When you consider a family outing, you have to ensure there is something for everyone. When it comes to hiking, this means the trails have to be easy enough for children at the same time, worthwhile for adults. There are various things that you need to consider when hiking with children. For instance, you have to consider the walkability of the trail, is the trail safe? Is the trail too strenuous for children? Would the children have fun on these hikes, is there sufficient attractions on the hike to keep childrens’ attention? You then have to consider accessibility to the trail; how hard is the trail to access, because children can get fussy. With all these things in mind, you have to also consider the perks the trail has to offer; will you see some animals on the trail, are the sceneries worth your while? Do the children stand to learn something from their hikes?
We take all these factors into account as we consider the list of the 18 best hiking trails for kids. These trails are the most diverse and family-friendly trails, which offers much to children and to adults alike.
1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Hawaii is a very family-friendly destination. With many families visiting Hawaii each year, most that arrive in the Big Island should make a note to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It is advisable to check the conditions beforehand to ensure the park is open to the public. Parts of the park have been closed since March 2008 due to volcanic activity within the Kilauea’s Halemaumau Crater.
The park is one of the most volcanically active places on the planet, however, is considered safe to visit. Kids would find the Thurston Lava Tube trail, a delight. Though very small children may be frightened by the volcanic activity within the trail, older children are sure to have an enticing time. The Tube was formed by molten lava which flowed out of this underground tunnel, leaving behind a hollow and empty tube. The trail has an eerie feeling to it, which usually appeals to young children. This 450-foot long empty tube is lit by electric lights, with roots of trees often hanging down onto the paved pathway. You would find the children playing Indiana Jones on this trail. The trail is 0.4 miles, which makes it a perfect length for children. Adults too would find the hike entertaining, considering it isn’t every day that you get to hike through a crater.
While you are there at the park, there are also some spectacular waterfall trails and rainforest trails that may attract the children. Though there are various trails that you can partake in, it is always best to check the length of the trail so as to ensure that it does not become too strenuous for the little ones.
All in all, you know hiking the trails in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will make for a story or two that the children can surely share with their friends.
2. Acadia National Park, Maine
The carriage roads at this park are great for children of all ages. You can even push your baby on a stroller, the park is very child-friendly. The roads are not too steep which makes them perfect for children.
Though hiking is popular at the national park, so is bicycling and you can rent a bike in the nearby town of Bar Harbor. The trail takes you through Maine coast and you stand to enjoy more than 50 miles of carriage roads. Though not open to motor vehicles, the paths are 16 feet wide and made of smooth gravel. It is open to walkers, horseback riders and bicyclists.
You will find yourself on a path along Mount Desert Island, with a combination of both developed areas and remote regions. The wooded landscape of Mount Desert Island is sure to make for a delightful hike as you admire any of the 17 striking stone bridges which are scattered along the route. The trails range from 0.9 miles to 27.1 miles. If you plan on doing a longer trail, it is better to do the trail on a bicycle. The shorter trails can be great for children who are looking to explore the mountain and valleys and all the scenic beauty of the woodland park.
3. Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota
Having seen the monument at Mount Rushmore in schoolbooks, it is certain that children would find this trail rather enticing. Some may be delighted at the opportunity to see these gigantic presidential heads in person.
If you arrive in the morning, you are sure to experience some surreal sceneries of South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore. The trail at Mount Rushmore known as the presidential trail takes you even closer to the monument. The length of the trail is about half a mile, which is perfect for children. You can learn about the history behind the monuments, with audio wands providing narrated tours for those who are looking to learn on their trip.
The hike isn’t too exhaustive and both children and adults alike stand to learn something new on this particular visit.
4. Muir Woods National Monument, California
With hiking trails of varying lengths, this forest of coast redwoods in the north of San Francisco is surely a treat for anyone looking to visit. You will feel dwarfed by the mighty height and size of some of these trees, making for a spectacular experience, unparalleled to any other hike.
As you hike through the forest, you are sure to be walking around with upturned faces, appreciating the majestic beauty of this forest. The children for certain will have a delightful time, walking through these beautiful trees that top 250 feet in height. These old trees are between 600 to 800 years old, creating a rustic and magical environment that will leave the hiker pleased with every step.
Though the entire length of the trail is 10.5 miles, there are paved trails that pass alongside Redwood Creek. You will cross the creek and make a loop walk on a trail ranging from half a mile to two miles. Not too strenuous for children, you will see them frolicking along on this trail as they enjoy the magical sights of being tiny in a huge forest of redwoods.
5. Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail, San Diego
This is probably a longer trail on this list. At 7 miles long, though it may seem strenuous for children, the trail is perfectly doable. Easily accessible on a 30-minute drive from San Diego, Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve is also known as ‘little cliffs.’
There is a rich Native American history that dates back to 7,000 years which makes this trail rather enticing to both children and adults alike. You have the chance to get a glimpse at a nearby waterfall and appreciate the greenery on this trail which makes for some beautiful landscapes.
Though there are some shady sections to this trail, it is mostly sunny, hence be prepared with plenty of water. Considering the length of this trial, it is best to prepare your children for the hike and get them excited about it beforehand. Though the trail is long, the terrain is flat and easy which makes it child-friendly. The trail can be long, hence be prepared to physically exert yourself.
6. Santa Elena Canyon Trail, Big Bend National Park
This is an easy to moderate level hike, which is perfect for children. The trail is usually closed when the Terlingua Creek floods, hence be sure to check beforehand.
The length of the trail is 1.7 miles on a round-trip hike which takes you through the canyon. It is a great opportunity to catch some of the native wildlife to the region, such as roadrunners and javelins. You also get a chance to witness the picturesque Rio Grande river as it winds its way through the canyon.
With plenty of photo opportunities, this hike is sure to provide a memorable experience for the family. However, be prepared for scorching heat, especially during the summer months.
7. Riverside Walk, Zion National Park
For those looking for an easier hike, this riverside walk at the Zion National Park is sure to make the list. The trail runs on flat terrain, which makes it easy for children to trek.
The trail length is about one mile, which is perfect for families not looking to overtly exert themselves, and leads through beautiful scenery along the Virgin River. The trail leads to The Narrows, where hikers can choose to either continue on, wade through the river or head back.
Surrounded by beautiful canyon walls and rocks, the trail is naturally rewarding and can be a great experience for the family looking to absorb more of nature.
8. Bear Mountain Loop, New York
Though child-friendly, this trail will require you to climb many steps and even do a little bit of rock scrambling towards the top of the trail. As a more lengthy trail, the family should be prepared to exert themselves physically as this could be a physically demanding trail, especially for children.
That being the case, many elementary-aged children have completed the trail that winds through beautiful views that overlook the Hudson River. The trail, which is 3.8 miles long leads to Perkins Memorial Tower, where you have the chance to glance at the picturesque panoramic views of the rich foliage.
You can continue the hike to an adjacent smooth rock area which is a great place for a family picnic. Located 90-minutes from New York City, this trail is easy to access and a great treat to hikers, so long as you are up to the task of completing this 3.8-mile hike.
9. Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, Oahu
This trail is probably the most kid-friendly hiking trail in Oahu. Located at a 30-minute drive from Waikiki, the trek can be completed by children and offers some exceptional rewards.
The length of the trail is 2-miles and offers spectacular views of the coastline in the distance. The lighthouse was built in 1909, which holds a bit of history behind it. You even have the chance to catch the migratory humpback whales that make sightings from November through May.
All in all, the trail is not too long and offers some beautiful sceneries which make it a very rewarding hike for the entire family.
10. Assateague Island National Seashore, Virginia
Located at the border of Maryland and Virginia, this trail offers a stroll through beautiful fields and farmyards where you will encounter ponies and wild horses. If your children love horses, then this hike could be exceptionally rewarding for them, to have a chance to witness these majestic creatures in the wild.
The horses wander freely and can easily be spotted on the Woodland Trail. The Woodland Trail is 1.5 miles long and runs in a loop from start to finish. There is another trail called the Life of the Marsh Trail which is shorter at a half-mile in length; round trip. This trail winds through a salt marsh, which is where it gets its name from.
However, if you are after the horses, we recommend the Woodland Trail, the horses are kept in a large enclosure; you are sure to spot a few wild horses on this trail.
11. Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming
Rising 867 feet above the rock rubble, the Devils Tower is solidified magma of an ancient volcano. It is in fact a geological wonder that has flattened over the years due to erosion.
The hike is a 1.3-mile loop trail that takes you all the way around the tower, enabling you to capture the beauty of this stunning awe of nature from all angles. You will witness rock climbers, making their way to the top as you appreciate the changing shape of the tower from the various viewpoints along the trail.
The trail feels as if you are walking on an alien landing site, which can be adventurous for both children and adults alike. It is in fact the awesome sight of nature, which makes this hike so worthwhile for families.
12. Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Located in northeastern Arizona, these park trails can be captivating for children of all ages and adults alike. With a varying number of trails, be sure to pick the one that best suits your family.
We recommend the Giant Logs Trail, which is a 0.4-mile loop trail that begins at the Rainbow Forest Museum. The trail takes you to the oldest log in the park, the Old Faithful which is about 170 feet long, 9 foot wide. It is a great place for children to learn about the mineralisation of trees, which have been permeated by water. They will have the opportunity to study fallen trees in great detail.
As an added bonus, the Rainbow Forest Museum had some exhibits of dinosaurs, which can be rather popular among children. All in all, this choice of location offers an excellent memorable experience for children, leaving behind a trip they are sure to not forget.
13. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
When it comes to cave tours, it is often difficult to find one that suits children. Either there is too much climbing involved or you may have to squeeze into tight spaces. However, the Frozen Niagara Tour at Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave is short and easy, which makes it perfect for children.
The trail is a quarter-mile round-trip, which takes just about an hour to complete. You have the chance to experience some beautiful cave sceneries such as the Rainbow Dome and Crystal Lake. This may be a great means to introduce caving to your children. Who knows, they may grow up to become dedicated cavers.
14. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
The Sourdough Ridge Trail at the Mount Rainier National Park is sure to be a great adventure for the whole family. You have the chance to witness some amazing views of western Washington’s snowcapped peaks, including Mount Rainier itself.
Passing through flower-filled meadows, the trail is a one-mile loop trek with a small degree of elevation. You get to experience the surreal beauty of the high country and feel like mountain climbers as you reach the ridgetop; which the children will love. At the top, you will experience some spectacular panoramic views of the mountains and peaks.
The sight is often closed during winter due to snow, hence it is best to plan a trip for summer. It is best to check with the park authorities to ensure that the roads to the park are open; they usually don’t open until July.
15. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado
Here you will find the tallest dunes in all of the United States. Located on the east side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the main dunes spread across 30 square miles with dune heights reaching 700 feet.
Though there is less hiking and more having fun to do, kids would love the opportunity to run up sand dunes and slide and roll on down. It can get really hot during summer, hence make sure to carry a lot of water. The family can go sand sledging or sandboarding, which is always fun.
If you are looking for more of a hike, you can trek to the summit of High Dune, which is the second-highest dune. The trail to the top of High Dune is about a mile long and takes you through shifting sands. Medano Creek located nearby offers a great place to cool down after the hike. It is a great place for a dip, so long as the water is flowing.
16. Mount Falcon Castle Trail, Colorado
Colorado is a great location for hiking and one of the more popular destinations among hikers is the Mount Falcon Castle Trail which is a 30-minute drive from Denver. The trail is great for children and easy to hike.
There are some gorgeous views of downtown Denver and the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The length of the trails depends on where you start your hike, however can range from around three to four miles.
You will encounter some regional wildlife along the way, which can always be exciting for children. The trail can become very hot during summer, hence make sure to plan ahead and be prepared to battle the heat.
17. Kephart Prong Trail, Smoky Mountains
Though not considered the most popular trail in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, the Kephart Prong Trail is perfect for family hikes with a certain degree of physical exertion.
The trail isn’t short and runs at 4.2 miles round-trip which includes river crossings at Oconaluftee River on multiple locations. You will have to cross the river on long footbridges while surrounded by the beautiful forest with the noise of the rushing streams beneath.
If you are more of an adventurous family, then this trail could be great for you. However, if you or the children are looking to shy away from the exhilaration of these river crossings, this may not be the best option for you.
18. Lower Yosemite Fall Trail, Yosemite National Park
Most of the hikes in the Yosemite National Park in California is too strenuous for children. However, the Lower Yosemite Fall Trail in the National Park is easy to do and is child-friendly.
With an elevation gain of only 50 feet, the hike is one mile long and offers some stunning views of the picturesque landscape of the park. The trail leads to the base of the Lower Yosemite Fall, which spans 320 feet and is a part of the Yosemite Falls, which is North America’s highest waterfall at 2,425 feet.
The trail is open all year-round, however, the water of the falls is at its peak during spring and summer.
Choosing the Best Hiking Trail for Kids
When it comes to hiking with kids, you have to ensure that the trail isn’t too difficult or the terrain trekked isn’t too strenuous for children. This is why most of the hikes on this list of trails are short hikes. We did include a few longer hikes for those families who are looking for more of a challenge and to physically exert themselves as a reward to the hike.
When it comes to the various hikes on this list, it is sure to leave the hiker feeling rewarded, regardless of which hike you choose to partake in.
Children love hiking as much as adults and they love being in nature as much as adults. Hence it is important to provide them with the most memorable experience of a hiking trip, which is sure to be pleasant, enjoyable and memorable. That way, you could see yourself going on more family hikes, enjoying more of mother nature and the experience involved together.
We hope you enjoyed reading this word to word and that you found the contents of this article useful.