Don’t look now, parents, but summer’s half over.
You’ve got just six weeks to get in some hiking with the kids.
Here are some ideas to jump-start your family’s next trail adventure, and six great kid-friendly hikes.
Put it on your calendar. Find a few dates on your calendar that aren’t full yet and declare them as hiking days. Defend these dates as assertively as you’d defend any other obligation. Hiking time is good for you and your family.
Find a hike. With so many great trails in Washington, it can be overwhelming to decide where to hike. The Washington Trails Alliance’s Hiking Guide and Hike Finder Map at www.wta.org are great places to start. On either option, you can filter for kid-friendly hikes. Of course, you’ll have to decide for yourself what your kiddo is up for. Keep in mind both distance and elevation gain. If you’re unsure of how far your child is up for hiking, considering a destination that has a few good stopping spots along the way. River hikes can be good for this, because you can enjoy the river even if you don’t make it to the “end” of the trip. Before you head out, check recent trip reports on the WTA website to get an idea of conditions.
Take the hike. Hiking with a child won’t be the same as hiking with adults. The goal with kids is much more about the journey than the destination. Here are four basic ideas to keep in mind:
Modify your goals. You may not reach the end of the trail. You may not even hike a mile! Adjust your hike to the enjoyment and comfort level of children.
Pack patience and flexibility. If you see a frog dart across the trail, be prepared to stop and wait to watch for that frog to dart across the trail again. Use teachable moments to explore the natural world.
Know what features are ahead. For starter day hikes, choose short trails that do not have much elevation gain, but do have features like lakes, ponds or waterfalls along the way. Children are fascinated with water.
Dress for success. Check weather conditions and be prepared. Bring dry clothes, even if rain isn’t in the forecast, your kiddo is likely to find a way to get wet. (Probably in a creative way you wouldn’t expect.)
6 hikes for kids
Boulder River waterfall. This 2.5-mile round-trip stroll east of Arlington follows a roaring stream to a nice lunch spot beside a lacy waterfall. To get there, drive east on Highway 530 about 23.5 miles from I-5. Turn right on French Creek Road, just after milepost 41. Follow the road to the trailhead at its end. There’s room for about 15 cars to park. No parking pass needed.
Beaver Lake. Beaver ponds are the destination of this trail, about 4 miles south of Darrington on the Mountain Loop Highway. The trail is almost completely level and follows the rollicking Sauk River. To get there, follow Highway 530 east to Darrington, about 32 miles. Turn right at the intersection with the Mountain Loop Highway. Follow it 9 miles. The trailhead is on the right, just after you cross the Sauk on a small bridge. There’s room for about 10 cars to park. No pass required. Note: Hikers report trees down and other damage on this trail. Check trail reports before hiking.
Ebey’s Landing. You’ll find a little bit of everything on this 3.5-mile loop trail: panoramic views of mountains, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the unique rolling prairie of central Whidbey Island. You may even spot passing whales. One caution: The path leading to the beach is steep and may not be suitable for very young children. To get there, take the ferry to Clinton, then head north for 19 miles on Highway 535. At the junction, continue heading north on Highway 20 about 6 miles. Turn left on Sherman Road and continue west until you reach a right turn for Cook Road. The trailhead’s at the end of Cook Road. You’ll need a Discover Pass.
Iron Goat Trail. The first 3 miles of this path, which follows an old railroad grade near Stevens Pass, are ADA-accessible — which means it’s also great for baby strollers. You’ll want to take this hike in the summer, as it’s deep in winter snow country. To get there, take U.S. 2 east to milepost 55. Turn left onto the Old Cascade Highway. At the junction with Forest Road 6710, take a sharp left. Reach the trailhead in about 1.5 miles. There is a vault toilet and parking for about 20 cars. A Northwest Forest Pass is required.
Franklin Falls. At 2 miles round trip with just 400 feet in elevation gain, this one’s a perfect day hike with kids. The 70-foot falls’ flow ebbs a bit in late summer, so aim to visit it by the end of July. To get there, head east on I-90 to exit 47. Turn left, drive a short distance to a stop sign, then turn right on Forest Service Road 58. Cross under the freeway, then turn left. Continue nearly 3 miles to a large paved parking lot. You’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass. The trail gets crowded on weekends, so try to arrive early.
Kukutali Preserve. Here’s a 2.5-mile round trip hike at one of the state’s newest state parks, about 5 miles west of La Conner in Skagit County. The trail follows a sand spit to Kiket Island, where it climbs through a lovely forest, passes meadows where you can glimpse the Deception Pass Bridge, then drops down to two lovely beaches with views of Hope and Skagit islands and Mount Erie on Fidalgo Island. To get there, exit I-5 at Highway 20 in Burlington and head west across the Swinomish Channel to Reservation Road on Fidalgo Island, where you’ll turn left. Head south on Reservation Road for 1.5 miles to the junction with Snee-Oosh Road. Drive another 1.5 miles on Snee-Oosh until you reach the parking area and trailhead on the right (look sharp; it’s not easily seen from the road). There’s room for maybe 10 cars to park. A Discover Pass is required. Two important notes: The trail across the spit to Kiket Island is submerged at high tide, so plan accordingly. Also, dogs are not allowed on the preserve.
Washington Trails Association promotes hiking as a way to inspire a people to protect Washington’s natural places. Get inspired to go hiking and learn how you can help protect trails at www.wta.org.