Whether you’re new to hiking with your baby or toddler, or you’re looking for a new trail to explore, the Hike it Baby community is a valuable resource for finding family hiking trails around the country. In this article, we share three kid-friendly hikes in Texas to explore with babies and young children.
Hiking with young children (under 5 years old) is different from hiking with school-age children. These three hikes in Texas offer families of young children beautiful trails to explore while considering the unique ways young children hike, wander and doddle. While there are hundreds of trails to explore in Texas, our local Hike it Baby branches recommend these three hikes that are close to metro areas and beautiful to explore with young children.
Caprock Canyons Upper Trail (Caprock State Park, Quitaque, TX)
Throughout the park, there are around 25 miles of trails to explore. This area hosts free-roaming plains bison, which is always exciting for kids to see. Expect to see mesquite, cacti and junipers covering the landscape and also tall grass and cottonwoods. Look and you might find raccoon, white tailed deer, roadrunner, foxes and porcupine hiding in the grass.
The Upper Canyon Trail is a bit long and there are some challenging points where you will want to carry your toddler, but you can also really enjoy a section of this trail and just do an out and back, turning around when you feel you’ve had enough.The trail starts low in the canyon and you can really enjoy about a mile of mellow terrain through deep red earth before you start to climb. The climb isn’t steep, but it’s steady, so bring lots of water, snacks and consider hiking poles – especially if you’re carrying.
We loved this state park! The wildlife is what makes it extra special for the kids. There are bison throughout the park that free roam and quite often end up close to where you are. There are also a lot of groundhogs that are very visible and fun to watch. The views of the canyon as you drive into the park are beautiful, especially at sunset. The Little Red River camping area creek was by far the kids’ favorite part. They spent hours running up and down the creek as it was only about ankle deep and a sand-based surface. They dug holes, splashed, and climbed on rocks. It was safe for the kids and made watching them very relaxing, but be prepared for all of their clothes to be stained red from the sand and dirt. —Jennifer Campbell
- Park in the Little Red River Camping area. There’s an excellent unmarked toddler trail that starts at the end of the parking lot. You’ll walk right next to a campsite picnic table and see the trail.
- Make a weekend out of this and stay at the campground. There are easy-access trails next to the campground, and kids can play in the creek for hours.
- Another kid-friendly point of interest is the Eagle Point trail to the Natural Bridge. Your kids will enjoy rock scrambling to get under the bridge like a cave.
- The sun is hot here, so by mid-day, plan on being back at camp and play in the water. Your best bet for a visit is spring because it’s cool at night and not too hot in the day.
Summit Trail (Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Fredericksburg, TX)
From afar, Enchanted Rock is a giant pink granite rock that protrudes out of the landscape as if from nowhere. This 425 feet of rock spans 62 miles below the surface of the earth, so you are just seeing the tip of the mountain. Arrowheads dating back over 10,000 years ago have been found on the property and the local tribes of Tonkawa, Apache and Comanche Indians used the rock and surrounding areas for tribal traditions. What you’ll love about this short summit is that while it’s equivalent to hiking 40 floors of a building, you can see a different view of the surrounding area. As you travel up, you’ll notice different parts of the rock formation and how the landscape changes to pink. There are easy places to rest as you climb small rocks to sit on and have a picnic.
You’ll see the usual animals found in central Texas like rock and fox squirrels, as well as armadillos, rabbits and other small animals, and you’ll frequently see white-tailed deer grazing about. Look for lizards and vultures on and above the summit year-round. Note the trail, cave and rock conditions are inherently hazardous depending on the conditions, so hikers may encounter slippery surfaces, steep inclines, vertical drops and other hazardous conditions if weather comes in, so make sure you are aware of the latest forecast.
The view from the top of Enchanted Rock’s Summit Trails offers a 360 view of the beautiful Texas hill country. The rock attributed “enchantment” is derived from the thousands of years of human inhabitants. I love how rewarding it is to climb this trail, and it was amazing to us that our then 20-month-old daughter was able to climb it. There is never a point where the incline is too steep; it’s the perfect challenge for little ones as long as parents are closely spotting or holding their hands. —Lauren Yeldell
- Make sure you have plenty of water and snacks when you scale the dome or surrounding outcroppings.
- Wearing comfortable hiking shoes is also encouraged; this is not the place for flip flops or regular walking shoes.
- Due to exposure of the area and few trees, try to avoid the hottest or coldest days of the year. October and November are beautiful months to visit.
- And definitely don’t go when it’s raining or if there’s a high chance of rain.
Monahans Sandhills State Park (Monahans, TX)
With 4,000 acres of land, Monahans Sandhills State Park is a fun hidden gem in Texas that people might not think to visit for hiking; however, with little ones, this is a perfect landscape to play in because it’s a giant sandbox. This is not your typical hike, but more of an adventure. Because there are no official trails here, you could hike around and explore the dunes and base your distance on what your little hikers can do. The sand can be challenging, so this hike requires carriers for non-walkers or early walkers. Children can walk up the dunes but might need a hand here and there to get around.
Remember to bring sand toys (digging toys, buckets, sleds), but you can also rent sleds and other toys at the park headquarters if you forget. Kids will love experimenting with the sleds and seeing how high up on some of the dunes they can get. In the summer, you might catch a lightning storm in the distance, which, with very little pollution to interfere with the light from the lightning, you’ll be able to see well. What you will love about this spot is the great views from the tops of the dunes.
My younger child loved just sitting and playing in the sand. I was able to go up and down the dune with my other child while being able to still watch my younger child who was just playing in the sand. We figured out the best way to sled down, which seemed to be in more compact sand where we really smoothed it out by going down the same path over and over. We had tons of fun. —Jennifer Campbell
- If you visit in the summer and are coming from a distance, you can stay at hotels in Odessa or Midland because it can get really hot in this part of Texas in July and August.
- If you visit in spring, fall or summer, this hike is doable before the heat of the day. In winter, it would be best done in the middle of the day.
MORE RESOURCES FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN
Texas offers an abundance of trails for families with young children. For more family hike ideas, see:
- Hike it Baby calendar (or connect with local branches)
- Hike it Baby Family Trail Guide
- Texas state parks
- Hike it Baby: 100 Awesome Outdoor Adventures with Babies and Toddlers – New Book by Hike it Baby Founder Shanti Hodges
- 3 Great hikes for families with young children in Alabama
- 3 Amazing Tennessee trails for families with young children
- 3 Unforgettable hikes in Arkansas for families with kids
What are your favorite hikes in Texas for families with babies, toddlers and young children? Leave a comment below!