Fun Things to Do While Hiking with Kids

The kids may not be excited about hiking. We hear you; our kids have been less than enthusiastic about going on hikes. But the mood quickly turns around when we add a little fun and adventure to our hikes. With a little imagination, a touch of playfulness and a dash of curiosity, your family hikes can be fun for everyone.

Here are some fun activities to try out on your next family hike. Many of these games are also perfect for sitting around a campfire. Double duty fun!

Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are an easy and fun way to engage with nature and boost observational skills on your hike. We have created a fun outdoor scavenger hunt, perfect for hiking. You can create your own hunt, tailored to your location and family interests. Include a check-off sheet of the things you want your little explorers to keep an eye out for. You can laminate these sheets or put them in a clear plastic bag for safe keeping. Be sure to practice leave no trace principles. Your kids can observe, take photos, or draw your hunted items.

The Alphabet Game

Starting with the letter A, ask each person to take turns to spotting something on your hike that begins with each letter of the alphabet. This is another fun way to truly observe your surroundings. Remember to encourage your kids to carefully scan all around, including down low and up high!

The Senses Game

This is a good activity while taking a break. Find a nice spot to relax and write down or discuss the different things you see, hear and smell in nature. Let kids take the lead in this conversation.

Pass the Story

This is a fun story-telling game that often takes unexpectedly silly and ridiculous turns! The first person begins by starting the story with “Once upon a time…” and begins to tell a story. At any point, the storyteller can pass the story to the next person by saying “and then” and on and on it goes until everyone has had an opportunity to add to the story. The last person can end the story with a big, climactic “The end!”. You can make your own rules like a setting time limit or how many rounds until the ending. This game can be incredibly fun with the backdrop of nature and adventure to inspire your creativity!

Twenty Questions

Most of us know this game, but did you ever think of it as a hiking activity? Super fun for all! One person in the group thinks of a word (person, place, or thing.) The other hikers take turns in asking questions and trying to guess what the word is. Whoever guesses the correct word gets to choose the word for the next round. You can make this easier for little kids by selecting categories for the words (dessert foods, animals, movies etc.)


This is a family favorite for us. Give each child a small journal and pencil case or pouch with a few pencils, colored pencils, or markers. Make a few thoughtful stops to draw interesting things that you see on the trail. This is also a great activity to do while taking a break. Find a nice shady spot and write or draw about your hike or your trip.

Magnifying Glass Observe and Learn

A magnifying glass is another small item that is worth packing for a hike. Plan on making a few stops to observe nature with a magnifying glass. If you also have journals, you can document your observations. Oh, what fun can be had investigating small bugs and plant life up close!

Interval Training

This is a fun idea for those kids who enjoy being active. During different parts of your hike, you can incorporate short 30 second interval exercises to keep it interesting. Think of exercises that your family enjoys. You can let each family member take turns choosing an exercise. Some to consider are running, hopping, skipping, jumping jacks and silly walking.

Follow the Leader

Let your kids take turns being the leader during your hike. The leader will add something to your walk, and everyone must follow. It can be a motion, sound or whatever else the leader can come up with. Of course, this will work only on well-marked hiking trails so we can all be safe. This can get silly quickly with younger kids! Older kids can be more adventurous leaders like leading you through some obstacles.

Name It

Bring a reference book and look for names of plants, trees, flowers, bugs, and birds you come across on your hike. What a fun way to incorporate learning into your hike.


If your kid is old enough, ask him or her to document your journey. An app like Relive can make this easy (as long as there is cell coverage). He or she can also write a review that you can post to help the hiking community.


Assuming you are using an app like AllTrails, put a kid in charge of tracking your progress and navigating. We let our kids take turns in this leadership role. Preview the trip distance, direction and landmarks ahead of time, just in case. Most of the time, you will be on trails with clear signage and blazes, so the risk of getting lost with your kids in charge is typically minimal.

How to Set the Stage for Fun

There are several steps that you can take prior to the hike to set your family up for success:

  • Be flexible. If hiking is fun this time, they will be more excited about hiking the next time. Letting go of your goals for the hike is step one. Allow for spontaneity and a more mindful appreciation of the experience. Let the kids set the pace. A slower pace can be beneficial for us as well, with more opportunity to really take in the journey and allow for family bonding over a delicious snack break. Many of the hiking activities below are an active way to take the time to really check stuff out, and that’s a good outcome for everyone!
  • Give the kids some control. Review different hiking trails with your family and let the kids influence the decisions on which trails to explore. While on the trail, kids can pick where and when to stop for a snack break. Let them choose some fun things they would like to do on the hike. Their preferences may include hiking with siblings or friends a bit back in the pack. Our kids like to hang back to have silly conversations or act out silly fantasies in private. There is still plenty of family time at breaks or scenic stops.
  • Pack snacks and water. Even for short hikes, BRING SNACKS. Bring enough snacks and water to take snack breaks and stay energized and hydrated. Sneak in a few surprise treats for extra smiles.

John Olsen

John Olsen is a seasoned adventurer with 20 years of writing, public speaking, team leadership, analytics and project management experience.

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