Truly, teens can be the most challenging of trail companions. They’re too young (in most circumstances) to hike on their own and they’re reluctant to hang with their parents, even surrounded by stunning wonders of nature.
And oh the attitude!
I’ve taken groups of teens on hikes and am the father of one teenaged hiker and one who recently aged into young adulthood. (Do you think my son and daughter are more or less thrilled about going on a hike just because dad’s The Trailmaster?)
Nevertheless, when you finally get them to the trailhead, many teens find they do love to hike. They’ll thank you for taking them one day. Really.
The Trailmaster’s Ten Tips for Hiking with Teens
• Be aware that teens are prone to BAS (Bad Attitude Syndrome). More than any other age group, they’re apt to be lazy, sullen, grouchy or downright mean on the trail.
• Teens are human, too (really) and there’s nothing like a hike to diminish BAS. In their own way, and in their own time, this age group does find joy in hiking.
• Let ‘em wear cool clothes. Provided teens dress in layers with the proper kinds of apparel, let them have input about colors and styles.
• Involve them in the trip-planning and they’ll be happier hikers. Let them have some input about the hike’s distance and destination, about where to stop for a dinner on the drive home.
• Choose hiking activities with some excitement. A swimming hole is a more appealing destination than a historic grist mill.
• Two is not necessarily better than one. Forget parent-teen quality time if you subscribe to the “They’ll entertain each other” theory (effective with younger children) and let your teen bring another on your family hike. (However, once your teen is dialed into hiking, a good friend with an adventurous spirit could be welcome addition.)
• Challenge them. Adults are often more surprised than the teens themselves at the mountains they can climb and the distance they can cover in a day.
• They need to be walked not wired. Under no circumstances permit them to bring any audio/video/cellular device on the trail.
• A little separation at carefully selected times/places is okay. Let them hike a little ahead of the adults—provided there’s a well understood agreement to meet at a particular time or place.
• Encourage them to wear their hiking backpacks correctly (which they probably don’t do with their school backpacks). Insist they adjust the shoulder straps and fasten the hip band.