We're currently planning a tour in the alps. Nothing too big. Just going uphill with the cable-way and then doing 15 km on top. This is because we've a 2 year and a 5 year old girl with us. We can carry the little girl easily around so that she shouldn't be a problem. We are not sure however about the bigger one. At home she does 8, even 9 km with ease. But that happens in a non-alpine terrain and, well, there are still 6 km left.

How to know in general whether a kid is capable of walking the striven distance?

  • 1
    I don't have an answer, just anecdote, but I'd suggest that if she hasn't done a 15 at lower altitude then this may be a struggle. Plan for many stops, and taking a lot longer than you expect!
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 7:24
  • 15 km is long for most of my non-hiking friends. Make sure you plan an exit strategy if you need to shorten the trip.
    – njzk2
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 4:07
  • 1
    I did a 4 km with my 4 yr old over the weekend. She rode in a sled the whole time, and slept on the hike out. The best way to motivate your kids to hike I've discovered, is to invite friends to come along, the kids play on the trail together and have fun running and exploring ahead. You have to play to move at their pace too, unless you carry the both of them in backpacks.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 15:53
  • A friend of mine takes his 6 year old boy with him on hikes that long on level ground. He ends up carrying him part of the way...
    – bobbym
    Commented Mar 11, 2017 at 19:53
  • At 5 my kid handled a 5 mile day, sandwiched between 3 mile days.
    – Eric
    Commented Jun 12, 2018 at 17:04

4 Answers 4


15 km (9.3 miles) is really long for the average 5 year old, especially when it's 65% longer and at higher altitude than what she's used to. This sounds like a bad idea to me.

You say you can carry the 2 year old "easily", but you need to think about that carefully too. 2 years old is about the limit for one of those baby-backpacks. You may be fine carrying her on your back for the full distance, but she may not be fine with being stuck in the backpack for that long.

You'll have to stop frequently, which makes the whole trek take longer. What may normally be a 4 hour hike for you could easily turn into a 6 to 8 hour ordeal for the kids.

Even if the kids get thru it OK, they won't have fun. At best, you'll be teaching them that hiking, especially hiking with you, is a chore, not a adventure or something fun.

Find something simpler and more fun for the kids to do than a long trek. You can bump around and take some short trails when you get to the top. Leave yourself lots of options. Watch the weather and the attitude of the kids carefully and adjust what you do on the fly accordingly. Kids can be fine for a while, then hit their limits quickly. Everything after that will be unpleasant for them and you. Always have a quick escape option. Don't commit to something that takes hours to get back from.


If she is easily doing 10 km now, then a one shot of 15 km isn't unreasonable.

Yes it will be a challenge. You may have some tears toward the end.

Tips: Assuming typical alpine country, -- lots of small scree, moss tufts, but not overall very steep.

  1. It's still not a sidewalk or park trail. Allow 20% slower speed.
  2. Allow half speed for the last 6 km.
  3. Carry gear for the worst seasonable weather. Alpine weather can be capricious. At all times you should have an alternative in mind for complete loss of visiblity (rain or snow) or thunderstorms. (You don't really want to be on a ridge when lightning is crashing around you.
  4. 15 minutes in, stop for clothing adjustment. Many people overdress for the start, and overheat, leading to dehydration. Little people don't adjust automatically. Put your hand under their clothing to check for sweat. Add a layer when stopping for more than a couple minutes, and give them a chance to remove it a few minutes after going again.
  5. First rest stop do a foot check for forming blisters. Do another check in early to mid afternoon.

  6. Stop and feed every couple of hours. This is the biggest factor in getting little people to cover ground -- they burn off energy and need refueling much more frequently than an adult.

  7. At high elevation you dehydrate faster. Be sure you have enough fluids to cope. This affects little people faster than adults. Water, juice, whatever.

  8. Dress the kids in bright colours. If you have any areas of rocks larger than a toddler, they can vanish.

  9. There is merit in a harness and leash for toddlers. This is much better than holding their hand over their head for hours. A leash allows them to stoop, and pick up a pretty rock, look at a flower etc, and also prevent them from wandering over a cliff.

  10. If you have doubts, do a practice walk of this length or a bit longer in a situation where you can quit, and grab a bus or taxi. A practice run can also teach the kids the routine -- clothing adjustment, foot checks, eat, drink.

  • 1
    +1 mostly for the 'do a practice walk of this length of longer.'
    – Willeke
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 17:51

I agree with Olin Lathrop, that distance seems too long.

In my experience, a base number for children is appx 0.5 mile per age in years, up to around 10 years old. After that, figure about 1 mile per age in years.

That's roughly 1km per year, up to 10. Maybe 2km per year after 10. Hoping someone can come up with easier to remember numbers than mine, my metric is not very good, sorry. :-(

So a 5 year old should do no more than 2.5 miles. Can they do more? Sure, absolutely, if they hike often, play sports, and otherwise are active. Less if they are couch potatoes. Will they want to stop often? Yep. It's just a baseline.

Consider the climate, weather, your activities, their equipment, their dress, their experience, bringing (their) friends, meals/snacks, terrain, and sights along the way. For a 5 year old, don't just plan on many stops, but do plan to do things that are fun.

When you factor in terrain, poor weather, higher or lower than comfortable temperatures, higher elevations, you might want to move that .5 to about .3 for mildly uncomfortable effects, and a .2 for moderately uncomfortable effects. So, a steep climb, move it to a .4. Very hot out (or cold)? Another notch to .3.

I think the "messier" the trail - rocks, puddles, streams, etc - will make the trek take longer, and maybe less desirable for the adults - but definitely more fun for the kids.


Depending on your fitness, and the size of your child, you can carry your child into their 4th year, but by that time you're typically having to worry about camping supplies also. I'm in the middle of trying to plan for my 4.5 YO and I wanted to pack into a lake at 6.5 miles (10.5 Km), over elevation that was fairly gradual, but I don't think this will work for her. Comparatively, my oldest daughter, when she was 4.5, could easily hike over 10 miles (16 Km) in a day.

In truth, I can carry the 4.5 YO, but I can't carry her AND camping supplies. I may just choose to go tot he high-mountain lake with her, and fish... although that would mean a 13 mile hiking day for me... with a not-so-light pack :-(

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