The summer is over and a new school year has begun, but the fall season shouldn’t stop you and your little ones from squeezing in a couple more day hikes (especially while the weather is pleasant). The Pacific Northwest offers a multitude of kid-friendly excursions – and the adults are likely to enjoy themselves, as well. Here are some of our favorite hikes for families:
Why it’s great: It may take awhile to get to Ebey’s Landing from the city, but this prime coastal spot is well worth the drive – especially if you have little hikers in tow. The 5.6-mile loop trail winds through grassy plains, coastal bluffs and beaches full of critters and artifacts to discover. And throughout the trek, the beautiful Olympics loom in the distance.
In addition to the scenery, Ebey’s Landing is also a significant historical site. The trail is named for George Ebey, a colonial leader who settled in the area 150 years ago, and the blockade he and his party constructed can still be visited.
The trail is also home to a plethora of local flora and fauna. Along the bluffs, bald eagles and other majestic seabirds can be spotted year-round. On the beach, kids can play with (but hopefully not torment) crabs, starfish and other nautical critters. And throughout the hike, you’ll come across a wide variety of prairie wildflowers, as well as some unusual botanical denizens like prickly pears.
Requirements: Northwest Forest Pass ($5 per day/$30 annually)
Why it’s great: Though the entire trail runs 12 miles in length, the first segment (roughly three miles) is relatively flat and perfectly doable for any able-bodied youngster. Plus, a thick canopy of old growth fauna ensures that a little drizzle won’t ruin your outing.
But that’s not all. While somewhat small, Greenwater Lake is a perfectly adequate fishing spot and/or swimming hole. And kids with aesthetic sensibilities will marvel at the beautifully rendered, wooden foot bridges that cross the Greenwater River at several points along the trail.
If the little ones are up for it, Echo Lake – much larger and more magnificent than Greenwater Lake – sits approximately seven miles from the trailhead. The trail is far from strenuous; the gentle uphill climb will probably make for the fastest seven miles you’ve ever hiked. And your reward is an idyllic spot for a picnic (or camping, if you’re so inclined).
Requirements: Discover Pass ($10 per day/$30 annually)
Why it’s great: If your child enjoys spectacular waterfalls, then this is the hike to end all hikes. This easy jaunt (5.5 miles round-trip) features a series of nine breathtaking cataracts. Not only are they fun to look at, but the high moisture levels also keeps the trail nice and cool.
While all the falls are gorgeous, families should schedule lunch for when they reach the Middle Falls. Visible from Highway 2, this 265-foot cataract will wow kids and adults of all ages.
In addition to the falls, hikers can enjoy picturesque views of the surrounding features, such as Mount Index and Baring Mountain. The trail also features a large number of comfortable benches for the numerous pit stops you’re likely to endure with small hikers.
Do you and your family have a favorite getaway spot? We’d love to hear about it!
By Brad Nehring