Skip to Content

What To Do When Your Child Doesn’t Want To Hike

We have done a ton of hiking in our time of traveling.

I love hiking.  My oldest three kids love hiking. My fourth child likes to hike half the time.  But my fifth child…well, she’s a whole different story.  If it’s more than two miles, has any sort of elevation gain, or if the weather isn’t between 65 and 75 degrees, there’s going to be a lot of whining, complaining, and fighting to get her to hike.  It’s not fun yet, I keep dragging her out on the trail because I know it’s good for her and most of the time, once she’s doing it, she loves it.  I’m all about raising badass kids and some days that means pushing them outside their comfort zone and demanding more of them than they are willing to give.  If you have a kid who resists hiking and the outdoors, here are some tips to keep in mind.

What does badass mean to you?  We use this word a lot because it encompasses so much of what we value like strength, confidence, kindness, passion, and owning your weirdness.   ​

Sounds all great in theory, but trust me, I know how hard it is to be my badass self and raise badass kids.  Most days it takes a lot of yelling, persuading, arguing, convincing, patience, determination, a really good sense of humor, and a glass of red wine.  Case in point, today…

I’ve been a bit grumpy and restless with the whole “living in a house” thing.  I thought it would feel better than it does and mostly, I did it as an act of selflessness and I’m woman enough to admit that I’m not the most selfless person.

I miss my motorhome, the open road, and bumpy forest service roads.

That’s why today, instead of taking the easy path and just going on a hike with Gabi and Isabelle, I wanted to feel like it feels when we are traveling.  I thought it would be a good idea to bring Jiraiya and Tatiana on the hike and that they would love to be included.  Plus, if they came along, then Danny would get to hike with us too instead of having to stay back and babysit and I love hiking with him.

So after convincing all my kids to go hiking with me by telling them it was going to be so epic, packing up enough snacks and water for everyone, and driving 45 minutes to the turnoff to the trailhead, you can imagine my frustration when an idiot went and parked practically in the middle of the forest service road, making it impossible for me to get around in my RV.

At this point, we were still two miles from the trailhead and I had two options.  Park here and walk the four extra miles (2 miles each way) or turn around defeated and drive home.  Well, there was no way I was going to drive all the way home after how much effort and gas it took to drive here.  We are walking, right after I leave a nice little note on the idiot’s car. 🙂

Inclusive Planning: When involving kids of different ages, plan activities that interest and engage everyone. Consider their preferences for a successful outing.

The first mile wasn’t too bad.  Tati, our youngest and most difficult hiker, had fresh legs and a full belly.  But by the time we reached the trailhead, an hour later, she was done.  She sat on the rocks refusing to hike.  You’re kidding me, right?  All that work and we haven’t even started the actual hike!

Luckily, this isn’t the first time for me to go head to head with a stubborn child. I have five stubborn kids and experience has taught me not to take it too personally, nor to give in to their antics.

I gave her a few minutes to sit and eat her snack and then said, “Let’s go!”  She whined a bit as she put her snacks back in her pack and then tested me by walking as slowly as possible ten yards behind me. Every so often I’d wait and hold her hand, literally trying to pull her faster, but then, we rounded the corner to where the trail began and I saw the steepness and cringed. This girl hates going uphill. It’s game time.

Danny didn’t hesitate.  He knew Tati would just stop there and not budge if he didn’t throw her on his back and carry her.  He and I took turns carrying her on our backs for a while until we came across some big boulders. As her brother, Jiraiya, started scrambling up them, she jumped down and wanted to follow suit. The trail continued following large rocks which were great for climbing and while she did still occasionally whine about how long the hike was, she managed to walk the rest of the way and even made a comment when we reached the alpine lake that “It’s kinda nice here.”

Enjoy the Journey: Emphasize the fun aspect of hiking as a family, focusing on the experience rather than just reaching the destination.

The way down was easier but before we started back she stopped me and said “I don’t like that you aren’t having a conversation with me. (I had been talking mainly with her siblings the whole way up since she was mad about hiking in the first place). It makes it easier to hike when you are talking to me.”

Wow!  I was so impressed with her ability to verbalize her feelings!

Can you relate to any of this?

Do you have a kid who doesn’t love or even like to hike?

Do you give up because it’s not worth the fight?

Since this is a common occurrence with Tatiana, there are a lot of things I’ve learned about dealing with kids who don’t want to hike so here are my tips:

1. Choose your battle ahead of time

I couldn’t imagine going through all the effort of getting to the hike only to turn back when we finally arrived at the trailhead. If you are going to push (and you should see #3) then be ready to follow through. This means you may need to be ready to…

2. Carry more than your weight

I’ve had to carry that girl on my back so many times and she’s almost 8! But here’s how I see it, if I don’t carry her, she’s going to sit there and not move and will eventually be able to control the situation so that she wins. If that happens, there will be a whole series of entitlement issues I’ll have to deal with down the road.  And we don’t want that!

Related Blog: How To Overcome An Entitlement Mindset

3. Pushing them is good for them

If she hadn’t hiked that day, she would’ve stayed home and watched too much TV. Sure, it’s nice to have some days to just chill out, but I don’t want it to become a habit (which it feels like some days when we’re living in a house).  Asking her to hike 7 miles, while hard, is doable for my kids, and therefore, no whining will get them out of work.

4. Never feel guilty for making your kids hike

She likes it. I watch her scramble, gather rocks, wet her hair in the stream, and play in the dirt. She’s happy. Sure her legs might be a little tired but being outdoors and in nature is bringing her a lot of joy.  Sure, I felt a little guilty for the day I made Isabelle hike all four passes of the Maroon Bells Loop in one day, but only a little guilty.  And she’d be the first to say that it wasn’t that bad.

Related Blog: Guide To Backpacking The Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop

5. Avoid sugary snacks

The worst thing is to hold woth a kid with low blood sugar. Make sure you pack protein and fat like nuts and salami. It makes a huge difference.

6. Use distraction techniques with your kids

This one can be hard for me because I love to space out on the trail but striking up a conversation and listening to my kids talk while hiking always keeps their feet moving and is a great way to bond with your child.

Related Blog: 12 Tips For Hiking With Kids 

7. Make hiking a habit

If you only hike occasionally it might be hard for them to learn to adapt. If you keep pushing at a reasonable level, your reluctant hiker may end up loving the trail.

Related Blog: Why I’m Raising My Kids To Be Dirtbags

Hope this encourages you to get out on the trail with your kids even if they don’t want to.  Hiking with your kids is a great way to bond with them and it is so great for their health, fitness, and overall well-being.  Never feel guilty for helping your kids to become the best versions of themselves!

Pin This:

tips for when your child doesn't want to hike

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Saturday 2nd of January 2021

My parents did this to me and it made me resent them even to this day. Being dragged out into the middle of no where, being covered in bug bites, and being forced to make small talk was horrible. It made it so that I never want to leave the big city ever again


Thursday 4th of March 2021

Really? You're serious? Resentment? Hmm...that's too bad. My kids love hiking and the outdoors. I guess it's good that you love city life, right? To each their own but it's easier to open your heart chakra and practice forgiveness.

Alyson Long

Monday 17th of September 2018

As I'm about to drag my kids up Mount Everest for the second time ...I feel you ! Mine have rarely done anything willingly in their lives, I always have to force them out of the house for absolutely everything so I'd never expect them to willingly go trotting up mountains. But once they're out the door they're fine. The elder one really wants to go ( bragging rights) the younger is being bribed with computer games and time in 3 months time when we're home Being away from laptops and WiFi is the hardest part....for all of us ! But come on, it's mount freaking Everest, we're getting our badass delves up there any way we can. Go at their pace is the one most important tip. My husband walks very, very fast and even for me struggling to keep up is horrid. Nice and slow, it's not a race.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.