Ask Me: Backpacking Trips With an 11-Year-Old

Hi Michael,

My fifth-grade daughter and I spend most of our summer playing and hiking. We are upping our backpacking mileage each year and hope to be able to do the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier when she is 12. For this summer, we are looking to do a hike of about 60 to 75 miles. One possibility is the Pacific Crest Trail between Highway 50 and 80. It’s a beautiful route I’ve taken before. But I’m very open to other ideas. She’s tough and has built up to solid 10-mile days. Any help or direction you could give me would be great. I envy the time you have been able to spend in the wild.

Sacramento, CA


My son, Nate, backpacking the southern Olympic coast, Olympic National Park, Washington.
My son, Nate, backpacking the southern Olympic coast, Olympic National Park, Washington.

Hi Adam,

Your daughter sounds like a great hiker already. Good for you. You should check out my page of all family adventures, and this menu of all of my family backpacking trips, especially my stories about backpacking in Sequoia National Park, the Spider Gap-Buck Creek Pass hike (lead photo, above) in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, and the Teton Crest Trail.

I’d also recommend Olympic National Park, where you could combine a great, three-day hike on the southern Olympic coast with a loop in the mountains. I’ve backpacked in the northeast corner of the mountains, which is in the rain shadow and much drier than the west side, a loop of about 40+ miles from Observation Point to Deer Park, over Gray Wolf, Lost, Cameron, and Grand passes, and back to Observation Point—wonderful trip, ranging from forests of big trees to miles of alpine hiking with expansive mountain views. If you don’t mind driving as far as Glacier National Park, check out the 65-mile hike I did with friends north of Logan Pass.


My daughter, Alex, backpacking the New Hance Trail in the Grand Canyon.
My daughter, Alex, backpacking the New Hance Trail in the Grand Canyon.

Although it’s too hot in summer for backpacking in the Grand Canyon, if you and your daughter can get time off in spring or fall to get away, look at the 29-mile, four-day hike I did with my family from Grandview Point to the South Kaibab Trailhead, or a similar hike of 25 miles from Hermits Rest to the Bright Angel Trailhead, which I’ve backpacked (before kids) and dayhiked more recently. It sounds like your daughter is also ready for a very rugged but spectacular and less-traveled hike I did with my daughter, of 15 miles over three days from the New Hance Trailhead to Grandview Point. These hikes are all linked by the Tonto Trail, so you could combine two or all three of them for a longer trip.

I hope those give you some ideas. Good luck and let me know what you end up doing.



Thank you so very much! I’ll let you know how it all turns out!


In Ask Me, I share my response to a reader question. Got a question about hiking, backpacking, gear, or any topic or trip I write about at The Big Outside? Send it to me at, message me at, or tweet it to @MichaelALanza. I will answer the ones I can in a post, using only your first name and city, with your permission. I receive a high volume of questions, so I cannot always respond quickly. Scroll through my Ask Me page and All Trips pagesskills stories, and gear reviews for answers to your questions before writing to me.

—Michael Lanza

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Video: Backpacking Mount Rainier National Park

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