We love high mountains. But hiking in high mountains is challenging. They’re harsh. Impressive but whimsical. Wonderful and cruel. The weather is unpredictable, even in the summer. Trails are often long and demanding. You need to be fit and prepared. Even more so if you hike with your kid. Or baby, in our case. But Austria is the best place we’ve found so far to take your kids to the high mountains.
Why? Because you’re not out in the wild
The Austrian Alps are full of ski resorts that become hiking centers in the summer. The infrastructure is there – ski lifts, mountain huts and restaurants – and they make good use of it. Ski lifts and cabins take hikers up to higher elevations, gaining them 1000-1500 meters. Mountain huts and restaurants are frequent along many trails, so grabbing some food and drinks (or using a proper toilet for that matter) is never a problem.
After hiking routes with about a thousand meters elevation gain in Slovenia while carrying our 10 months old baby, we could tell it’s extremely tiring. We’ve never been the ones to take the cabin if one can hike up, but it has changed as our boy was getting heavier.
We were happy to use those cabins in Austria to start our hikes already above the forest line. We could have never hiked up to 2500 meters carrying our little Tomi otherwise. And it’s a great opportunity not just for us but for families with small kids, elderly people, pregnant women or whoever else that’s not in a condition to conquer 1000+ meters elevation change on foot.
And because there’s (almost) always a mountain hut or restaurant close by, no worries if you need to change your baby’s diapers or give him something to eat when a thunderstorm just hit you. Or if you need a sheltered place when that thunderstorm hit you. Or the thunderstorm might be over but everything is wet, it’s still drizzling, and you just can’t sit down on a rock to breastfeed.
Or… well, I’m sure that any parent can imagine zillion of situations when it’s better to have a roof above their head than standing in the pouring rain. (Okay, it’s true for any person, actually. But as strong and invulnerable adults, hah, we were used to hiking and eating and surviving hours of pouring rain in the mountains. We didn’t enjoy it, but we managed to get by. We didn’t expect that from our baby – yet. 😛 )
Lots of wide, evenly ascending trails
As we explored several regions in the Austrian Alps, we noticed that often there’s at least one wide, evenly ascending trail that we consider an easy hiking trail. Some are also suitable for strollers, but they’re certainly family-friendly, great with a baby carrier or with small kids. We’ve even seen elderly people with walking sticks on some of these trails. Isn’t it great that the beauties of the Alps are accessible to everyone?
Entertainment for kids
In addition to great infrastructure and accessibility, ski resorts in the summer offer different types of entertainment and activities especially for kids. Like playgrounds with grand views.
Adventurous bike tracks. Go-kart. Bouncy castles. With grand views, of course. We were actually happy that our little boy is too young for these, otherwise starting our actual hikes would have been much harder. 🙂
The disadvantage: you’re not out in the wild
But, of course, there’s a price to pay. Most of these easily accessible and easy trails are busy. Very busy on summer weekends when the weather is nice. We didn’t feel like being out in the wild – which is not a surprise, because we were not out in the wild. There were restaurants and ski lifts and people buzzing all around with a glass of beer in their hand. We missed the tranquility and peace that we love so much when hiking in the mountains. In exchange we got more comfort and rewarding views that we didn’t need to work hard for.
And finally, there’s always the option to hike further and higher. Once we continued on the more strenuous trails, we met fewer people – which is, again, not a surprise.
The Austrian Alps are great with kids. (They’re great without kids, too, by the way.) And you can’t have everything. Either you choose comfort or wilderness. Or find a balance.
Which countries would you recommend visiting with kids and why?
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