By Gina Hackbarth

Taking your littles hiking is a great way to get outdoors, enjoy fresh air, and get your kids into nature. As a mom, I LOVE hiking. I take my girls out once a week (sometimes twice... it's hard not to go every day!) for a two to three-hour hike. One of the reasons we love living where we do is that we're close to many virtually untouched nature parks.

Since hiking with an infant or toddler is a little more challenging, here are some tips to make hiking with munchkins easier:

1. Hike when the infant is napping and/or bring a carrier.

My daughter naps in the morning after breakfast, so we skip breakfast at home and pack into the car to drive while she's awake and happy (she usually falls asleep on the ride), and I wear her in a carrier while we hike. She naps then wakes up to eat (I nurse her in our carrier while we walk), and then she naps again while we hike. It's almost like she's not even there, which can make hiking with a baby and a toddler a little easier.

2. Pack the same snacks each time to keep prep simple.

I always bring the following: whole wheat crackers, cheese slices, nitrate-free lunch meat, fruit, applesauce pouches, hard-boiled eggs, and a piece of chocolate. This works for our breakfast and lunch. I pack everything in the cooler the night before and just grab + go in the morning. I'm all about making it as easy as possible to get out the door because it gets so hot later in the day. I don't want to waste time packing food in the morning.

3. Bring a jogging stroller.

Jogging strollers are made for outdoor terrain and can be much easier to push than regular strollers. Even if your little one decides to walk most of the trail, it's great to have when they get tired, hungry, or just want to take a break. Plus, having the stroller on-hand makes it easier to carry and pack snacks, a diaper bag, and water bottles so you don't have to carry everything.

4. Bring pictures of some of the birds/animals you might see and point them out to your toddler.

Toddlers may get bored, sweaty, and tired quickly while hiking, so making a game out of spotting animals can keep them busy and happy. Try pointing out all the animals you see and talk about their species, where they live, and what they eat.

5. Take a break and sit down for a good 10-15 mins.

Are you hiking to a lake or another pretty scenic point? Taking a break is perfect when you arrive at your destination, or need some lunch. Taking even 10-15 minutes here and there can give your kids the energy and reset they need to get through the rest of the hike (and who isn't in a better mood after a snack break?!)

6. Carry insect repellent or bear spray.

There are many great bug sprays out there whether you're into essential oils or not. Try to shop for natural options when possible, but be sure to talk to your doctor and pediatrician when trying to decide on the best fit for you and your family. If you're hiking in bear country, always remember to talk to local rangers and see what you should be carrying on your belt, like bear spray. Did you know carrying "bear bells" is no longer advised? They have recently been renamed "bear bait." Eek! Talking to your local park rangers is always a good idea to stay in the know.