10 Tips for Making Snowshoeing FUN With Kids

We have good and bad days when we head out for a winter hike as a family. Fortunately, I’ve learned to predict what kind of outing we’re looking at, and I’ve figured out the key steps to planning a successful outing snowshoeing with children.

Below are my top ten tips for making snowshoeing FUN with kids. Each has been tried and tested with my family and friends on both day hikes and overnight trips.

winter hiking with kids: Woman and child standing in snow in front of mountain.

Try these ten tips when winter hiking or snowshoeing with kids. Photo: Tanya Koob

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1. Choose the Best Gear for Success

We tested a pair of MSR Shift snowshoes several years ago on my 8-year-old son. We found that he could run down steep trails without falling on his face, was comfortable hiking up a trail, and stayed dry without snow flicking up at his backside.

While you can certainly get out for an easy walk in any pair of department store snowshoes, your children will enjoy outings more if they are using suitable equipment. Make sure that your child’s snowshoes fit correctly before use. You may want to go for a short outing locally to test them out before heading on the trails.

Read More: Start ’em Young! Snowshoes for Kids Two to Teens

child running in snow

Kids can run down hills in a pair of good snowshoes, like MSR’s Shift snowshoes. Photo: Tayna Koob

2. Dress for Success

It won’t matter how durable your gear is if your children have frozen toes or hands. Nobody is happy if they are freezing and uncomfortable during winter hiking.

Below are a few of my personal favorites when it comes to keeping kids warm:

Stonz Winter Boots – These are the lightest winter boots I’ve found and are definitely warm enough in temperatures down to -20F (or colder) while hiking. Also, try their Scout Reflective for older children.

Ducks Day One-Piece Snowsuits – One-piece suits ensure snow stays away from your child’s skin. There’s no jacket/pant gap, meaning there’s no snow to get inside the child’s jacket when you shake a snowy tree on them, and there’s no snow to get inside their pants while making snow angels. My son’s s suit is fleece lined, and he’s never cold if we use good base/mid layers underneath.

Helly Hansen Base Layers for Kids – My son wore the Helly Hansen Warm Set over the years and was toasty warm on our outings. We also like Ella’s Wool for mid-layering in cozy warm wool pants.

Stonz Mittz – Most children hate getting snow inside their mittens, and parents hate it when gloves or mitts fall off on the trail. Avoid this with a pair of over-the-jacket mitts that pull tight at both the elbow and the wrist to ensure that snow stays out and the mitts stay on. We’ve had great success with Stonz Wear and swear by their boots and mitts.

Read More: Snowshoeing Dress Code: Tips for What Clothing To Wear

winter hiking with kids: mom and son on snow with arms raised and mountain in the background

Dressing for success with layers will help everyone be happier on the trail. Photo: Tanya Koob

3. The Early Bird Gets the Worm

Don’t start your hike late in the afternoon when you’re rushing to reach your destination to get back to your vehicle by dark. I’ve done this (recently, I’m ashamed to say), and it’s not a lot of fun.

Instead, get an early start and ensure you’ll have time to enjoy your hike. Allow time for many breaks for photos and time to play at your destination (and on the journey itself). Add in wiggle room if possible if the hike takes longer than expected.

Read More: Winter Photography Tips for Snowshoers

Adult and child snowshoeing with mountains in background

Get an early start so you don’t have to outrun the darkness. Photo: Tanya Koob.

4. Weather Matters

You know the saying: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing?” Well, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt when planning a winter hike with kids. While yes, you could go for a hike at -20° F. Though, it might not be the smartest move, especially if heading out for more than an hour or traveling with beginner hikers (including children.)

Instead, choose a mild day for an easy, fun outing. Save the arctic days for your solo adventures when the kids are with the grandparents. I’ve also found that most people (children included) will have more fun hiking in winter if they can see something. Unfortunately, heading out in a snowstorm may not give many viewing opportunities. So, save the big hikes for those bluebird days when you’ll be in awe of the mountains or scenery around you.

Read More: Top 10 Snowshoe Tips for First Timers

woman standing in snow with mountain in background

Save the arctic weather trips for the solo days without kids. Photo: Tanya Koob

5. Choose an Appropriate Trail

Hiking uphill with snowshoes can be challenging for many of us, but it is especially hard for kids.

Instead, choose flatter trails when possible or bring a sled for the way down as an incentive (read: bribe.) “If you make it up to the lake, we’ll pull you down with the sled….”

Read More: Snowshoeing Techniques for the Beginner

child snowshoeing across Emerald Lake BC

The lakes are nice and flat for easy hiking!  Photo: Tanya Koob

6. Choose an Appropriate Distance

Take the distance your child could hike in summer. Then, cut that distance in half. That’s the distance you want to focus on for snowshoeing or winter hiking with your kids.

I’m not sure if it’s the extra weight of the snowshoes, the extra effort required to walk in them, or the fact that your body is working hard to stay warm, but whatever the reason, snowshoeing is hard work, and kids will tire quickly. (So will adults, for that matter!)

Read More: Tips To Take Your Friends Snowshoeing (Really, They’ll Love It)

hiking with kids: adult and child laying in snow making snow angels

Choose a short hike and spend more time making snow angels. Photo: Tanya Koob

7. Focus on PLAY

Adults and kids can have different mindsets about hiking. For example, at one time, we did two big hikes with snowshoes in one month and had a similar experience both times.

We, the adults, had the destination in mind. My son, however, was all about the journey and having a good time. First, he wanted to shake every tree we passed under, causing tree-a-lanches every five feet. Then, he wanted to stop, make snow angels, and jump off every stump or rock he could find into waist-deep powder. My son wanted to PLAY. He wasn’t as interested in the actual destination at all.

On our most successful winter hikes or outings, we’ve made snow caves, climbed around on frozen waterfalls, played games of tag, enjoyed backcountry sledding, made snowmen and snow angels, had snowball fights, and spent tons of time jumping into deep mounds of powder.

Read More: 5 Things To Do With Snowshoes That Aren’t (Exactly) Snowshoeing

Child leaning on pile of snow.

Snowshoeing should be FUN! Photo: Tanya Koob.

Ideas for Play

When going for a winter hike with kids, choose trails with something FUN to see. Kids love frozen waterfalls and icy canyons, for example.

Make sure the best part of the trip, the descent, is fun. Kids love running down hills. Ensure they can run in their snowshoes or take them off if the trail is packed. Also, bring a sled for ultimate fun.

Bring friends. Kids love running down the trail with other children.

Look for trails that will have lots of fresh powder to play in. There’s nothing fun about trudging along a packed path where you may not need snowshoes.

Read More: The Myth That Snowshoeing Is Boring (and How To Avoid It)

hiking with kids: child sitting in snow pile.

Lots of powder to play in makes for a fun hiking outing with kids. Photo: Tanya Koob.

8. Stay Where You Want To Play

Most of our best winter hikes with our kids happened when we’ve chosen to spend the night near the trails we wanted to explore. For example, at Emerald Lake Lodge in Canada’s Yoho National Park, we literally hiked out the door of our cabin, toured the beautiful lake on our snowshoes, hiked up to a set of frozen waterfalls, and even got some skiing in the next day.

On other trips, we’ve snowshoed into backcountry cabins, where we built giant snow fortresses, made intense luge tracks for our sleds, and spent hours playing in the snow right outside our cabin door.

Read More: Easy Ways to Stay Overnight in the Backcountry in the Canadian Rockies

hiking with kids: adult and child standing on snow-covered bridge

This snowy bridge was a 5-minute walk from our cabin. Photo: Tanya Koob.

9. Candy and Snacks

This will be the shortest paragraph in this story. Bring candy. Hand it out often. And if you don’t understand the importance of this one, you haven’t hiked with children yet.

Read More: Snowshoeing Snacks and Nutrition Tips for Your Next Outing

Snow with path and mountains in background.

Breaking trails is hard work. Bring candy. Photo: Tanya Koob.

10. Don’t Forget the Après-Snowshoe

Sometimes motivating kids to go on a winter hike can be as simple as, “If you make it all the way to the lake and back, we’ll go out after for hot chocolate.”

For example, we spent a day snowshoeing at a mountain lodge and then headed to the resort lounge after. We each ordered a drink (Irish coffee for me), my son got a custom-made apple cider, and we played a board game we’d brought with us. It was paradise! (Did I mention that we were sitting in front of a warm fireplace?)

Many resorts have common areas with fireplaces, lounges, or cafes where visitors can hang out and warm up. We look for these places when we plan our hike. For me, the après-snowshoe experience is just as important as the hike itself.

Read More: Drinks for the Après Snowshoe Experience

Man and child sitting in front of fire place.

Perfecting our apres-snowshoe. Photo: Tanya Koob.

So try these tips the next time you’re snowshoeing or winter hiking with kids!

This article was first published on January 31, 2017, and was most recently updated on March 16, 2023. The author was given gear and clothing to test from companies mentioned in this story. A Canadian company, Altitude Sports, provided the Helly Hansen long underwear, and the Canadian company, All Out Kids Gear, provided the MSR snowshoes. All opinions are the author’s own, and the companies have not sponsored or paid for this post.

Read Next: How To Plan a Snowshoe or Hiking Outing With Kids

About the author

Tanya Koob

I am the mom of an active teenage boy and I live in Calgary, Canada at the doorstep to the fabulous Rocky Mountains. Our family makes it a priority to get out to the mountains most weekends for big adventures from hiking, camping, biking, and paddling in summer to skiing and snowshoeing in winter. I am the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, http://www.rockiesfamilyadventures.com/

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