I recently hiked up Timpanogos Mountain with my 4 kids. Ages: 15, 11, 11 (Twins) and 7. It has become a bit of a tradition and every time I go people say, "My kids hate to hike, how do you get your kids to hike?"
Here are some of my tips for hiking with kids:
Start small and build! This is so key. For the past 7 years we have been making treks up Timp. The first 4 years we didn't get close to the top. The kids had asked to hike it so I said sure and we made it a little bit farther each time until 3 years ago we made it to the top. They saw the progress they made each time and this go around they said it was so much easier to make it to the top.
Involve friends! There is nothing more magical then having a good friend on the trail, my kids hike WAY faster and farther if we bring along friends!
Bring their favorite food! Every year before we hike Timp we go to the store and pick out some of their favorite foods that they will be excited to eat on the trail!
Don't underestimate your kids. I feel like kids are way more resilient and tough then we usually give them credit for! I'm always amazed by what they can do. 3 years ago my 7 year old was 4. She wanted to join the big kids on the Timp hike - we decided we would just go as long as she wanted then turn around. She never wanted to turn around - she wanted to just keep going. We had a good friend along and lots of yummy food and a mom with patience and she made it to the top - hiking 14 miles over 13 hours!
Pick hikes with big pay offs like views or waterfalls. There is nothing more rewarding then a great destination on a hike! Kids love this - also I think crowds can be helpful. On our last trip up Timp - there were HUNDREDS of college kids coming down. My kids saw them and thought, "it must be cool to hike!"
Have lots of trail games ready to go! We play: Eye Spy, I'm thinking of an animal, name that toon, solve my riddle, I'm going on a trip and my favorite: Let's plan your birthday party!
Try to have NO expectations! If you do you will be disappointed. Know that crying whining and complaining are just part of it! I always remind my kids, "you don't have to like hiking, you just have to do it because that is how we stay healthy as a family!"
In the end it is really a TON of work to get the kids out there but SO worth the pay off. After a long hike my kids often say, "After that, I feel like I can do anything now." The confidence they gain is amazing! When everyone is melting down on the trail, just remember at least you are outside off the couch and working towards greater resilience and grit!