Hiking with Teens

The only qualifications I have that make me able to comment on hiking with teens are these:

I once planned and executed a week long backpacking trip with a dozen Boy Scouts, along with 3 other adults.

And I've worked with this age group in other venues: as a teacher, a parent, a Girl Scout leader.....

... and I've noticed a few consistent characteristics in teens which need to be considered before you take them out on a hiking trail.

First of all, WHY do they want to hike?

  • Are they motivated to earn a badge?
  • Are they looking for camaraderie?
  • Do they want to impress someone? Is their idea of hiking shaped by a movie they've seen?

Knowing the answer to these questions is important, because it helps you plan a safe but rewarding hike/backpack trip. There's nothing worse than trying to drag unwilling teens up a trail.

Motivation must be there, or hiking with teens can turn into mutiny.


Another key factor: food.

Make sure you have the right mix of nutrients and tasty stuff, or you're going to hear complaints like you can't believe.


Involve your teens in all of the planning phases.

Drag out the maps, spread them out on the table, suggest a few options, then let them decide.

If they don't know how to read a topo map, or aren't familiar with how distance, elevation, and seasons work together, explain the impact of those variables on a hike.


Do a pack check prior to leaving. This is crucial!!

  • I had to confiscate a wind up alarm clock and an electric shaver (no kidding) from 1 kid's pack, so be sure they're not lugging extra weight around for no reason.

And check to see if they have the bare essentials for safe and comfortable traveling.

A boot check is a great idea, too:

  • Do they fit?
  • Are the socks going to work with the boots?
  • Are the laces frayed and ready to snap?
  • Are the soles too worn to grip properly?

And be prepared for some wonderful surprises.

  • I've seen bickering teens pull together to establish a great base camp under adverse weather conditions, given just a gentle nudge in the right direction.

Play to each teen's strength, and guide the emergence of the natural leader(s) to get the job done, whether it's cooking dinner, getting up a steep trail, reading a map, or scouting the best swimming hole in the river.


To round things out, here's another mom's take on hiking with teens.

Resources for hiking with teens

If your teen is part of an established social group, that's the easiest way to get him/her on a trail. Why not let the adult group leaders do all of the planning work?

But if you'd prefer to use an organization that is not affiliated with a particular political or religious point of view, consider these:


You have my admiration and gratitude for getting the next generation out on the trails. There won't be any trails if they don't value and appreciate outdoor time.

Kudos to you!


If you hike with teens, consider yourself as brilliant as a shooting star.

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Hiking With Teens



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