This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure
Are you wondering how to make hiking fun for kids? These hiking games and fun hiking activities are the perfect way to make sure your smallest adventurers love your next big walk in the great outdoors!
Hiking with kids is a wonderful way to encourage them to appreciate nature and prioritise physical activity, but let’s face it – many kids would rather spend their day staring at screens or playing with their favourite toys.
Thankfully these trail games to play while hiking and fun activities are guaranteed to have your kids asking when your next family hike is!
Make Hiking Fun For Kids
Not everyone loves to spend time in nature. Even if your children do love being outdoors, the idea of a hike might not sound very appealing.
Our kids have often complained at the suggestion of going for a hike since that is one of the things I almost always suggest when we are travelling or have a weekend to plan something fun together.
Yes, I’m that mum!
But we’ve found quite a few ways over the years to make sure that our family hikes are filled with activities that kids love, not only to keep the kids occupied but to help them really appreciate the experience as a whole.
There are 3 things aside from fun that are worth considering before you head off on your next trail though:
Family Bonding Time – Hiking offers a chance to share experiences with your children.
Physical Health – Physical activity is great for everyone!
Mental Health – Nature has a calming effect that reduces stress and anxiety.
Confidence Building – Conquering a trail that seemed difficult gives your kids a great confidence boost and helps them build resilience.
Plus it can just be really fun and who doesn’t love having fun?
The Best Hiking Games For Families
Okay, now let’s get to the fun stuff! Here are some of the best trail games to help keep your kids entertained during your big walk:
1. Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts are a lot of fun since even doing the same list of scavenger hunt items on two different trails can result in a very different experience.
Create a list of items that are commonly found in nature and let your kids tick off their items one by one.
There are a few ways you can do this – a printed or written list to tick off, an image scavenger hunt that is perfect for non-readers or by making it a photo challenge and having them snap a photo of each item as they see it.
You can also opt to have them collect each small item in a bag, however, our preference is to leave nature as it is and aim to have a minimal impact when we explore.
This is a great game to pull out when you hit a point in your hike when the kids are getting tired and irritable.
Questions such as “Would you rather be an alien or a giraffe?” are going to provide an entertaining distraction.
6. I Spy
I Spy is a classic hiking game that is perfect for families. One person will say ” I spy with my little eye something beginning with” and usually give the first letter of the object.
The other players take turns guessing.
For non-readers and younger kids, you can do this with colours, for example, something that is green.
7. Trivia Questions
Trivia can be a fun way to learn without your kids even realising they are learning.
Bring a list of trivia questions with you or draw from your existing knowledge about people, places and the environment to see who the family trivia buff happens to be.
If you have older kids or teens, they can also take turns asking their own trivia questions to challenge the rest of the family.
8. Hide And Seek
Hiking pathways usually have lots of space and places to hide like rocks, trees, and bushes. Let your kids hide while other player counts.
This is one where you need to assess your surroundings carefully to make sure it’s a safe option.
We did this with our kids when doing The Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park walk with our kids. It was pretty funny but those crazy rock formations are great for hiding behind. They went from moaning to having the best time.
9. Name That Tunes
This one is great to play with older kids who have a bit of music knowledge. With younger kids, you can try it with nursery rhymes or Christmas carols though.
Take turns singing a few lines of a song until someone guesses correctly.
10. Follow The Leader
Let your kids take the lead and become the leader for some hikes. Let them set the pace, and create a pattern of moves that each person following needs to copy.
This might be hopping, patting yourself on the head or doing a cooee as you reach a certain point on the track.
Kids will think it’s hilarious getting the grown-ups to do silly things along the hike.
11. Story Mad Libs
A little bit like the Mad Libs game of filling in fractured sentences with words of their choice, you can create a family storytelling game.
Have each person add a new sentence to the story so that you have no idea what direction it will take with each family member adding their creative flair.
The game starts with the first person setting the scene, for example: “Once upon a time there was a frog that lived in a castle”. The next person then adds to the story and so on until it reaches a conclusion.
12. Treasure Hunt
If you’re doing a local trail with young kids, a treasure hunt can be a fun way to get them excited. Similar to a scavenger hunt, instead have clues that encourage them to reach the next point of the trail.
This is helpful for a trail that you’re already familiar with, but you can also often put clues together based on online maps and hiking guides.
This way you’ve got the kids always focused on reaching the next stage of the trail and you can give them a special treasure or reward at the end of their treasure hunt.
There are plenty of other ways to make your hiking experience fun for all ages, aside from trail games. These hiking activities for kids are great fun for the whole family:
13. Nature Photography
Bring a camera with you or let your kids use your smartphone to capture beautiful nature photos while hiking.
Motivate your kids to take a picture of plants, animals, and anything that catches their attention.
This encourages their creativity and gets them looking at their surroundings in a new way, wondering how they can capture the scene in their own unique way.
14. Look For Animal Tracks
Animal tracks are fun to try and spot on a hiking trail. Before you start your trek, be familiar with the types of animals that are native to the area.
Teach your kids to find and recognise some animal footprints and try to guess what kind of animal it is, or research them when you get home if you don’t know already.
This was another activity we did during our visit to The Pinnacles Desert in Western Australia, following emu tracks all across the yellow sand and seeing if we could spot some.
We didn’t manage to find any but it was cool to see the tracks leading into different directions and also the unique patterns a kangaroo makes with its long feet and tail sliding between.
15. Birdwatching/Wildlife Watching
Bring a small birdwatching book or find a website that has a list of different birds and see how many different sightings you have on your trail.
You can bring along a set of binoculars to make it more exciting for the kids. And perhaps have them jot down notes on each animal they see in a small notebook.
16. Bring A Magnifying Glass
Bringing a magnifying glass is a fun way to get young kids to explore the tiny details of nature.
See up close with leaves, insects, and flowers with perfect detail.
17. Skip Stones
If your kids have the patience to skip stones in a nearby body of water, it’s one of those classic childhood pursuits that is fun to learn. Teach them how to throw rocks in a way that has them skipping across the top of the water.
Let them practice until they can get some good skips and then see who in the family can get the most skips in a single rock throw.
Introduce your kids to a treasure-hunting activity using GPS coordinates and your smartphone app.
Geocaching is an outdoor activity where individuals search for hidden containers called geocaches. Geocaches usually contain logbooks, and some include small items that the kids can trade with similar items from their own collections.
A great way to make your hike a bit more interactive and it’s something the whole family can get involved in, not just on hikes but as a fun weekend hobby.
19. Practice Using The Five Senses
Help your kids practice using their five senses while hiking. This is a wonderful mindfulness activity for kids.
Ask them what they feel, smell, taste, see and hear so that they can have a deeper connection with nature.
20. Stop & Draw What You See
Bring some small, lightweight sketchbooks and pencils with you on your walk.
Every now and again when your children need a break to rest their legs, have them focus on drawing something they see.
It will help make the whole experience more memorable for them with their sketched keepsakes.
Teach your kids basic map reading and navigation skills with some orienteering. Create or print a simple map of your hiking trail and let them lead the way while using the map.
They can also use a compass to ensure you are heading in the right direction. These are great skills for them to have as adults!
Motivate your kids to create stories using their surroundings. It can be about a magical forest, a brave little adventurer, or even about the animals that they saw along the way.
23. Stop For A Play
Sometimes just letting kids be kids for a moment is exactly what they need to recharge their energy and be ready to finish off their hike.
Especially if you’re on your return journey and the scenery isn’t as new and exciting as it may have been the first time around.
Those trail games and hiking activities are sure to help keep everyone entertained. Here are a few more ideas that can help make the experience enjoyable for children:
24. End Of Hike Reward
While it’s not the ideal scenario to offer up a ‘bribe’, sometimes you’ve just got to do what works and if that means an end-of-hike reward, then so be it!
Promise them a special treat once the hike is completed. It could be stopping for ice cream on the way home at their favourite ice cream parlour, a special treat, a favourite meal or a play in the playground.
25. Take Turns Leading
Let your kids guide the hiking group and feel the sense of empowerment that comes with being in charge.
This is best done on trails that you know are family-friendly. If it happens to fork off in a few different directions, you can let them have the main say on which route to follow.
26. Leave Kindness Rocks To Be Found
Get your kids motivated by bringing some kindness rocks they’ve painted at home.
Kindness rocks often have a kind message or affirmation painted on them or they are just cute rocks painted with fun designs.
The idea is to leave them on a trail for others to discover as a way of sharing a little kindness.
27. Take Frequent Breaks
Kids get tired easily from anything that is physically challenging and from being curious in the outdoors. Breaks give opportunities for them to rest, snack, hydrate and hype themselves back up again.
28. Bring Lots Of Snacks
Make your hiking trips more enjoyable by packing different types of snacks that your little people will enjoy. It helps them keep their energy up and avoids you having to hear “I’m hungry” the whole way.
Equip them with their own little snack storage with a fanny pack that gives them quick access to snacks on the go.
29. Let Them Choose The Hike
Let your kids get involved with the decision-making by having them choose the trail you will do.
This not only makes it more enjoyable for them by giving them a sense of ownership over the experience, but it also gets them engaged with their surroundings.
30. Go At Their Pace
Consider letting your children set the hiking pace, even if it includes having regular breaks or going much slower than you usually would.
Avoid rushing and let your kids enjoy nature. It may become your new favourite way to enjoy a hike too.
31. Beat Your Own Time Back
Turning your return journey into a challenge to see if you can get back to the starting point quicker than it took you to do the first leg of the hike.
A little friendly competition is one of the best ways to make hiking fun for kids and it will get them moving much quicker.
32. Allow Them To Bring A Friend
Kids usually have more fun when they have a friend to hike with, so consider inviting a friend on your hiking trips to add an extra layer of excitement.
33. Hike At Night
Evening hikes can be fun for older kids. With the right equipment, like headlamps and reflective jackets, a night hike can provide an adventurous twist to your outdoor outings.
It’s also a great opportunity for your family to see nocturnal animals in their natural habitat.
It’s best to choose an easy hike for night hiking so that you’ve got less chance of tripping hazards and injury.
34. Have A Picnic At The End
The best way to end off a fun family day out is with a picnic. Bring along some yummy picnic food and hiking lunches and find a spot with a beautiful view as a great reward for your efforts.
It’s a great way to reflect on the day’s journey by appreciating all the sights, sounds and experiences you’ve encountered together.
35. Collect Trash
This might not sound fun, but raising environmentally conscious kids is a wonderful trait to pass on.
Give each child a bag to collect anything they see along the trail that does not belong. You’re keeping them focused on their task, which makes the walk go faster for them and gives them a sense of pride too!
36. Nature Journaling
If they love getting creative, then travel and nature journaling is a great way to get them inspired during the hike.
Encourage them to draw or write about their experience and keep track of all the amazing sights they come across.
This will also help them remember what they’ve learned on the trail in a fun way.
Do not let rain stop you and your kids from enjoying your hike. If you’ve got light showers, go anyway and see what difference the rainy weather brings to your walking trail.
Make sure you pack proper waterproof clothing, like raincoats and non-slippery shoes though!
Or wear waterproof shoes for dry feet to avoid anyone getting sick afterwards.
38. Give Them Their Own Gear
Having their own gear is essential for children, especially when they’re hiking with you. It will make them feel like a real hiker and give them a sense of responsibility as they learn to take care of their equipment on the trail.
Providing them with their own walking stick or hiking pack can be fun for kids and they will feel special having the gear they see other hikers using along the way.
Making hiking fun is all about engaging your kids and giving them a sense of ownership. Kids love feeling involved and having something to do, so why not let them be explorers along the way? These trail games and hiking activities will help keep kids engaged and ensure your hiking trip is exciting for the whole family!