Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Post by stevet » Thu Jun 14, 2012 9:26 pm

I cannot offer you locations for your hike, but my experience says:
* start hiking after lunch on one day
* finish before lunch on the hike out
This will force you into the ~3 mile distance.

The destination must offer something "fun" for a 3 year old. Generally a place to climb (safely) or get wet.

A layover day is a disaster unless there is at least 16 hours of kid friendly activity that can be done unsupervised but that you will jump into the minute asked to do so.

Jiffy Pop and Marshmallows are essential food items.

A campfire.

A book you can read to them. I started my son with Tolkien. He wanted to hike often to continue the story. We started the Hobbit and then read the Trinity over a 4 year period of 1-2 overnight hikes per month. The Narnia books would probably have had a similar attraction.

Something comfortable for you to sit in/on so you can hold them in your lap while you read.

Your ability to be a sherpa.

Your kid(s) carrying a pack with a stuffed animal, and a snack or two.

Only one adult per two kids. When you lay down at night each kid will need exactly one arm to cuddle and hold. And to hug back.

A camera for each.

A collection bag for each.

A favorite lunch stop restaurant for the drive home. For my kids it was Pizza Hut. Amazing what they would tolerate knowing they got Pizza Hut on the way home.

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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Jun 15, 2012 8:02 am

I did major backpacking with my kids when they were babies. The toddler years were "awkward" in that the kids became too heavy to carry and too little to walk long distances. This is the age when you have to readjust your goals. A few times I used horsepackers and we were dropped off at a backcountry site and spent all the time there. Other times we did very short trips. The kids really could care less of the location as long as it had water to play in safely, no mosquitoes, and not too much elevation gain. You need to provide lots of patience and attention. My kids could walk 3 miles as toddlers but it would take all day since they stopped and looked at every rock along the way!

I personally would not do a trip unitl late August or Sept when water is warm enough to play in without getting cold and mosquitoes are gone.

How about going in from Rock Lake. The trail is nearly flat and you immediately get into a lot of little lakes.

Desolation-Echo Lake area- kids love the boat taxi and there are close lakes and good trail, but it does involve some uphill walking.

Saddlebag Lake - take boat taxi and then it is flat and short to Cascade Lake with lots of day-hike options. Note that this area has horrible mosquitoes early season - definitly is a late season trip.

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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Post by Cross Country » Fri Sep 04, 2015 1:52 pm

One time ¨saint¨Diane and I went of a backpaking trip with Jim who was barely 3 and he was the size and phisical maturaty of a two and a half year old or maybe a little less. Diane and I were backpacking and Jim was along for the ride. We went passed Nevada falls and camped the first night at Little Yosimite Vally. Jim was riding on top of my alpenlight pack perched in a baby carrier. It was VERY unstable but fortunatly I never fell and killed my kid. My pack weighed almost 80 pounds. We stayed in LYV two nights and went back the next day. When we were in camp Jim kept saying he wanted to go backpacking. By the 3rd day I realized he was saying he wanted to go home. When I get home in 5 week I´ll try to remember to post pics of this trip. I believe this trip was almost unique.

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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Post by DLeikam » Wed Sep 09, 2015 6:05 am

Like you, I have been anxious to share the wilderness with my kids. Emma Lake has been our "easy go to" for quick weekend trips and my kids love it. I would absolutely recommend taking your 3 year old, I did it a few years ago and was amazed at how good she did. We went to East Lake out of Bridgeport, just south of Emma. It is 4 miles one way (I think) with lots to do once you get up there. Here is my TR, it was also my first ever backpacking trip: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9533&hilit=dleikam Since I started "backpacking" a few years ago, I have actually never gone without my daughters - so that means never over 4 miles one way. Regarding safety, you have to do what you're comfortable with. A coworker of mine thinks I'm out of my mind irresponsible for taking my kids higher than 2,000 feet alone - what if someone breaks an ankle, a bear eats you, you fall, and on and on. I'm comfortable with the risk and use common sense. I'd love to see your TR, please post when you get back! In addition to Emma, we have been several different places in the last 2 years and my girls are ALWAYS talking about going back into "the wilderness", and something about East Lake really left a mark on their memory. I love it.

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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Post by Tom_H » Wed Sep 09, 2015 9:04 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:Desolation-Echo Lake area- kids love the boat taxi and there are close lakes and good trail, but it does involve some uphill walking.
They normally open the dam gates after Labor Day, which makes the Interlaken stream unnavigable. They may or may not run the taxi to the upper end of Lower Echo. This means hiking the PTC alongside the lakes. It is true that Tamarack and Ralston are a short distance from the upper end of Upper Echo, but climbing the high rough steps in that blasted granite is miserable for adults, much less toddlers. I would not take a toddler up that trail.

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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Post by SSSdave » Wed Sep 09, 2015 11:05 am

Hi Wendy,

A couple places not far from the Carson Valley for a single overnight, thinking out of the box.,-119.82041&z=15&t=T

At Ebbetts Pass, hike north on the PCT 3/4 mile up an easy 150 feet to Sherrold Lake. Wander west off the trail to the west side of the lake. Also better isolation Dorothy is another easy 1/4 mile west through thin forest with fine views at sunset. Nice Sierra junipers in area and lots of wildflowers mid to late July. No fish and small safe shallow pond sized waters with frogs and birds so unlikely to have other campers.,-120.07640&z=15&t=T

A bit east of the Kirkwood at the Margaret Lake Trailhead. Late season after mosquitoes and swampy areas in meadow have dried. Hike 1/4 mile down 150 feet on trail to Caples Creek. Wander upstream on south side 1/8 mile to 7800 feet where the creek flows over smooth bedrock down a nice gentle cascade and primitive camp in forest at the base there. Nice views of nearby dome 7955. Lodgepole pine forest with small safe creek late season and unlikely to see others except maybe an exploring day hiker or fisherman.

David ... les-0.html

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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Post by ERIC » Thu Sep 17, 2015 6:48 pm

HiSierra wrote:Be patient, they grow up so fast.
Easier said than done. Mine are 2 and 4. In all other ways but this I want them to stop growing up so fast..
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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Post by NoBoHiker » Fri Sep 18, 2015 1:51 pm

I started taking my Kids backpacking when they were ~4 or yrs old, and slowly build up Mileage. My son has then been up Half Dome when he was 6 and we have been back to do the same trip again this year - he absolutely loves Backpacking now and we go on several trips each year.

The key items to turn kids into happy backpackers in my opinion are:

1) Moderate Mileage
2) Plan for plenty of stops and even if it is a detour, go see interesting stuff e.g. waterfall, arches
3) Plenty of play time - we play Pinecone Baseball :)
4) Bring food that is a winner, don't try new stuff

Also make sure your kid knows what to do in emergency situations, I keep asking "What would you do if you'd be alone now? "

Happy Trails,


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