New challenge unlocked: hiking with a newborn. How to keep your baby safe on the trails

A man holding a newborn at the trailhead for a hike
(Abby Wilson)

Last week, my wife and I embarked on a special outdoor adventure. By the numbers, it wasn’t that impressive — a 2.3-mile, 300-foot “hike” up to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. It took an hour from start to finish. Much of the route was paved. But it was a major milestone for one very important reason: It was our first hike with our newborn daughter, Emma.

In the days before this short but important trip, some pressing questions bounced around my head. Would Emma put up a fight as I wrestled her into the BabyBjörn carrier? Would she wail the whole way up the hill? Would she spit up all over me? (It wouldn’t be the first time.)

A man hikes a trail carrying his newborn in a BabyBjörn
(Abby Wilson)

I was also skeptical about how enriching a hike could be for a 2-week-old infant. Emma can barely see. After nine months in the womb, just lying in her crib must feel like visiting another planet — would she even notice the difference between indoors and outdoors?

To calm my nerves, I spoke with Dr. Rebecca Dudovitz, a pediatrician with UCLA Health. I was relieved to learn that babies, even those as young as Emma, appreciate time outside just as much as adults do.

“It’s a great way to stimulate their development with new senses and sounds, smells, things to look at,” said Dudovitz.

A man in a baseball cap and sunglasses carries his newborn in a BabyBjörn while hiking
(Abby Wilson)

Outdoor time offers a host of benefits for babies. In addition to sensory stimulation, it exposes them to common allergens, which reduces their risk of developing allergies later in life, and it’s actually safer than spending time in crowded indoor places — they’re less likely to catch a virus from another person. Perhaps most importantly, going outside can calm a fussy newborn (and their exhausted parents).

“It can be a useful strategy, especially at the end of the day when everybody’s tired and cranky,” said Dudovitz.


Dudovitz also gave me a few tips to ensure our hike was a success. Rule No. 1 is to keep babies out of the sun, as a newborn’s skin is sensitive and sunscreen isn’t approved for use until they’re 6 months old. (Long sleeves and a sun hat are required equipment.) She recommends staying away from places with mosquitoes; if you can’t avoid bugs, you can pre-treat baby clothes with Permethrin to ward them off. Finally, pay close attention to heat and cold as babies can’t regulate their temperature as well as adults can (feel your child’s torso to gauge their temperature).

A woman poses for a photo as she is hiking a trail
(Michael Charboneau)

Armed with that info, my wife, Emma and I headed out for our first hike. It was a perfect Southern California day, the kind that makes you wonder why anyone would choose to live elsewhere. Warm sunshine spilled down from a deep blue sky, and a fresh breeze rolled in from the ocean as we trekked up the hill from the parking lot.

All around us, the chaparral was lush and alive with blossoms. Mounds of bush sunflowers glowed in the afternoon light, and here and there I noticed patches of coast morning glories, their delicate white cups streaked with purple. Amid the blooms, sagebrush branches stood out with their wispy pale green leaves. I touched them as we passed and savored their sweet, earthy scent. When we reached the top of the overlook, we could see for miles in all directions — the Santa Monica Mountains rising in the distance, the broad blue plane of the Pacific Ocean, and the skyscrapers of downtown L.A. poking up to the east. It was beautiful.

What did Emma think of it? Hard to say. She slept the entire time, stirring only when I took off her hat to snap photos. I think she opened her eyes for 30 seconds total. Even so, my wife and I enjoyed the excursion, and I’m calling this inaugural family hike a success. Next time, maybe Emma will be awake to hear, smell, see and feel all of it too.

A wiggly line break

3 things to do

A person holds and points at a plant with a yellow bloom. Folks in the background observe.
(Hannah Ray)

1. ID plants and potluck in Topanga Canyon

Go for an all-levels plant identification stroll in the mountains of Topanga with Herb Club LA. The 2.5-mile walk will last about an hour and is open to everyone (even leashed dogs). Afterward, the group will be holding a “late Earth Day celebration” at the dreamy local Topanga shop the Well Refill for a tea meditation and potluck featuring herbal sodas and vegan chocolate. Participants are encouraged to wear comfortable clothes and appropriate shoes for the hike, and — if they plan to take part in the potluck — to bring vegan dishes and reusable plates, cups and utensils to minimize waste. The event is free (with donations accepted) and kicks off Sunday at 11 a.m. For more information visit

2. Bike, walk, skate or scoot in SGV

Ditch the car on Sunday and experience what it’s like to roam freely on five miles of streets in Alhambra, San Gabriel and South Pasadena. Active Streets: Mission-to-Mission, presented by Metro Los Angeles and hosted by San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG), is a car-free celebration packed with live music performances, pop-up booths from local businesses and community organizations, and free games and activities. Walk, bike, skate or scoot through any part of the route — or conquer the whole thing, if you choose. The free event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. If you’re a San Gabriel Valley resident, you can borrow a classic GoSGV electric bike for $50 by filling out this form. Active Streets was formerly known as 626 Golden Streets — with the Metro “Gold” line becoming the “L” and then the “A,” the name changed.

3. The Earth Day celebrations continue


Though Earth Day happened on Monday, the L.A. celebrations are still going strong. On Saturday, you’ll find guided nature hikes and storytelling at the Chatsworth Nature Preserve, a seed swap at Barnes Park in Monterey Park and the Teen Climate Fest at Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific. You can also get your gloves dirty on Saturday at the Madrona Marsh in Torrance, which is hosting a habitat restoration event. Pre-registration is required and participants should wear closed-toe shoes and bring sunscreen and water.

A wiggly line break

The must-read

La Loma bridge.
(Adam Markovitz)

Here’s a fun idea for getting outside and exploring Los Angeles: Go on a walking tour of the city’s bridges. For The Times, writer Adam Markovitz highlights nine spans all around L.A. that are worth checking out, including quaint walkways over the Venice Canals, the historic Shakespeare Bridge in Los Feliz and the new 6th Street Viaduct over the L.A. River. Whether you’re in it for the architecture or looking for some new views of the city, these bridges won’t disappoint.

Happy adventuring,

Signature for Michael Charboneau


A recently published book, “Places We Swim California,” will get you excited to jump in the water this summer. It highlights over 60 swimming spots all around the state (including several in SoCal) and features road trip itineraries for discovering unique California beaches, rivers and hot springs.


For more insider tips on Southern California’s beaches, trails and parks, check out past editions of The Wild. And to view this newsletter in your browser, click here.