My family and I spent EIGHT WEEKS hiking 22 National Parks, so you know I did quite a bit of research on the best hiking snacks beforehand. Use this guide to help you plan the healthiest, most convenient, and kid-friendly snacks for your hiking trips this summer! Check out my post on the 25+ best snack for road trips as well!
Before my family and I spent EIGHT WEEKS hiking 22 National Parks, I did quite a bit of research on the best hiking snacks.
We’ve always been an active family, but we’ve never hiking that many miles in such a short amount of time… and let’s be honest – hiking the Grand Canyon or Glacier isn’t the same as your neighborhood nature park. 😉
A lot of the research I recommend the same types of snacks:
- Salty (for hydration)
- Holds up to extreme temperatures (both hot AND cold)
- Sturdy enough to not get squished in the bottom of a backpack
- Leave little to no waste (pack in/pack out)
And most importantly, you want it to taste good!
Let me tell you – after those eight weeks on the road (10,000+ miles of driving and 200+ miles of hiking!) – I can tell you first hand a thing or two about the best hiking snacks!!
Consequently, I also know quite a bit about the worst hiking snacks, LOL. I included those at the very bottom of the post, in case you’re curious.
If you have a hiking trip planned – whether it’s somewhere close to home or a road trip away – I hope this list of the best hiking snacks helps you out!
Before You Go Hiking
There’s a lot of logistics that come into play when you’re hiking that you may not think of ahead of time. Here are the lessons we learned the hard way and are worth passing on!
- Bring a Gallon Plastic Bag. Most parks encourage you to pack in and pack out, which means whatever you bring into the park (granola bars), you take out of the park too (granola bar wrapper). I recommend bringing a gallon plastic bag to keep all of your trash together, and to keep the inside of your backpack clean. Just empty the plastic bag when you’re back at camp, rinse if it’s dirty, and re-use it again the next day.
- Bring Baby Wipes (or similar). You may not be able to wash your hands while on the trail, so keeping a few baby wipes in a sandwich-sized or quart-sized plastic bag is really helpful. This is WAY better than bringing hand sanitizer, especially when you need a bit of scrubbing power to get sticky goo off. Put used wipes in the gallon-sized “trash” bag.
- Don’t Bring Utensils. There’s no need to bring spoons or forks with any of these snacks. They’re not necessary, but you also don’t want to accidentally leave them behind.
- Pack What Works for YOU. Even though my whole family tolerates all of these foods (i.e. we’re not allergic to anything on this list), we each had our own preferences as to which foods settled best in our tummies. For example, trail mix didn’t do well for me, but it was great for my husband. I did better with bars, but they didn’t go over well with the kids. Unfortunately you’ll have to figure this out as you go, but it’s okay if each person has favorites.
- Pick 3-4 Snacks to Start With. Because each person will have preferences and because snacks in general can be expensive, pick just 3 or 4 to take with you on your hike. See how they go and if they’re winners, stick with them. Wait until they’re gone until you try a new snack. This will help keep your budget down too!
- Make Homemade, When Possible. We made several of these snacks at home before we left for our trip, helping us keep costs down and control the ingredients. I highly recommend doing the same if possible.
Top Picks for Hiking Snacks
These hiking snacks are the top picks from my entire family. Everything on this list packed well, didn’t melt, was easy to consume, and left little waste.
We also consider these the best hiking snacks because they gave us energy and were easy on the stomach to digest (which is VERY important when restrooms are hard to come by!).
- Trail mix (homemade or store-bought)
- Single Serve Fruit Cups (mixed, diced peaches, applesauce)
- Hummus Cups w/carrots, bell peppers, pretzels, crackers
- Single Serve Guacamole Cups w/carrots, bell peppers, pretzels, crackers
- Peanut Butter Cups (from hotels) or peanut butter pouches w/apples, carrots, celery
- Peanut Butter filled Pretzels
- Nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts)
- Meat Sticks
- Crackers + Pepperoni (or Canadian Bacon, quartered)
- Snack Crackers (i.e. goldfish, Cheez-its, homemade or store-bought)
- Granola Bars without Chocolate (homemade or store-bought)
- Energy Bites without Chocolate (homemade or store-bought)
- Protein Bars without Chocolate
- Larabars (homemade or store-bought)
- Individual Tuna or Salmon Packets
Runner Ups Snacks for Hiking
These hiking snacks were really good too, but they lost a few points because they didn’t pack well, didn’t stand up to extreme temperatures, created more waste or were messy.
That’s not to say they’re BAD hiking snacks – we would still try many of these again! These are just the ones you’ll want to consider your circumstances before packing.
For example, cheese sticks would be great at Glacier National Park in early Spring or Fall when temperatures are cool, but not so much at the Grand Canyon in the middle of Summer!
- Granola (homemade or store-bought)
- Granola Bars with Chocolate
- Energy Bites with Chocolate (homemade or store-bought)
- Dry Cereal
- Protein Bars with Chocolate (homemade or store-bought)
- Cheese Sticks
(Not) the Best Hiking Food
I totally ignored all the advice I read about hiking snacks for our first day at the Grand Canyon and boy were we sorry!!
I packed a salad with fresh vegetables and grilled chicken with balsamic vinegar. Well, the vinegar spilled all over the inside of my backpack and while a salad is incredibly healthy, it just sat in my stomach and made the hike fairly uncomfortable.
But if you’re hiking serious trails, we learned that you have to take the food seriously too. Definitely use the list of best hiking snacks above, and don’t think you can simply pack a lunch and be good to go – there’s a reason why so many people recommend specific hiking snacks. Learn the lesson from us, and avoid the consequences!!