7 Fun Hiking Games to Keep Kids Engaged on the Trail

Keeping kids engaged on the hiking trail can be a challenging task. Check out these games for trail entertainment with junior hikers.

The idea of hiking with junior hikers is sometimes more fun than actually hiking with junior hikers. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy watching my kids take in the outside world and explore. Hiking is awesome and a great activity for them, but those longer hikes can become difficult when the moods swing.

With the help of my junior hikers, Sandy (11) and Killian (3), we’ve come up with some activities and games to play while hiking. Sandy is so creative, it’s great!

1. Pooh Sticks

This game came from a childhood show ‘Winnie the Pooh.’ Pooh Sticks is played on a bridge over flowing water. Each player finds a short stick and stands on the bridge facing the upriver side. On the count of three, each player drops their stick into the water. Then rushes over to the other side of the bridge to watch them pass under. The stick to reach the other side of the bridge first wins.

This is great fun and is a great way to encourage kids to keep going until the next bridge. That is, if your hike passes a bridge. Killian gets very excited when we find a bridge now, the best hikes are hikes over rivers.

Red Light/Green Light

This was Sandy’s doing, she actually thought of it to keep Killian from running ahead. She noticed me becoming frustrated when he was running too far ahead in an area known for bears. After getting his attention, she explained the game and they had a great time. Great big sister!

One person is the traffic light. They call out ‘green light’ for the hikers to go and ‘red light’ for hikers to stop. It’s a great game to keep junior hikers from going too far ahead in an area with large predators, snakes, rivers, or winding trail where they could wander out of sight.

Freeze Hike

Much like ‘Red Light, Green Light,’ this game is also a stop and go game. But when the caller yells, “Freeze,” the other hikers must hold perfectly still. It’s great fun to see the goofy positions the kids wind up in and see if they can hold it until the caller lets them go again. Take it a step further and move their limbs around while they are frozen!

Freeze hiking is a fun time but it’s also helpful in keeping kids close and teaching them to stop when you need them to.

Scavenger Hunt or Hiking Bingo

Scavenger hunts are awesome! It really gets the kids engaged in their environment and really looking at the habitat around them. They wind up finding things that they wouldn’t normally have noticed. It works for the adults too. When I’m helping my little hiker find things on his list, I find myself noticing more on his level rather than just seeing the big woods.

A great thing about a scavenger hunt is that it can be customized for seasons, events, and environments. So, if you’re going out on a scavenger hunt in the summer, add flowers and frogs. For fall, add different colored leaves and acorns.

I Spy

A classic game that can be played anywhere. Teaching kids how to articulate what they are seeing and an interesting way to see how they view the world. We have a running joke when we play this game, we come up with many different ways to describe a tree. It derived from the Disney movie Brother Bear. Two moose are playing I Spy while riding a mammoth and all they are seeing is trees. It’s pretty funny when they say, “I spy…. a vertical log?” That one always gets a chuckle, even they know it’s coming.


On trails that are relatively smooth, a good race can keep your little hiker on the move. Especially those compitetive kids, it can also teach good sportsmanship. We are working on that with our 3 year old right now. We follow each race, win or lose, with a “Good Game!” or “Good Race!” It’s a work in progress. Killian does like a good race and it will motivate him to get to the finish line, which might be the next bench or better yet, the next bridge for a game of Pooh Sticks.

We like to use incentives with our races too, sometimes a bridge but mostly food. We keep those snack at the ready and a race to the next bench is a good time to break out the trail snack for kids.

Color Hunt

Great for spring and fall, when the colors are blooming and changing. Just like the scavenger hunt, but with color in mind. So the object isn’t too specific, just the color of it. Perfect for those junior hikers learning their colors. This activity can help them discover all of the colors in their environment. This versatile activity can be played just about anywhere, not just on a hike.

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