Spring and Summer Hiking

Hiking with kids in the desert during summer is quite different than in the winter, but still demanding! It’s hot and we’re close to the sun.

Sun Safety

Hydration and sun safety are my biggest focuses. There’s a balance between not overheating and staying safe from the sun, and it’ll take some trial and error. Lightweight, wicking clothing and breathable shoes are a priority over here. Last summer we all wore Keens which helped keep us cool. We’re going to try out Chacos this year too. Hats and sunglasses helped make hiking a little novel for my kids, and we all use zinc based sunscreens. Badger is my favorite. I’ve also made my own but it’s not always possible.


There are a few options for water. One is traditional water bottles. When my youngest still needed to be carried, I clipped my 32oz Hydroflask to my Kinderpack. Now she’s walking, so I can carry a daypack with water inside. I have a few daypacks (Cotopaxi, Gregory, REI) with special packs for hydration bladders. A friend has a super cool Camelbak fanny pack that has a pocket for a hydration bladder! I also picked up a filtration bottle to use on longer hikes, which we have used.

My kids wear Camelbak Scouts and carry their own water and snacks. Sometimes I don’t have my four year old wear anything extra to help conserve energy. On shorter hikes though, she enjoys it. They love the bladders that come with the backpack, though the little likes to bite through them. They’ve never consumed all of their water thankfully. I keep a 64oz stainless steel water bottle in the car filled with cold water for after hikes. We usually fill up everyone’s water bottle once we’re back in the car.


Honestly, hiking in the mountains during the spring and summer is a blast. The wildflowers are sprouting and growing tall (did you know Cow Parsnips can grow to 9 feet tall?) and we love working on plant identification. We play games where we find all the colors of the rainbow, the smallest and biggest flowers and leaves. I’d love to work on bird call identification together.

We love these identification guides for trees, wildflowers, animals, and birds. The kids love looking at them in the car while driving to the hikes as well as carrying them along while walking. We’ve collected several different sources over the years, from Amazon and National Park gift shops. I do prefer Utah-specific ones, as it helps narrow down the possibilities.


Fandex Field Guides

Pocket Naturalist Utah    (these are my favorites)

Mammals of the Rocky Mountains

Additionally, there’s a free app called Utah Wildflowers I downloaded this past month. Take note of the color, number of leaves, type of stem, and location of the flower and this app will help you identify it. It’s been so much fun for us.

What are your tips for spring and summer hiking? Favorite parts? Have fun out there!



Another Arches National Park Trip

We have a few years long tradition of doing a weekend trip for my husband’s birthday. January is a hard month and having something to look forward to after the holidays has been very good for my mental health. Two years ago I booked a cheap condo at Bear Lake, and it ended up being so cloudy we couldn’t see the turquoise! We also had to cut our trip short due to an incoming snowstorm.

Last year we splurged on a, AirBNB right outside of Zion National Park. The location was ideal, the casita was super cute, and the park was empty. Empty! However, it also snowed and rained the weekend we were there, while the week before had been in the 60s.

This year he requested Arches. We found an AirBNB that was nicer than the pictures indicated, and 15-20 mins from Arches’ visitors center. Moab is pretty empty in January as well and the park was pretty deserted. Part of this is due to the ridiculous government shut down, and part is due to the time of year. We’ve been to Arches a few times, but this was the first winter experience.

Day One

We stopped in the visitor’s center first to get some souvenirs, donate money, and chat with a ranger about conditions. My husband was most looking forward to hiking Delicate Arch, but the ranger advised against it due to ice. I have YakTrax but no one else has spikes, and the last little bit of that trail is a bit sketchy. I’m pretty risk averse these days so we chose some flat trails to experience. When our oldest was 18 months we hiked Delicate Arch with some family. I wasn’t into hiking at that point but have very fond memories of this one. My son was really fussy during the hike and so I waved the group on and sat on the side of the trail and nursed him. Then he fell asleep and I hiked with him strapped to my front the rest of the way. I got a lot of high fives and comments by people impressed by me, and I remember feeling proud of myself for figuring out how to make it to the arch with a baby.

After the visitor’s center, we went straight to the Landscape Arch trailhead. This way we got to drive through the entire main road and see quite a bit. We parked at the Devil’s Garden trailhead and got our warm clothes on. It was around 35 degrees and there was snow and ice on the ground. Baselayers, fleece, hats, and gloves helped a lot (check my post if you need help figuring out winter clothing! Adults too.). Two massive ravens were perched on the rooftop bikes next to us, getting ready for a good time.

We hiked this trail three years ago when our kids were 3 and a few months shy of a year. I did put the sis on my back for a bit as the trail was super icy in spots. Because it is mostly flat I wasn’t concerned for our safety, and the kids genuinely enjoyed sliding around. It took us about half an hour to reach the arch, and we enjoyed the sunshine and the views and the red rocks before heading back to the car. This hike is under 2 miles round trip. We called it a day here and picked up pizza on the way to the AirBNB.

Day Two

The next day we checked the weather and decided to leave that night instead of the following day as we had planned. A big snowstorm was headed through our route home this year again, and while we have snow tires, we didn’t want to be caught in a canyon with high winds and heavy snow. We reevaluated our ideas and decided to hike Park Avenue and then drive to the Delicate Arch viewpoint.

Park Avenue was so perfect for hiking with kids. Besides the descent into the canyon at the first of the trail, it is largely flat. While usually a pretty popular hike, we only saw two other humans. We walked along tall sandstone walls, admiring the way erosion has carved shapes from the canyon’s edges as well as the rock under our feet, and  seeing which small sandstone bowls were covered with ice. We had many opportunities to discuss staying on the trail, leaving no trace, and being so careful of the biological soil crusts. This hike is about 2 miles round trip and pretty easy.

Next we drove to the Delicate Arch viewpoints and had lunch in the car. After eating we hiked up to the upper viewpoint for a better look at the arch. We did see several people around the arch but felt confident in our decision to not go without spikes. This hike is short and somewhat steep, but our three year old had no problem. We took some pictures and then headed out of the park.

My favorite NP is Canyonlands, and my husband took us there as a last stop before heading home. Something about the salt edged lower canyons next to the river, the series of cliffs down to the valley floor fascinate me. I love it. We stopped at the Green River overlook for a few minutes and then called it a trip. Hopefully we can head back in less icy months to hike Delicate Arch.

Choosing Battles

So. I have a three year old. Have you met three year olds? They’re called threenagers for a reason. My daughter has a strong personality and deeply held opinions, like wearing dresses and jelly sandals every day. Even when we hike. Maybe especially when we hike, because she can tell it bugs me.

This is a battle I’ve chosen not to fight. In fact, I made her wear her hiking shoes this week, and she got blisters. She’s been fine hiking in her jellies up until now, so the joke is on me. She also loves her ratty “beautiful princess dresses”. I’m letting it go, because she hikes just fine in them. They get dirty which she doesn’t like, but that’s a natural consequence I suppose.

She’s hiked herself to waterfalls, overlooks, and lakes in her jellies and dresses. And that’s what we’re working toward anyway, to have her strong and happy enough to hike herself and not go uppies. To spend time together in the wild.

All this to say, it’s okay to choose your battles when hiking too. For many reasons we don’t do intricate or technical hikes, and this allows a lot more freedom in choice for each of us. They’re learning to love the outdoors and the mountains together, and that is my ultimate goal.

First Aid

As I’ve mentioned, I’m still a new hiker. I started just a few years ago with no childhood experience and am learning a lot every time. Sometimes it’s simple like “bring more snacks!” and sometimes it’s bigger.

Last week we went to Horseshoe Bend. It wasn’t geat for my anxiety-no rails and sheer cliffs with massive drops down to the river freak me out. My husband is a good sport and helped the kids experience the views while I focused on breathing. The “what ifs” flood my brain in situations like that.

A couple weeks ago, I was the only adult at our neighborhood park when a kindergartner fell off his scooter and sliced a big chunk off his chin. Blood was everywhere, he was panicking, and the other kids were in shock at the sight. Thankfully after some pediatric plastic surgery, he was fine, but I’ve been thinking about that since. What if a similar accident happened while the kids and I were hiking? We could trip over rocks or felled trees so easily. I don’t habitually hike with any first aid kid, though we have two in our car, and my first aid training is super out of date.

The anxious part of my brain tries to convince me that staying inside, avoiding adventures and risk, will keep us all safe. Logically, I know that’s not entirely true and that if I listened to my anxiety, it would be at a big risk to the rest of our brains.

That said, I’m more determined to keep my first aid kit on me while we are hiking, and to take a refresher first aid class and/or get a wilderness specific first aid book. Hopefully with some planning, we avoid anything catastrophic. If you have any course recommendations, let me know. REI offers some (pricey) classes sponsored by NOLS, the Red Cross also has some, as does Wilderness Medicine of Utah,and I’ve seen some books that may be interesting. If I find more info, I’ll update this post.

But What Do You Look Like?

In my posts, I talk a lot about gear. I’ve collected a decent amount (for me, at least), and have a system that works really well for me. It’s slightly embarrassing, but to get outside for a few hours with kids is a lot of work!

You’ve seen my post on clothing in winter, so start with that as a template. As a reminder, it’s baselayers, fleece, windbreaker, wool socks, a hat and good shoes. Then I put my 3 year old up in the carrier. We use the Kinderpack. Next is the fanny pack. I know, okay, but I need a way to carry my shit. Inside the fanny pack are snacks, my PStyle, keys, phone, kleenex, sometimes bug spray or sunscreen. Then I clip my water bottle to my carrier straps with a carabiner.

So with the above picture for reference:

1-hat from Little Canyon Outfitters

2-shell from Steep and Cheap

3-fleece over baselayer top

4-water bottle clipped to carrier with carabiner

5-doubled up baselayer tights

6-wool socks + hiking boots

7-fanny pack

My five year old has his own hydration backpack, which is stuffed with his own snacks. Lastly I’ll put on gloves.

Initially I felt ridiculous, but this set up is really comfortable and basically lets me carry everything I need and want. I’ve got water and snacks, my phone and keys, my baby.

Kids’ Winter Gear

I really believe that appropriate gear makes all the difference. Since we’re in winter, I’m going to start with cold weather gear.

4 year old in winter gear

Kid Winter Gear Basics


-Insulating layers

-Windproof/waterproof shell

-Wool socks




-Hydration pack


We have had fantastic results with Costco’s selection of baselayers, snowsuit and hat combos, and gloves for our kids. The brand of baselayers is 32 Degrees, and the snowsuit, hat, and gloves are Gerry. I’m not finding a specific website, but Amazon sells this brand.  We got four years out of one snowsuit between our two kids, and passed it to a friend because it has years left. I’ve tried an Old Navy bib and snow jacket on my oldest, but the bib had a hole in the knee in one winter of use. The Costco one held up much better.

My five year old loves his baselayers, by the way. Pro tip: put on baselayer bottoms, then put wool socks over the bottom of the pants, and then pull on the fleece or whatever type pants you’re putting on top. The socks keep the baselayers from rolling up.

We’ve loved these wool socks off Amazon, and have found snowboots second hand at Kid to Kid. I also like having fleece pants on hand to go on top of the baselayers. These have worked well, though they run small (especially if you cloth diaper!). I’ve used fleece pajamas as an alternative as well. Cutting off the feet can help the socks fit into boots.

My son has had this hydration pack for almost a year now. It holds enough snacks for him and his sister, and enough water. I love the whistle on the buckle (well, in theory) and the magnet that keeps the tube in place.

Hiking mama and kids (and fleece)

What am I missing? What are your favorites?