Tips for spring hiking with kids
March 20, 2017 | by Robert Cassman MD

Even the promise of M&Ms may not ensure a desire for hiking.

As an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast, Dr. Robert Cassman learned this lesson when it came to incentivizing his daughter to hike.

He promised lots of M&Ms. He let her take her best friend. He even took her to one of the most pristine and coveted backpacking destinations – the Enchantments, a rugged jewel of mountains and lakes nestled within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the Cascade Mountains.

She hated every minute. “She refused to go any more hikes with me for years,” said Cassman.

He returned to the trails but without his daughter in tow. It wasn’t until years later, when she grew up and left home, that she ended up discovering the magic of the mountains that Cassman enjoys so much.

“Now she is climbing mountains and leading expeditions,” said Cassman. She is even involved in the California Search and Rescue. And, they often go on hikes together when visiting.

Tips to Get Kids Hiking this Spring

Spring weather may be more variable but the trails are often less crowded, making it a good time to go on a hike with your kids. Cassman shared these tips to help inspire and connect your kids with the trail. “I’m a good person to ask because I made a lot of mistakes when my daughter was young,” said Cassman.

  1. Strap on snow shoes. Tromp through often untouched snow and enjoy the solitude in the woods following your snow tracks.
  2. Peak their interest. Give background on the area you’ll be exploring. If you know there are salamanders in the lakes, bring nets. One of Dr. Cassman’s favorite spring hike destinations is Yakima River Canyon. “It’s a great place to take kids this time of year because there are beautiful views from the trailhead and you don’t have to worry about rattlesnakes.” And, bringing good snacks, even M&Ms, doesn’t hurt either.
  3. Keep it short. A fun hike doesn’t have to be a long hike. Captivate kids’ interest with hikes that provide high visual imagery, colors and texture. As they get experience, gradually increase mileage and intensity. A gradual progression allows time to practice new skills and set new goals.
  4. Pack with multiple scenarios in mind. Bring snow shoes, mini-crampons, extra layers, a GPS device and a headlamp to allow for changes to weather or trail conditions. (M&Ms can still work here ).
  5. Research and plan ahead. Downed trees, mud flows, avalanches and pot holes may make a hike that was doable in the fall impassable in early spring. Check Washington Trails Association to check recent trip reports.

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Written By: Robert Cassman MD