Hiking with a Baby/Toddler: Advice from 30 Hikes With Noel

Toddler playing with a stick at the edge of a river

It’s hard to believe my little one is a year and a half old!! Noel has brought so much happiness to so many lives, and we are lucky parents. He is curious, adaptable, playful and so much more. One of our greatest accomplishments as a family has been spending a lot of our time hiking with our baby/toddler. We started hiking with a baby when he was around 2 months old, and since then Noel has accomplished around 35 different hikes. While some are flat walks coming in under 2 miles, we’ve also taken him on 10 mile treks up a mountain.

We’ve learned a lot since that first walk around a wetland sanctuary, and this advice is helpful to first-time hikers as well as experienced families. If you take away one thing from this, let it be this: get your children out into nature as early as you can. As a society we are desperately in need of children who play with sticks, a new generation of children who care about the Earth around them, and parents who could use a bit less stress. Nature will do it all!

Happy hiking!

Hike #2 Cherry Creek Falls: Layer, layer, layer!

Hike Stats: 4.9 miles, 587 feet

Man holding baby in a carrier while hiking
Noel napped while Daddy did all the hard work!

On our first “real” hike with Noel we walked through the forest past mossy trees and muddy spots to get to a waterfall and the pool below.

When we began the hike it was early in the day, and pretty cool outside. Babies usually require an extra layer than you are wearing so we had Noel all snug in one of his sleepers. The problem was that as the day got warmer, we got warmer, and Noel was in a front-facing Lillebaby carrier. After awhile we were concerned that he was getting too hot in there, and carried him part of the way.

When traveling with a baby/toddler, anywhere, have all types of clothes for all types of situations. Travel with a short-sleeve onesie, a long-sleeve onesie, pants, shorts, a raincoat…whatever you may possibly need in your climate!

Hike #4 Franklin Falls

Hike Stats: 2 miles, 367 feet

Waterfall falling down rock face into deep green pool
Looking at Franklin Falls (from a different hike to the falls)

Spring is the time for waterfalls, and so we visited another one with Noel when he was approaching 3 months old.

Franklin Falls is an easy hike, but to get down to the falls requires a bit of rock scrambling. The rocks are slippery from the mist coming off of the falls. Not the best situation with a small baby in a carrier. Adjust your expectations when hiking with a baby/toddler; you may not always make it to the end of the trail.

Although the falls themselves were not the backdrop I thought they would be, and Noel never got to see them, there were so many cute photo opportunities along the way. What do they say? It’s about the journey, not the destination!

Hike #7 Twin Falls, Maui

Hike Stats: 0.5 miles, 164 feet

Woman holding baby, in beach clothes, beside bamboo trees on a hike
The walk was short enough we just held Noel!

This hike was all the way in Maui. We took our 3 month old there on his very first trip! You can read all about Visiting Maui With A Baby!

Hikes on a tropical vacation can be the perfect way to spend the late afternoon. With a 3 month old, it was much too hot to be at the beach. Our routine involved early beach mornings, quiet napping afternoons, and we tried to hike in the early evening. This hike to Twin Falls was uneventful but wonderful. There wasn’t much elevation, it was shaded so we stayed cool, and it was just a short walk!

Hiking doesn’t have to just happen at home! We’ve found that Noel as a baby was so calm in nature, just observing and looking up at the trees. Make hiking a part of your life- even when you’re on vacation!

Hike #10 Discovery Park

Hike Stats: Approx 3 miles, 400 feet

Woman carrying a baby in an infant carrier while hiking
A short stroll is still a hike!

After a busy Summer that was filled with visits from family, my husband’s return to work after parental leave & a bathroom remodel, we finally got out again at the end of the Summer.

While Discovery Park is just a park that overlooks the Puget Sound in Seattle, it became our go to. Hikes can be as simple as a walk through a park; you’re still getting yourself and your baby/toddler outside!

Discovery Park really has it all: a forested area that provides shade, a view out to the water, a beach you can walk down to, and wide open fields. We spent so many Saturdays visiting our favorite bakery in the city, and then taking the baby and our dogs for a long walk through the park!

Hike #13 Heybrook Lookout

Hike Stats: 2.4 miles, 908 feet

A lookout from Heybrook Lookout, a hike you can do with babies/toddlers!
The view from Heybrook Lookout

As we headed into the rainy Pacific Northwest season of Winter we made a real effort to get outside more. The damp Winters can really take a toll, and we did not want to waste any sunny days.

Heybrook Lookout was a bit of an ass-kicker, at an elevation gain of 900 feet in just a short mile and a bit. We learned on this hike that soft-shelled carriers are a lot harder to hike with as your baby/toddler gets bigger (at least for us!) Noel was around 8 months old at this time, and it was a struggle having all that extra weight on the front.

Heybrook Lookout was such a beautiful view, we could see all of the surrounding mountains from the top of an old fire lookout!

Hike #14 Sugarloaf Mountain

Hike Stats: 1.7 miles, 616 feet

This hike was really a game changer in terms of carrying Noel. My husband is the one who usually does the heavy lifting, and this was one of the first hikes that he carried Noel in our new Deuter backpack! Although a pricey investment, having a hiking backpack really has been amazing for us. Since Noel was about 9 months old we’ve used it for everything, from doing the dishes, to gardening, to intense hikes!

Truthful Travel Tip: Look out for used backpacks or returned backpacks at REI. We got ours for over half off the sticker price, as it had been a return!

Noel had such a nice nap during the hike, and we felt that his body and his head were secure and everything was safe. After purchasing the hiking backpack we really picked up the pace, completing the next half of our hikes with Noel in just over half a year!

Hike #17 Rainy Lake

Hike Stats: 2 miles, 70 feet

Snow covered mountains and a hiking sign that designates the Pass name
The view from the parking lot was a Winter Wonderland

Over the Thanksgiving weekend we visited North Cascades National Park, which is Washington’s most underrated national park! The mountain passes in the park close for the Winter due to the conditions, and we caught it just a few weeks before the closure!

Feeling daunted by planning your first getaway with your baby/toddler? Follow my easy 5-steps to planning!

While it wasn’t that cold for us Canadians, the 28 F temperatures were really cold for a baby. We prepared with a snowsuit, a winter hat, and warm clothes, but even the short hike to Rainy Lake was really cold. Prepare for the changes that come with hiking with a baby/toddler in colder weather, and try to limit exposure for young babies!

Because of the time of year and probably the road conditions we were some of the only people on the trail. It was a beautiful walk through a winter wonderland forest to a lake with mountains as a backdrop!

Hike #19 Wallace Falls

Hike Stats: 5.9 miles, 1400 feet

Man carrying baby in backpack, holding a dog, and woman holding a dog. Located in mossy forest
On our way down from the falls!

As the new year was on the horizon (oh, if only we could have predicted what 2020 would look like…) we had a renewed energy and decided to keep hiking regularly. Our last hike of the year was to Wallace Falls, which was more challenging than most of the hikes we did in 2019.

We actually did this hike another time in February, after Noel had started standing. It was clear that the 6 mile hike was too long for Noel to stay in the backpack. When on long hikes, make sure you give your baby/toddler some time out of their carrier to to crawl, walk or play! The layers of the falls were beautiful, but we had a crying baby at the top. Making sure he was warm, had a snack, and had some time to do his own thing made everyone happier!

Hike #22 Lime Kiln Trail

Hike Stats: 7 miles, 625 feet

Looking at a river, with sun shining on the trees in the distance
The sunshine was just what we needed after a long, rainy Winter

This February hike came after a long, long period of no sun. The Pacific Northwest has mild Winter temperatures, but that comes at the cost of not seeing the sun for weeks at some points.

Noel didn’t seem to mind all the rain, but we sure did. Getting out to hike along the river while the sun was shining on us was the perfect cure for our outdoor deprivation. As Noel was approaching a year old and leaning towards eating more food than milk, we realized something new. Bringing snacks while hiking with a baby/toddler is the key to making everyone happy!

We hiked with a friend and their baby, and their idea to bring homemade bars and dried cherries really got the babies excited after sitting in the backpack for a few hours!

Hike #27 Lake Serene

Hike Stats: 8.2 miles, 2000 feet

Looking at Lake Serene, a deep blue alpine lake surrounded by sharp mountain peaks
Lake Serene & Mount Index in the background

The pandemic and the subsequent stay-at-home orders left us craving time outdoors. As soon as we felt safe and the orders to lockdown were lifted, we went outside. After a few warm up hikes we decided to jump right in to a hard one. Lake Serene is a hike we’ve done many times pre-baby, and it’s a bit of a butt kicker!

There was a long stop for lunch along the way, and a rest at the lake when we finally made it up. The hike would have been perfect, except for the fact that on the way down it started pouring rain! Noel had a sweater, but no rain jacket. I hadn’t realized the hike would take us as long as it did, and thought we might avoid the small chance of rain.

Never start a hike without rain gear when hiking with a baby/toddler! Trekking down a mountain with a baby covered in your sweater is not optimal! The views and the great company at least made up for it, but we had to warm Noel up in the car for awhile before we left!

Hike #29 Rosario Beach & Fidalgo Island

Hike Stats: 3 miles, 541 feet

Toddler hiking on the beach, holding a stick
Noel always has a stick in his hand!

This Summer hike was perfect to get out and by the Puget Sound water. Located next to Deception Pass State Park, these two hikes offer views over the water and many chances to see wildlife!

Ever since our road trip earlier this year (pre pandemic!) Noel has loved roaming around beaches. By this Summer running was his method of favorite transportation. When hiking with a walking toddler, make sure to leave time for them to explore on their own. Beaches are perfect for this!

Noel ran down the beach chasing our dogs, used sticks to write in the sand and overall enjoyed time out of the backpack!

Hike #30 North Sauk River

Hike Stats: 2 miles, 200 feet

Toddler hiking on a green, wooded trail
Noel’s first hike!

This is a repeat hike; we did it first when we visited North Cascades over Thanksgiving weekend. Back then, Noel was on the verge of crawling. By this time Noel was an avid runner and working on his balance!

When your toddler is a confident walker, let them try some of the trail on their own! Noel had a blast navigating the tree roots and rocks, and walked (read:ran) a whole kilometer by himself. The ground was level, and the trail was quite empty, so he had a great time. Find a trail that has little elevation and don’t expect too much of their first “hike”.

It’s been so much fun hiking with a baby and now a toddler. I am sure as Noel gets older and wants to walk more, we will be back to easier, flatter trails. But for now, we are getting in all the long hikes we can and learning new tips along each trail!

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir


A Truthful Traveler