25 Jul 2023
Here in Mammoth Lakes, we love to see families hiking with kids of all ages. Whether you’ve got a tot in a backpack or a pre-teen who needs some convincing to come along in the first place, hiking can be an unforgettable experience when done the right way.
But, if it’s your first time hiking with kids, you might be wondering how to make this activity more fun than fussy. Here are a few tips for a successful first hike with your little ones:
#1: Choose the right hike
The Eastern Sierra is full of hiking trails for all levels, which means that you can easily find a trail that is perfect for your family! Consider one of these fantastic options:
Hidden Lake and Kerry’s Meadow. This sweet little loop trail isn’t one of the more well-known hikes in Mammoth. But it’s perfect for families who want an easy, flat hike. You can find the trailhead by starting out on the south end of the Mammoth Rock Trail and then following signs for the Meadow. The trail will then take you to a flat grassy area underneath Mammoth Rock. The loop is about 1.6 miles, and you’ll enjoy a stunning view of our current wildflower bloom. Be mindful that meadow areas are quite wet this year! Be ready to go off-trail a bit or wear water-proof shoes to fully enjoy this hike.
Convict Lake Loop. Located south of Mammoth on the 395, Convict is a picturesque lake that is popular for fishing, hiking, and leaf peeping in the Fall. There’s a 2 mile family-friendly path that goes around the entire lake, with a good variety of trails and boardwalk. According to recent reviews, there are a few muddy patches this year, but the majority of the trail is in good shape.
McLeod Lake. The hike from Horseshoe Lake to McLeod is one of the most popular family hikes in the area. It’s perfect for kids of most ages, although there is an elevation gain of about 350 ft. And this year, there is still one section that is covered in snow, so take it slow or consider waiting a few more weeks until the snow patch melts.
There are many other options for kid-friendly trails around Mammoth. For the latest information on trail conditions, stop in at the Mammoth Visitor’s Center!
#2: Make sure your kids have the right gear
A quick way to ruin a good hike is with uncomfortable shoes, the wrong hiking clothes, or a sunburn. Set your family up for success by bringing along the following:
Comfortable, worn-in hiking shoes
Layers of quick-drying clothes
An extra pair of socks
A sunhat and sunglasses
A first aid kit with moleskin for blisters
Their favorite water bottle
#3: Snacks are essential!
We all get a little cranky on the trail when we’re hungry. And kids can quickly turn sour without the right refueling plan. So, have a good variety of healthy, energy-rich snacks like trail mix, granola and fruit, plus a couple of special treats, like gummies or chocolate, to keep them energized and in good spirits.
#4: Hike with other kids
There’s nothing more fun than hiking with your besties, and your kids will be more motivated when they can hit the trails with their friends. When planning your trip to Mammoth Lakes, consider whether you might be able to travel with another family with kids around the same age.
Or, if you will be traveling with just your family, don’t worry. Chances are, if you choose one of the more kid-friendly trails, there will be other families hiking at the same time as you. Don’t hesitate to strike up a friendly conversation and make hiking friends along the way!
#5: Stay present instead of racing to the finish
As adults, we tend to tackle hiking like a challenge. We have a specific lake or vista in mind as the finish line and our goal is to get there. But, you might find that your kids are more interested in taking it slow and checking things out along the way. This is perfectly fine! The goal is to introduce your kids to the fun of being in nature.
So, don’t be afraid to slow things down a bit. You might even end up turning around before you reach your destination. If this happens, don’t get frustrated. Consider choosing a shorter route for your next hike so that you can complete what you set out to do without pressure.
#6: Play trail bingo
One great way to keep the family engaged during a hike is to play games, like trail bingo. This will encourage your kids to keep their heads up and take in everything around them. And, a little bit of friendly competition (perhaps with prizes like a special candy) can keep hiking fun and exciting. Here are a few ideas of what you can include in your bingo card:
Wild animal paw print
For older kids, make this game more engaging by getting even more specific with your bingo card. Instead of including “wildflower,” for instance, look up what kinds of wildflowers you’re like to see in Mammoth Lakes.
#7: Be playful
One of the wonderful things about hiking with kids is that it gives us adults the chance to see nature through their eyes. So, don’t be afraid to embrace your inner kid during the hike! Skip rocks at Lake Mary, check out the fallen log treehouse at Mcleod Lake, and race through the grassy areas in Kerry’s Meadow. These are the moments your kids will remember the most!
#8: Bring a nature notebook
If your kids like to draw or write, a nature notebook is a great way to keep them entertained during their hike. Encourage them to take notes of how many birds they see, or draw their own map of the trail.
Older kids that are interested in STEM can take this to the next level by making notes of different ecosystems you encounter on your hike or keeping an eye on weather conditions.
What we love about encouraging your kid to keep a nature notebook is that it will act as a wonderful souvenir from your trip!
#9: End the day on a high note
Although there may have been some grumbles, and maybe even some tears along the way, it’s essential to end every hike positively. Celebrating your hike with lunch at their favorite Mammoth restaurant, an ice cream cone, or a trip to the pool can leave a good impression and make them eager to try again in the future.
Even simply ending the day with words of encouragement can make a big difference. Tell your kids that you’re proud of the effort they put in and ask them what their favorite part of the hike was.
We’ll see you on the trail!
We hope that you’re feeling inspired to get out there and try hiking as a family! It’s such a fantastic way to build memories and enjoy all that the Eastern Sierra has to offer.
Still looking for lodging for your upcoming family vacation to Mammoth Lakes? Take a look at the condos we have available at Mammoth Mountain Reservations. We can’t wait to see you up here!