Congratulations mom and dad! You got your kids dressed and ready to spend a few hours embracing the great outdoors. The only problem is your time on the trail seemed to be filled with more whines and cries than shrieks of excitement.

It’s okay, parents. You’re not alone.

With our local schools implementing new running programs to encourage youth to get active, you want to do your part to keep your kiddos moving on the weekend. With the moans and groans, that’s… well… tough.

Before you hang up your hiking boots and give up trying to teach your kids to appreciate the life of a cowboy (at least for an hour or two), here are a few ideas to ease your struggles.

When should you go?

No one will give you the “Parent of the Year” award just because you forced your kids to go hiking. Wait until everyone’s in the mood to burn a little bit off a little energy before you go. If the weather isn’t good, don’t push your luck. Don’t try to push nap time just to get your kids on the trails. Introduce your kids slowly to the joys of hiking when the conditions are optimal.

What should you bring?

If you want your hike to go well, think like a boy scout – BE PREPARED.

Here’s a checklist of what to bring to ensure you have a fun few hours on the trails.

  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • Fruit and nuts (or any other healthy snacks)
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Kids camera
  • A trail map

Make it fun!

If your kids are anti-hiking, make it fun by turning your outdoor excursion into a game. The Electronic Field Trip has a few fun desert activities to print and play with your kids while hiking.

Or, create your own fun game – a scavenger hunt! Have your kids search for a hawk, various types of cacti, and other desert critters (the safe kind only of course)!

Keep your kids minds as active as their bodies and they’ll forget how much they hate hiking – at least for a few minutes.

Where should you start?

Hiking more than a few miles will start to feel like a week long expedition if you push it too far. Start with one of these easy treks on our Vail hiking trails.

Head to Cienega Creek just off of the Gabe Zimmerman trailhead. There is water flowing year-round, lots of green, lush trees, and trains that zip by overhead. It’s an impressive place for kids of all ages. For the little ones who are still unsure of spending some time on the trails, this is the perfect starting spot.

Mica View Loop in Saguaro National Park East. This is a two-mile, flat round trip loop that starts and ends at the Mica View Picnic Area. Check out the woodpeckers, palo verde trees, and views of Tanque Verde Peak – a true desert environment!

Been there, done that? Why not pack a picnic lunch and head up to Mt. Lemmon. If the drive is a little too long, stop at Molina Basin just a few miles up. If you’re feeling brave, you can entice your kids to a treat at the Cookie Cabin at the top and a ride up the ski lift. Don’t worry, there’s a hike waiting for them at each stopping point.

No matter where you go, make your time on the trails fun and enjoyable. Soon, your kids will forget to whine their way through your hikes – and if you’re lucky, they might even start begging you for more outdoor excursions.

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Lucretia Free