Did you just have a baby and you’re yearning to get back on the trails with your tiny adventurer along for the ride? Right on! Here are my favorite destinations for backpacking with babies in the American West.
I gained so much sanity from getting back into the backcountry in that first year of my daughter’s life. It’s hard, don’t get me wrong. But it was the kind of hard I needed. We took one backcountry trip with my first daughter – her personality was a bit less keen – and my second daughter has been on 6 in her first 2 years.
First, I’ll dive into some basic tips to consider when searching for your destination and then I’ll share a few of my favorites in the U.S., particularly in the American Mountain West.
Tips for Choosing a Backpacking with Babies Destination
The distance of the hike you aim for will vary greatly depending in your previous backpacking experience, your current level of fitness, and your healing after birth journey. Especially on your first trip with baby, consider really low mileage. Consider it a practice round. I’ve found even a mile into the backcountry feels worlds away and was plenty challenging with a toddler and baby along.
The same thoughts fit here too. Listen to your body and it’s abilities in your healing journey. Carrying the weight of gear up a mountain feels a whole lot different on a postpartum pelvis. No big surprise of course, but I found elevation gain to be much more challenging even up until a year postpartum. It will, of course, be different for everyone.
Some popular backcountry campgrounds have things like long drop toilets, potable water spigots, and even garbage cans. These can make your first trips with baby just a little easier, and any amount of extra ease might be worth it!
Proximity to Water
With all the extra weight of baby-related gear, I highly recommend finding a destination with a natural body of water so you can avoid the weight of carrying extra water for cooking and cleaning. It’s also a great way to entertain an older sibling if you have one!
The views from camp are what make all the effort of backpacking with babies worth it to me. Search for pictures of any camp spots you consider to make sure its worth the effort for you!
My Favorite Destinations for Backpacking with Babies
Yosemite National Park
Check along Tioga Road near Tuolumne Meadows for hikes like May Lakes that have less elevation gain. Glen Aulin has some bonus amenities and any location in Yosemite has unbelievable views. Permits are hard to come by though so you’ll either need to plan well ahead or try your luck getting first come first serve permits in the park.
Want more National Parks? Check out my favorite U.S. National Parks for kids.
Escalante River, Moab
Walk along the Escalante River in Moab Utah. It’s nice and flat, relatively shaded by trees and canyon walls, and there are no pre-determined campsites so you can walk in as much or as little as you want and find a place that suits you. It’s a comforting option to have with kids and their inexplicable changes in mood. Plus it’s a gorgeous walk. Follow the trail one direction and try walking in the river part of the time too.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Wildcat Camp has long drop toilets, potable water spigots and a trash can (though they recommend packing out your trash still). It’s right along the ocean and just up the beach from Alamere Fallls, one of only 2 waterfalls that fall directly onto the beach in California. The walk along the coast from Palomarin Trailhead has minimal elevation gain and a lovely swimming and lunch spot at Bass Lake.
Tahoe National Forest
There are tons of hikes to choose from to the various mountain lakes surrounded by granite and pine tree scent and some have relatively minimal elevation gain. Try Loch Leven Lakes, Lake Winnemucca, or Lake Margaret.
Find the park information here.
El Dorado National Forest
Granite Lake was the first backpacking trip I ever went on and it would be perfect for a little one. It’s only one mile each way without too much elevation gain and brings you to a lovely little lake surrounded by granite. Perfect for a swim on a hot day.
Wondering what baby will sleep in? Check out my review of Morrison Outdoors sleeping bags for babies and toddlers.