Hiking is a great way to spend quality time with family while also getting out for fresh air and exercise. But let’s be real, even the most picturesque trail can get a bit boring after a while! …. especially for kids that may not have wanted to head out in the first place.
So, that’s why you should have some trail games ready to “pull out” when the whining or feet dragging starts.
These fun trail activities are a great way to keep everyone entertained, engaged, motivated and moving while out hiking with kids or just going for an afternoon walk around town.
To get started, here are our favourite top 10 walking activities (with many more hiking games below)
- Singing songs
- Pointing out interesting nature finds along the trail as we walk
- Doing a scavenger hunt as we hike
- Playing the placename alphabet game
- “I spy”
- Word associations
- 20 questions
- Name that animal / plant
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Below you’ll find many more trail games and walking activity ideas. I’ve tried to group them into similar categories, but you might want to scroll all the way through to make sure you don’t miss any gems!
Getting kids outside (and even motivating ourselves) can be a challenge sometimes. These games and activities might help. Another great tip is to invite along friends and then play these games… even more fun!
The Classic Trail Games and Walking Activities
You’ll probably know many of these games if you grew up going to summer camp or participating in Scouts or Guides. But, hopefully you’ll find (or be reminded of) some good ideas to keep your family moving on your next family hike.
I love singing with my kids as we walk and hike! Just pick a song and start singing… easy!
2. I Spy
I feel like I grew up with my parents using “I Spy” any time we were out of the house and I was bored. This game is so simple, can be done anywhere and works well in a group when there’s a wide age span.
One person picks an object within sight and says “I spy with my little eye, something that is (colour)” and then the other players have to guess what object the person is looking at. The person who guesses correctly gets to choose the next object or play in rotation to make sure everyone has a chance to be the “Spy”.
For many families with young children, storytelling happens just naturally as a way to keep little minds occupied or entertained. But, larger groups can all join in. And, a hike or walk is the perfect venue for a group story.
There are different ways to go about this.
One person could be designated the story teller and recall a story they once read or watched. In fact, my husband and I frequently use this as a tactic to get up a super long steep climb… one of us will start recounting (in almost torturous detail) the plot of a recently watched movie or book we’d read.
My kids used to enjoy doing this too, when they were younger. My son loved recounting the plot of whatever lego movie or series he’d recently watched and my daughter loved recounting the entire history of Greek Mythology. If we could get them talking on a topic they were passionate about, those stories could go for hours!
Another way to use storytelling is to collaboratively make up stories. One person could say a sentence then the next person adds the next sentence and so on until everyone has had an opportunity to contribute… and then cycle through again and again. I find this usually devolves into silliness rather quickly, but if the trail is getting tough, some giggles will help lift the mood and keep those feet moving!
4. Two Truths and a Lie
This is a fun game whether you’re playing with strangers or people you’ve known for ages. In this game, each person takes a turn telling three statements about themselves, two of which are true, and one of which is a lie. The others have to guess which statement is the lie. This game is a fun way to get to know each other better, and kids will love the opportunity to be creative and learn things about their parents they didn’t know before.
5. The Alphabet Place or Movie Game
There are different versions of this. One version is that one person starts by saying a word that starts with the letter “A”, the next person says a word that starts with the letter “B” and so on. You can decide on a theme to the words like places, movie title, celebrities, animals, etc. The game continues until the alphabet is completed or for a set amount of time.
Another version of this game is that each following word needs to start with the last letter of the word given. So, for example, if we’re playing Movies and the first word is Avatar, then the second person would need to guess a movie that begins with ‘R’. The second person might say Rambo. The third person needs to name a move that begins with ‘O’.
My family likes to play this game with names of places. Either way, it’s both fun and a great way to get some spelling practice in with your kids!
6. 20 Questions
As the name suggests, guessers have only 20 questions to narrow down the person, place, or thing, that the ‘thinker’ is thinking of. The ‘thinker’ can only answer yes or no to the questions.
For example: I might be the ‘thinker’ and my word is mushroom. Some questions the group might ask to narrow the word down could be:
- Is it a person? “No”
- Is it a place? “No”
- Is it an animal or plant? “Yes”
- Is it an animal? “No”
- Is it a plant that grows where we’re hiking right now? “Yes”
- Is it a plant bigger than me? “No”
- Is it a flowering plant? “No”
- Is it small on the ground? “Yes”
- Is it moss? “No”
- Is it a mushroom? “Yes”
7. Guess that Song
The game’s name pretty much explains it. One person sings, hums a tune, or recites the lines to a song and the others have to guess the song and artist.
A variation of this that I used to play with my kids when they were little was ‘is this a real song?’. I’d either make up a song or sing an actual song and they’d have to guess. Songs like ‘Lollipop’ and ‘Mr. Sandman’, songs from the 50’s-70’s are fun to do.
Tip: you could also try this app while you’re hiking… it’s a ‘guess that song’ game that you’d use from your phone.
8. Word Associations
These can be fun and bring lots of giggles. The game is quite simple. One person starts by saying one word and then the next says the first word that comes to their mind, the next person does the same, and so it continues.
So for example: I might start by saying “Star Wars”; my son might say “Yoda”; my daughter, “green”; my husband, “goblin”… and so on and so on.
I can’t promise this game won’t devolve into silly potty humour though!
Trail Games to Keep Kids Feet Moving Forward
All of the following games are easy to adapt to hiking and walking as long as there is a general rule that the activities have to keep the group moving forward. I’d also suggest that the person in the front being the ‘caller’ or ‘leader’ for each round also keep walking forward to make sure the group is moving along the trail as the game progresses.
9. Simon Says
- Choose a player to be Simon. Simon will give commands to the other players.
- Simon starts by giving a command, such as “Simon says take 4 giant jumps forward”.
- If Simon says “Simon says” before giving a command, the players must follow the command.
- If Simon gives a command without saying “Simon says,” the players must not follow the command. For example, if Simon says “Touch your nose,” the players shouldn’t do this action.
- Any player who follows a command without “Simon says” or who does not follow a command with “Simon says” is out of the game.
- The game continues until only one player is left. This player then becomes Simon for the next round and moves to the front of the walking group. Or, you all take turns being Simon.
10. Mother May I?
Similar to Simon Says, as long as there’s a rule that the actions must keep the group moving, this game can be a fun one for a hike.
- All hikers will stand behind the person selected to be the ‘Mother’.
- The first player closest to ‘Mother’ will ask “Mother, may I?”.
- The ‘Mother’ gives a task for all the hikers to complete. For example, the ‘Mother’ might say “Take five elephant steps forward, swinging your trunk”.
- The hikers must complete this task exactly as instructed. If any hiker makes a mistake or deviates from the instructions, they must go back to the back of the group.
- The game continues with each hiker taking turns asking for permission and until one hiker reaches the ‘Mother’.
- The player who reaches the ‘Mother’ first becomes the new ‘Mother’ for the next round.
- Or, you can all take turns being the ‘Mother’
11. Red Light, Green Light
One person will be chosen to be the caller at the front of the group. Then they’ll just randomly call out “Red Light” or “Green Light”. Just like traffic lights, red means stop and green means go.
There could be rules set ahead of time like only walking or skipping or hopping when moving. Once someone reaching the position of the caller is reached, that person becomes the next caller. Or, take turns being the caller.
12. Follow the Leader
This one can be lots of fun if the trail has a lot of variety to it like rocks, logs, and roots to walk or step on or hop over.
The ‘leader’ just moves along the trail doing silly or interesting actions. For example:
- balancing along a root or log
- Being a bird or airplane flying through the air
- Silly dance moves
- Giant steps, hops, twirls, etc.
Walking activities that need some preparation ahead of time
These walking activities will need a bit of preparation on your part ahead of the adventure. You could spend some time gathering these items and just keep a few in your backpack for when the need arises or choose some specific games for your particular walk and just bring that one along. You might even want to save on weight (and space in your pack) by using your phone to store some of these games/questions instead… but I’d rather my kids have paper than accidentally drop by phone in the muddy puddle!
13. Scavenger Hunts, the classic outdoor activity!
But have you ever considered doing a scavenger hunt while hiking or going for a walk to town?
Before you set off on your hike or walk, create a list of items for your family to find along the way. Items can include things like a specific type of tree, a rock in a certain shape, a specific type of bird, or other walkers wearing certain colours.
Print off your list, (or download one from the Take Them Outside Resource Library) then, as you hike, have everyone search for the items on the list. Work independently, in teams, or as a whole group working together.
14. Photo Scavenger Hunt
This game is a twist on the classic scavenger hunt. Before you set off on your hike, create a list of items or scenes that you want your family to photograph during the hike.
These can include things like nature in a certain letter shape, a particular tree or flower, the biggest rock, etc. As you hike, have everyone take photos of the items on the list. The one with the most unique and creative photos wins!
Note: this does tend to work better with older kids. I find the excitement of having a camera and taking photos tends to slow my little kids down too much. Instead, we’ve used cameras as a motivator when hiking with littler kids by letting them stop and taking photos at picturesque spots.
15. Name That Plant/Animal
Encourage kids to take an interest in nature by playing a game where you try to identify different types of trees, flowers, birds, and animals.
This can be done a few ways. One easier way to do this is to create a list of plants or animals that are commonly found in the area, and give each child a copy of the list. As you hike, have kids try to find and identify as many of the plants or animals on the list as they can… very much like a scavenger hunt.
Another way is to have trail guides available for hikers and they get awarded points (or gummy bears) when they use their guide to identify something new.
Different ‘groups’ could have different guides or you could have copies of the same guides for everyone.
Favourite Field Guides for the family:
16. Nature Bingo
This is very similar to a scavenger hunt, but instead of the items being in a list, they’re arranged like a Bingo card. Then along the walk, hikers will find various items and cross those off, making Bingo lines.
Just like a scavenger hunt, the clues can be adapted to the walker’s age and abilities and the specific location.
17. Nature Charades
Not many consider Charades to be a trail game, but it can actually work quite well…. as long as kids know they have to do the motions and guessing while continuing to walk!
It woks the same as regular Charades, but you can choose an outdoorsy theme instead. Each member of the family picks a nature-related word or phrase, like “squirrel collecting nuts”, “waterfall”, “bear eating honey” etc. and acts it out for the others walkers to guess.
You can play in rotation, teams if there’s a large group of hikers, or play so if someone guesses the answer then they get to pick the next word or phrase.
To prepare this make up a bunch of outdoorsy-themed ideas and print them onto littler pieces of paper. Or, you could also designate one hiker to be the idea generator and forgo the paper ideas. But, having a list to go from does help.
Fun for your next family hike
I’m sure that you’ll find some great trail games or walking activities for your next family adventure here! If there’s a game that keeps your kids moving on the trail, please share it below:)