Our 15 year old, Finn, does not like hiking. Never has, maybe never will. He's more into the adrenaline seeking sports like skiing, mountain biking and flipping on the trampoline.
Still, he is my son and since I love hiking (and quality time with the people I love) he has been dragged on countless hikes since his early years. Back then, I used candy and screen time as bribes. Now I just ask for hikes as gifts, which happens a few times a year. Finn gives me hiking coupons on Mother's Day, Christmas and my birthday. They look like this:
Translation: "Merry Christmas Mother! I grant you 1 Winter Hike. Yes indeed."
I DO cash in these coupons because they are solid gold. But I don't otherwise force Finn to hike with me. Why? Because as a teenager, it's his job to assert his independence and explore his own interests. It's part of growing up and the deal we signed up for. Not only am I am 100 percent ok with him having free will over how he spends his free time, I encourage it. It makes me happy to see him doing things that make him happy. And if I'm going to ask him to do anything unwillingly, it will be emptying the dishwasher or writing a thank you card to a grandparent. But I'll take those coupons and I will, and do, enjoy them.
The second tip for getting your teenager to hike with you, is to invite their friends. This is key and will make for a more enjoyable hike for all involved. We are lucky in the fact that my nephews, who happen to be the same ages as our boys, like to hike. Their dad also likes to hike, so we plan hikes together. We also meet friends for hikes or have Finn and Henry bring friends when we go. The important thing to remember is that kids have more fun with other kids, so bring others along or meet up with other families.
The last tip is to get some kind of treat after the hike. Full disclosure, we usually hit up McDonald's on our way home from a long hike. Gross, I know, but it does make my kids feel like they're winning the lottery or something - so happy. They usually get a french fry and some kind of sugary drink. On our latest hike, Finn was begging for an EXTRA large sprite with his TWO large fries (I'm not even joking - those teenage appetites are fierce). We compromised with a large sprite and two large fries. Clearly he won that battle, but he had hiked 10 miles, so I just let it go. Again, giving him his autonomy and letting him learn about junk food hangovers his own way.
You may opt for something healthier, like sushi or a smoothie somewhere. That would probably be a better choice than ours, but we're not perfect parents. We do try to pack in healthy food before and during the hike, plus loads of water. Keep those teens hydrated.
If you are looking for ideas on where to hike with your teen, here are some to start with:
You could also try one of the Moat Mountain Hikes we did with our boys recently.
Reach out if you have any other questions about hiking with teens (or kids of any age) and good luck getting them out there on the mountain!