With a steady stream of young families passing through our business (www.rentalshare.org) to rent camping and hiking gear, and with two young kids of our own, we’ve learned a lot over the last couple of years about what makes a successful hike with toddlers.
Picking the right trail is key. The best trails for toddlers aren’t too steep and have interesting features along the way: caves, aspen trees, streams, etc. Length doesn’t really matter—you can always turn back when your kids get tired.
Utah County is filled with trails that fit the bill. These are some of our favorites:
1. Buffalo Peak
This is one of the few toddler-friendly hikes that will actually get your kids atop a summit. Spot wildflowers along the way and enjoy jaw-dropping views of Squaw Peak and surrounding mountains. The trail is gentle and easy for little feet, except for a short rocky climb at the end where your tot will need extra help.
- Length: 2 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 275 ft
- Directions: Take Squaw Peak Road in Provo Canyon; turn left at the “T” and follow a dirt road for about 3 miles, until you pass a dirt parking area. A few hundred feet past that you’ll see a log fence on the right side of the road—the unmarked trail begins here.
2. Horse Flat Trail
Located at the summit of the Alpine Loop, this aspen-lined trail features beautiful meadows perfect for a picnic or game of tag. There’s plenty of shade, especially in the morning. If you make it all the way, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view overlooking Mt. Timpanogos.
- Length: 3.2 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 787 ft
- Directions: Take the Alpine Loop from either American Fork Canyon or Provo Canyon; at the summit, you’ll find a parking lot and trailhead.
3. Battle Creek Falls
This trail is a popular one, and for good reason: it follows a creek, crosses a bridge, and ends at an impressive waterfall after less than a mile—all major pluses for our kids. Look out for a tiny cave off the trail that’s the perfect size for a toddler to climb inside and say “cheese!”
- Length: 1.6 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 450 ft
- Directions: Follow 200 South in Pleasant Grove until it ends at Kiwanis Park. You’ll see the trailhead at the entrance to the park.
4. Big Springs Hollow
Bubbling creeks, bridges, and open meadows make Big Springs Hollow a winner for our family. This is a trail that can really keep kids entertained, especially if they love water. There are lots of stream crossings perfect for tossing in rocks and sticks, and picnic tables at the trailhead.
- Length: 4.4 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 750 ft
- Directions: In Provo Canyon, turn up South Fork Canyon Road (at Vivian Park) and follow the road to Big Springs Park. The trailhead is at the top of the park.
5. Red Ledges
Technically a “picnic area” rather than a traditional hiking trail, Red Ledges takes the pressure off parents to reach a destination and gives kiddos a chance to explore short trails, caves, red sand, and even a sandstone arch. It looks just like Moab, without the drive. There are a couple of steep drop-offs, so keep close to your toddlers while they wander.
- Directions: Take US-6 into Spanish Fork Canyon for about 7 miles. Turn left at the sign for Diamond Fork; after about 6 miles you’ll see signs for Red Ledges Picnic area on the left.
When hiking these trails (and more) with toddlers, a child carrier backpack opens a world of possibilities. We recommend starting the hike by letting your toddlers walk and explore at their own slow pace. When their little legs tire out, hoist them in the backpack for a fun ride for them—and the freedom for you to go at a faster pace.
For more places to go hiking check out The Ultimate Guide to the 50 Best Hikes in Utah Valley & 6 Utah Valley Hikes You've Probably Never Heard Of.