What to Bring While Hiking with Kids in Asheville, NC
Family Friendly,  The Great Outdoors

What to Bring When Hiking in Asheville with Kids

Asheville is filled with some amazing locations for family-friendly walks and hikes. Just walking in nature for 5 minutes is known to improve your mood, self-esteem, and tension, which is why this is one of my favorite activities to do with my children. 

I have been hiking with them since they were six months old and two and a half. A “free” activity that can wear them out, cater to their sense of wonder, and is enjoyable for parents too? Total win in my book! 

If you’re looking to go hiking in Asheville with your little ones, here are a few of my favorite must-haves for a happy, safe, stress-free time with your kiddos. 

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What to Bring When Hiking in Asheville with Kids

Depending on the age of your children, your gear needs will vary. The weather in Asheville is known to vary greatly depending on the altitude as well, so for myself, I like to have extras in my car – because nothing will ruin my good time like mom guilt that I forgot to bring a hat or a jacket. 

So take my advice and throw some in your car in case someone gets wet, or it’s much windier than anticipated. Also wipes, I don’t care how old your kid is, they’re getting sticky somehow.  

Baby Carrier

Must Haves when Hiking in Asheville with Kids: Carriers

If you have a kid under 3 – even if they protest and fight you and are as strong-willed as they come – I cannot express the importance of a good carrier. While your toddler may do great around a leveled neighborhood or playground, the uneven terrain and elevation gains of more rugged Asheville area trails is something that will quickly tire them out, which leads to whining. 

We don’t want anyone to be uncomfortable or overly tired on our hike, no matter how long or short it is. There are basically two options when it comes to baby/toddler carriers. The everyday wearing or the backpacking long haul ones. 

I have never had the luxury of the latter but have seen many and have asked parents about them on the trail. We have a lot of great stores in the area to try out what will work best for you and your family. 

For an everyday wear type, The Littlest Birds, located at the Asheville Mall, has been the premier baby wearing depo since 2007. They even offer classes about wearing them and a lending library for you to test drive them. 

If you’re looking to really bring some big guns to the trail, REI has the carrier backpack types with all the popular brands like Kelty, Osprey, and Deuter. While these are definitely worth their weight (literally, they are quite heavy) for long or thru-hikes with their features like a sunshade, it does limit what other gear you can carry on your back. 


Comfortable Shoes

Essentials when Hiking in Asheville with Kids: Shoes

Now depending on where you’re hiking, this need can vary. Personally, I like multi-functional shoes. To me, that essentially means I know my kids are going to immediately get into any water they see, and I need a shoe that reacts well to that. 

Now, I have one daughter that has hiked Black Balsam Knob in pink Trolls Crocs, but I wouldn’t call that ideal. I also think shoes with good traction are something imperative to make the list. 

When looking for the brands that always outperform expectations, Merrell, KEEN, and Chacos are my holy trinity. My husband and I both wear Merrells and Chacos, with zero complaints over years of beating them to hell. Tops for Shoes in downtown Asheville is a great place to buy these name brands if you want to buy new.

The Mast General Store downtown always has their water shoes on sale in the winter. I have a good friend that asks family members to give her sons gift cards for Christmas, when she fills up on quality shoes for forest school – brilliant! 

If you’re worried about the high price point, or your kid outgrowing them too quickly, Second Gear is an outdoor consignment store in the River Arts District. I have gotten my kids, and myself, some really high-quality brands here for an unbeatable price.


Backpack

What to Bring when Hiking in Asheville with Kids: Backpack

Now this one is technically more for the grownups. But from my experience, I can safely say it’s mostly to carry all of your kids’ stuff. Although nature is the greatest teacher, and we can get tons of joy from stacking rocks and finding walking sticks, my kids always insist on bringing at least two toys wherever they go, which, inevitably, I end up carrying. 

A good backpack is worth the investment and will last for years. Depending on what you need, there are a few various features to be aware of. Waterproof bags from Watershed, a local brand, are super high quality and will stay waterproof when fully submerged. 

Black Diamond and Osprey make some really great bag options for all price ranges and bells and whistles you may need. I like a bag with straps secured to the bottom for being able to hold a sleeping bag, tent, or chair when we have to hike in a bit to go camping. 

Black Dome Mountain Sports, located on Tunnel Road, is definitely the place to check out backpacks, as well as any outdoor sports needs. The shop is locally owned and even has a cozy bar area that features a TV just showing outdoor-themed action movies. It’s uniquely Asheville and a great place to check out on a rainy day! 


Water Bottle 

Must Haves when Hiking in Asheville with Kids:Water bottle

This one may be a no-brainer. But it’s still important! If your kid insists on carrying their own water bottle on hikes, make sure you stay away from the heavier bottles, like glass or steel, and just go with a Nalgene. 

Available virtually everywhere, I usually try to find a cute woodsy-themed one when I stop into the Mast General Store. Otherwise, grab them some of the stickers they carry – salamanders, mountains, or bears – and let them tag up their water bottle. 

I would advise against letting these bottles just roam around the bottom of a bag unless you screw the top on super tight… ask me how I know. But their lightweight and surprising durability makes them worth it. Pack a few carabiners to hook them onto your bag if you’re little one isn’t carrying their own. 


Something to Sit On

Essentials when Hiking in Asheville with Kids: Something to sit on

Oddly specific, but it’ll add to your and their comfort level tenfold, especially if you are eating. If you have already scoped the area you’re hiking and know there are lots of trees, then my number one choice would be an ENO

Basically the unofficial flag of Asheville, ENO hammocks are easy to spot, user-friendly, and don’t take up much space. The Asheville-based brand is eco- and tree-friendly and has lots of super fun prints that kids love. I have an insect one and a Grateful Dead one that they both fight over. 

As long as there are trees, you’re off the ground, dry, and comfy. I have also loved using my ENO to gently rock my little one to sleep after being outside all day, while my husband and older daughter fished and played in the stream. 

ENO also makes some backpack-friendly chairs that fold down and are a great addition to a camping setup. While a blanket or tapestry works great, a company that really knocks it out of the park is Tarpestry

A North Carolina-based brand, music festivalgoers turned parents created an aesthetically pleasing picnic blanket-tarp hybrid that can take a beating. A water-resistant, UV-repellent fabric, Tarpestry is great to lay out after a long hike and much-deserved snack break. Plus, it can handle your kids’ muddy shoes or spilled water. 


Snacks

What to Bring when Hiking in Asheville with Kids: Snacks

The end all be all every parent needs in their bag – snacks. 

I am happy to live in an area that offers such a wide variety of local snacks to choose from that are kid-approved. Hickory Nut Gap farm in Fairview produces 100% grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork, and man, their jerky gets the job done. It’s easy to find at any nearby grocery store, filling, and simple. 

Munki granola is a local plant-based snack company that offers niche items, like trail mix made with local beer. But for kids, I like their “sweet beets.” They are refined sugar-free and filled with antioxidant-packed fruits. 

Asheville Pretzel Company is another win with my kids. The cinnamon sugar pretzels are a yummy little treat. But, if we plan on having a proper picnic, I will throw some hummus in with the pretzels for a great combination. 

Last but not least, the farmers’ markets. Asheville and its surrounding areas are home to a plethora of farmers’ markets stocked with local, organic fresh veggies, produce, cheese, pastries, and more. With just a little bit of planning, this option always makes hikes feel a bit more like home and special. 

If you want to be super extra, which I have been known to be from time to time. Grab a Pocket Rocket or Jetboil (aka a handheld cooking system that runs on isobutane and is perfect for backpacking), and do yourself a favor and get fresh pasta at the Asheville City Farmers Market from none other than Rio Bertolini’s. 

We often will bring extra water, noodles, and our Pocket Rocket and go on a nice creekside hike – while the kids play, we make pasta for all! It’s definitely not a necessity but it’s a fun and special option. 


Plenty of Patience

Must Haves when Hiking in Asheville with Kids: Attitude

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker, more of a steady meanderer, or totally inexperienced, attitude is key when hiking with young ones. They have little legs, tummies, and emotional regulation. So they get tired, hot, and hungry much faster than mom and dad and often have a hard time dealing with that. 

It is hard to remember this at times. After all, you’re not even at the summit yet and you want to get there! Or they just had a snack five minutes ago; they don’t need another one right now. Slow down and remember to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. Even if it’s one of those days where you can’t even make it to the destination and have to head back home halfway. 

A positive attitude will save your sanity more times than not. Start small, start easy. I wouldn’t suggest taking your kids on a 4-mile trail for their first hike. Apps like AllTrails can give you a good indication (although if it says moderate, I would be leery) of whether or not a trail is an option for little ones. 

If you’re looking for fun and easy family-friendly hikes around Asheville, the NC Arboretum, Biltmore, Cradle of Forestry, and Craggy Gardens are worth looking into on your first hike with your kids. Be prepared, bring snacks, water, comfy shoes, and most importantly, have fun! 

There you have it. Everything you need to bring when hiking with kids in Asheville. Do you have something you want to add to this list? Let us know in the comments! 


Ashley Reid is a freelance writer who feels blessed to have called Asheville home for the last five years. Born in the suburbs of Detroit, she spent her 20s living coastal in South Carolina before the Blue Ridge Mountains called her home. Ashley is a homeschooling mother to her two daughters, married to her high school sweetheart, and always looking to the horizon for her next adventure. Ashley moved to Western North Carolina after years of visiting on vacations and realized this place was way too beautiful to leave behind. The Pisgah National Forest, abundance of waterfalls, Blue Ridge Parkway, and plethora of tasty eats in the area won her over to the Tarheel State. She is happiest when she is riverside and is vehement about keeping herself and her children outdoors as much as possible. Ashley is a woman never short of a hobby or new interest. She writes for various publications and companies. She is a voracious reader, aspiring author, sewist, gardener, and amateur homesteader. She loves working with her hands and being with her kids. She has never considered being called weird an insult and has no problem telling strangers about her love of opossums or a new podcast episode. Ashley is always on the hunt for the best burger and coffee in town. She is passionate about wellness, kindness, and keeping childhood wild.

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