I absolutely love taking my kids hiking. It combines my two favorite activities: being with my family, and being outdoors. It also gets them off the couch and away from digital screens, an added bonus. Since I'm usually either on a hike or planning my next one, I'm constantly on the lookout for a new spot they can explore. Luckily, in Colorado where we live there is no shortage of opportunity, if you're willing to get there early. A perfect day of hiking with my kids would combine something moderately challenging with multiple rewards along the way. Any hike with good views, streams, waterfalls, or lakes scattered over a few miles is the perfect thing to keep them going. When it’s just me, planning is easy. I know what I’m getting myself in to, and how to plan for the usual emergencies that hikers plan for. I carry first aid, extra water, wear the right layers, and I know what I should do if I run into a bear, get hurt, or get lost. With kids it’s a little more complicated. Sure the route isn't as dangerous, but they’ll invent brand new kinds of problems that are harder to predict. Like wet base layers after their coat gets stuffed full of as much snow as a younger sister can carry. Or lips stuck to ice-sickles. Or taking off their shoes and falling into a creek “on accident.” It’s always a good idea to have extra of things - like wool socks - because no matter how often I remind them not to step in water deeper than their boots they still will, and I’ve learned that for three kids under the age of 10 I really can't carry too much toilette paper. We usually take a couple hours longer than whatever the trail guide says because we'll have to check out every stream, downed tree, and rabbit trail we see along the way. We’ll stop for snacks way more often than I usually would, I lose track of how many times I hear myself say “we just had snacks, let’s go a little bit further first” (cheese crackers are always a trail favorite). Rock collecting is an important part of any good hike too. At home we have a whole tackle box full of rocks that were meticulously hand collected. Most might look to the untrained, adult eye like every other rock on the planet, but take my word for it, they aren't. In his book Closer to the Ground, Dylan Tomine wrote the path is the goal. I couldn't agree more, and out here that sentiment is illustrated literally. I don’t mind if we don’t make it all the way to whatever destination lies at the end of the trail, that isn't the point. The important thing is that we’re out there together, building the memories they'll hopefully hold on to for a long time, and learning to associate being outdoors with having fun. There will be time for longer hikes and summits later, but for now all I’m shooting for is the moment I tuck them into bed after a good day of hiking and they whisper “Dad, when can we go on another adventure?” Soon I tell them, I'm already planning the next one.