Hiking with kids is an adventure.  Sometimes a fulfilling success, sometimes a complete failure.  Kids are volatile and make everything more difficult, but they share with us the purest joy in discovering the natural world.  Hiking is an ingrained part of my family and what we love to do.  We hike very often and most of the time our hikes are wonderful family experiences.  Those hikes are the ones I always share with friends and family and online – the ones where everyone goes in and comes out with a big smile.  I don’t (and I think we don’t as a hiking community) share our hiking failures often enough.  Anyone who hikes often has them, but those pictures of tear-streaked toddlers, large “trail closed” signs, or miles spent wallowing in self-doubt and frustration never get shared.

Bad Days

The bad days are tremendously hard to move past sometimes.  The hikes where we plan the whole trip, but are so overwhelmed that we can’t even get past the snack-making and stuff-packing stage and we never make it out of the house.  The hikes where we have a parental failure and don’t properly research the hike and we drive 1.5 hours and reach the trail and the road is completely snowed in and the trail closed.

family hiking

Getting Lost

The hikes where we set off full of pomp and promise and our kids whine, scream, or cry the whole time.  The hikes where we are somewhere new and with three intelligent, experienced hikers, we still somehow manage to get lost at the absolute furthest point in the hike miles from the car and experience the panic of unpreparedness.


The hikes where the trail gets way too steep to safely be wearing the hiking backpack and the destination ends up being many more miles away than the guide noted so you have to turn around early.  It starts snowing on you out of nowhere, and your kid is not wearing warm enough boots and cries the whole way back that her feet are cold, so you feel like the worst parent in the world.

These are a few of my hiking failures.  And that doesn’t even count the mundane forest temper tantrums, running out of snacks (how do they eat soooo much once we hit the trails), some slightly graphic diaper incidents, scrapes and bruises, fumbling through feeding and napping, and solving the toddler problem of the moment without access to the amenities of home.  Every hiking family has unsuccessful hikes and sometimes they are hard to overcome.

Embrace the Bad Moments

After a particularly bad string of hikes where we couldn’t seem to get it together, I did a bit of contemplation on how to move forward and get back to the trails. I think the best way to cope and not let the bad moments linger is to embrace them and be proud of them.  And maybe even to share them more often.  No matter what caused the hike to be unsuccessful, you tried to get out there and give your child a positive experience.  Learn from your mistakes.  Or don’t and just accept that mistakes happen, sometimes you must write it off and take the lows with the highs and come back next time just as enthusiastic about the adventure.

I think getting started is sometimes the hardest step, whether it is your first hike or hundredth hike, getting out the door and onto the trail can be more challenging than any steps you take on the trail.  Maybe every once in awhile we should all share out #hikingfailures in solidarity with all those sitting home wondering if they should try again?

Yes, the trail has become a river and yes my toddler is screaming in this picture.  #hikingfailure

2 thoughts on “Hiking Failures

  • Avatar
    Marianne Leclair

    I loved this article. I think it is everyone’s reality with failed attempts, but we can’t let them stop us from trying again!! I remember one day on our trip we tried to get our toddler out on the trail and he had a tantrum and wouldn’t walk. I ended up staying in the car with him and having snacks while everyone else went to see a beautiful waterfall. The next day it snowed and I thought we were doomed. But we found a great trail, had an awesome snowball fight and he ran most of the way!! Just never know what’s in store. Can’t let a few bad days get in the way of the good.

    • Avatar
      Kirby Crawford

      Thanks for the comment!! It’s my first post and so good to hear that someone enjoyed reading it. I absolutely agree. There are going to be bad days no matter what if you hike enough and you really can’t let those get you down. I had a hard time coming to terms with this for awhile. Now I enjoy looking back at the failures because even those have some good memories and they spurred us to try again and keep enjoying the adventure.


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