I love a good long-distance hike. Whether it’s along the Way of St. James or along the Eagle Walk, it was always one of the most relaxing and memorable things to do for me on vacation. Being on the trail, reaching the destination… I walked over 3,000 kilometers during the last few years. And there’s plenty to come! But how about long-distance hiking with kids? Is it possible when you have children?
Last summer, I wanted to find out and hit the Lechweg (Lech River Trail), shouldering large loads and having recruited a friend who was willing (and extremely patient) to be a part of our trip. Let me go straight to the most important point: Yes, hiking with toddlers is possible! And yes, the week along the Lech River Trail with my boys (then 11 months and 2 years old) was a bit more work than hiking on my own – and not only physically challenging. As a passionate long-distance walker I’m used to carry my gear. However, in addition to the normal items I bring along on a hiking trip, there’s a lot of extra gear that goes along with kids: Diapers, food and snacks, extra clothes for the kids, and last but not least: the kids themselves! That’s what makes it important to pick the right path – do not only look for kid-friendly trails. Don’t let the trail ratings, which are usually based on the steepness and technical difficulty of the trail, be the end of your research. Also consider elevation gain and the width of the path. Considering all this and more, we eventually chose the Lech River Trail for these three reasons:
I usually don’t do a lot of planning when I go on vacation and it usually works out for me and my boys. This time was different. I should have booked accommodation for that week. This would have saved us from lugging a ton of equipment around the whole day, which can be draining. Plus, especially younger kids benefit from a base camp. In Holzgau, we finally booked an apartment at Ferienschlössl Harmonie (strongly recommended!) and staying more than one night at a place made life easier for the kids. The hiker’s shuttle bus took us to a new trailhead each morning and back to the hotel in the evening.
Walking was an enjoyable and relaxing experience for all of us – for my big one, the best part of being on the hike was the opportunity to romp about to his heart’s content (and to take a rest in the stroller afterwards). We soon learned to set aside plenty of time to stop (every ten meters or so) and toss pebbles into the water or build cairns. Recalibrating our expectations, we adults had a relaxing hike as we let the kids set the pace. We did not cover too much ground (it is definitely not possible to “log miles”). One thing is for sure when it comes to hiking with kids: Embrace the pace set by the littlest – and allow for many breaks along the way! For children, it’s the journey that’s important, not how long the journey is. Time is your friend – so plan for lots of it: We spent an hour watching a man tarring a back road. 20 meters later, we had to look closely to see some climbers scaling the rocky walls of Schrofenwies climbing terrain. And then it was time for an energy stop. (And that is how we spent a whole morning).
The trail is relatively flat and open, and the tread is soft and great for strollers – we had done our research before setting out and had selected hikes that weren’t too long or too strenuous. Only once we had misjudged the route and were happy and grateful when we arrived safe and sound back in the valley (Holzgau – Steeg). However, this stage is well worth the effort as it crosses a deep canyon on the swaying Holzgau Suspension Bridge. Without a stroller and with some sure footedness you will find it one of the most enjoyable walks along the Lech River Trail.
Some Final Thoughts: Hiking with kids is not only possible – it was great fun and extremely rewarding! I would take my children hiking again anytime – but with modified goals: At a more leisurely pace, without an effort to log miles and a little less ambitious.
My Tips & Tricks for Planning a Hike along the Lech River Trail with Kids