Hiking with kids adds an extra exciting element to exploring the outdoors. Things like elevation gain, miles covered, and steps taken are all entirely meaningless to the kids. They typically don't even care about the grand views and epic destinations. Kids are more concerned with exactly what's in front of them at the moment. So finding a trail interesting enough for them seems to sometimes be the biggest challenge. So picking a hike with minimal elevations, realistic milage, and also entertaining features can make it seem quite impossible to select a trail out of the thousands in our state. We thought we'd help a little and compile a short list of some of our favorite hikes around the state for the kids that are too big to be carried and want to walk the trail themselves. (we selected these trails with a preschool or kindergartener aged kid in mind)
In order by shortest to longest. You'll also find Google Maps links to the trailheads and WTA (Washington Trails Association) links below if you'd like to start planning a trip and want more detailed info on an area. If hiking is your thing, you should definitely be using WTA as a resource.
Please follow along and feel free to ask questions or make suggestions that might help others Explore WA.
1. Hidden Lake
Located in the Lake Wenatchee are.
Only 1 mile roundtrip with 300' elevation gain.
Best hiked June - October
This trail is short and sweet and cuts an easy to walk wide path as it cuts through the forest. Only .5 miles from the trailhead this is an excellent first hike to help our kid(s) complete one on their own and feel accomplished. During summer you'll likely find people swimming or floating rafts around to cool down.
2. Second Beach
Located on the Olympic Coast
1.5 mile round trip with only 80' elevation gain.
Can be hiked year round. (although some seasons will get you more wet than others)
This beach has been recognized as one of the world's prettiest... not that your kids will care about that. They will however love playing in soft sandy beaches and searching for coloful little animals in the tide pools. The waves and tides bring some element of caution for kids but bring a bucket and some sand toys and they'll be in little kid outdoor paradise.
3. Red Top Lookout
Located in the Teanaway area.
This trail is a fairly easy 2 mile roundtrip hike with only 350' elevation gain.
Best hiked early summer to October.
This is one of the few mountain tops that have huge visual rewards accessible with such little effort. Perfect for little kids and instagramers alike, haha. There is a functioning fire look out at the top and likely you'll be able to pop in and show the kids around. Assuming the area is free of fires and fire smoke there is really only a small section of loose rock towards the top that you should be aware of.
4. Franklin Falls
Located in Snoqualmie Pass if you haven't heard of this one then, welcome to Washington I assume you're new to the state as this trail is quite popular year round.
Is a 2 mile roundtrip trail with only 100' in elevation gain and you typically won't feel too alone in this neck of the woods.
It's best hiked after the snow melts late June into October.
It's a pretty interesting trail on the way up but ends in a kid pleasing water fall and stone throwing area. The only challenging sections is a very small final scramble to the beach where you may need to hold a little hand to be safe. Largely though the cliffs and bridges are in place and keep the kids corralled from the major dangers.
5. Big Four Ice Caves
Located beyond Granite Falls up the Mt Loop Highway.
You're looking at a 2.2 mile trip with 220' elevation gain and plenty of trail diversity to keep the kidos interested.
There is a boardwalk section through a swamp, bridges, very established wide and mostly graveled trail that leads to a pretty incredible view at the end straight into the boulder fields under a near vertical mountains of granite and of course the remnants of last winters melting snow piles making the ice caves.
The trail is very manageable for kids but please pay attention to the warning about going inside the ice caves. You will likely see others wandering through them, but DON'T. It's very dangerous, they collapse every year without warning, and several deaths have occurred due to this. So stay out of the caves and you and you'll kids will have a blast.
6. Beacon Rock State Park
Located way down south most of your views will actually be in Oregon in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area near Vancouver.
This 2 mile roundtrip hike shoots you straight up a 600' staircase.
And no, we're not really kidding. This is a rather unique rock feature actually named Beacon Rock by Lewis and Clark. The higher you make your way up the more spectacular the views of the river and valley below get. The trail is lined with handrails and will be thrilling for your kids who have already got a few miles under their belt.
7. Hummocks Trail
Located right under Mt St Helens.
This hike takes you on a 2.3 mile loop at a relatively flat (100' gain) trail.
Along the way you'll notice the active volcano change shape and size as you cruise through the pond and meadows below. The trail leads you to the Toutle River and during spring and summer the trail will be laced with wild flowers, dragonflies, frogs, and butterflies keeping the kids entertained the whole hike long.