spot near Jacob Hamblin Arch.  We had heard that there weren’t many camping spots farther down canyon, but when we dayhiked the rest of the canyon the following day, we found that there were many spots continuing for miles past our camping spot, so don’t feel pressured to pick your spot early.  If you are lucky, you might catch one of the spots on the sand ledges inside an alcove — there are several beautiful ones.  After we made camp the first night, the kids enjoyed water walking while we rested and set up camp.

The second day, we hiked down the creek, making it within half mile of the river.  There was a large climb over a pour off here that we were unable to do because the kids had dropped their shoes a couple of miles up river (they were hiking barefoot in the sand.)  So, we turned around, went back to our camp (round trip about 12 miles) and then hiked another 3 to camp in Hurricane Wash the second night.  This left us with only 5 miles to do Sunday morning, which is a good thing because everyone is tired of hiking by the third day.

Lulu and Max were excited because they had “hiked a marathon.”  We were all happy that we had done this trip.  It was an excellent place for backpacking, and we  can’t wait to go again.

Do you enjoy backpacking with your kids?  What do you think are some keys to making backpacking with little kids successful?  Please leave me a comment!