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5 Great South Sound Summer Hikes With Kids

Here are five great hikes  within a short drive from the South Sound. Add them to your summer bucket list if you’re looking for outdoor adventures!

Note that these are all true hikes-away from bathrooms and a mile or more in length. You’ll want to bring along the 10 essentials.

Hike collage text

If these sound like too much, you may want to check our 10 Great Nature Walks. -all short and close to civilization!

I’ve linked to the Washington Trails Association through out this post. It’s a simply wonderful resource. One of my favorite things about it is that you can read recent trip reports on any hike you’re considering. These are all hikes my family has enjoyed in the summer months.

Denny Creek Slide-I’m planning a more detailed post on this one in the future. It’s an easy, flat hike through pretty woods. Shortly after leaving the trailhead, smooth rocks form a natural water slide kids can play in during warm months. There are several small waterfalls just beyond, or go all the way to Franklin Falls

(the last little scramble down to the falls is very steep and slick)  .Note that this is an extremely popular hike-best to do on a weekday, or go early to find a parking space. Rocks are also hard (‘um….like rocks?) and slippery, so that part should be left to older children. There are a few places where the creek is slow and calm enough to let little ones splash, but it is shockingly cold, and you’ll obviously need to watch them.

Greenwater Lakes-Beautiful scenery the whole way, mostly flat, and there are several good turn around spots.  You can even take the dog!  This link mentions Echo Lake, which is further in, but Greenwater Lake makes a fine turn around for a shorter outing.

Skookum Flats/Falls -Pretty, wooded trail along a river. Lots of giant stumps and rocks to explore, and it ends at the base of a waterfall. Note that actually going to the base of the waterfall requires a steep, uphill climb-not for young children. Also, the  river water is swift moving and cold year round.  You need a Northwest Forest Pass.

Grove of the Patriarchs-You have to go into Mt.Rainier National Park (and buy a pass) to do this one, but it’s great. Short, flat, and you get to walk across a rope bridge to a magical island of giant trees.  Note that some of the trip reports reference Silver Falls. You can add that on to this hike, but it will be much longer. You can easily just go the grove and back again.

Sheep Lake-Parts of this are uphill, but it’s an easy, gradual climb, and you get rewarded with a great lake at the end that’s perfect for kids who like to splash and play. This would also make a nice, first backpacking trip. Note that you will need your bug spray. I was nearly eaten alive on this one!  You’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass

For still more ideas, check out Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington & the Cascades  by Joan Burton.

Best Hikes
You can find this one at the library, but I recommend investing in a copy. We’ve used ours for years now, and it’s been well worth the small investment (the link is my Amazon affiliate) Take a look inside at Amazon.

Got a favorite family hike I should add? I’d love you to share!




Visit Mt.Rainier! It’s Free This Sunday-Plus, Tips for Your Visit!

First, because I get a lot of folks here at SFM who are new to the area, I’m going to help you talk like a local. Ready? If it’s a clear, sunny day, we say, “The mountain is out.” Fun, huh?

Moving on….Whether you’re entertaining out of town guests or just looking to wow your kiddos, it’s hard to beat a real life mountain (and a volcano at that), for a daycation destination.

And, this Sunday, the 25th, entrance is Free in celebration of the Parks Service Birthday!  Here are a few tips if you’d like to, “Celebrate,” by making a trip!

See all that fog? You never know what you’ll find when you get there. No glacier views this day, but the flowers were gorgeous.

There are several possible routes to Rainier. We typically head to Sunrise, going through Enumclaw and Greenwater on 410, just as if you were headed to Crystal Mountain.

You might also consider heading to Paradise first, via Elbe. has good options and directions.

Here are my other top tips. Let me know if I missed your favorite! 

  • Start early. Mt.Rainier is big (duh), and you’ll want to give yourself enough time to explore. When it gets to be the summer months, you’ll also need to allow time to take the shuttle, as finding parking will be the most challenging part of your visit!
  • Decide on your priority. For easy hikes with tall trees, consider heading to the Ohanapecosh area. Ohanapecosh also has a family friendly campground and a visitor center that is small but full of “touch me,” exhibits. For wildflowers, go up to Sunrise. You can also get amazing views of the glaciers if it’s not foggy. For a dose of history, check out Longmire. Paradise is the most popular area, and has amazing vistas as well as the biggest visitor’s center. The Carbon and Mowich areas tend to be less visited, but have lots of fine walks through old growth trees and temperate rainforest.
  • Dress in layers. Mountain weather is tricky-you can be chilly, but still getting too much sun (see below).
  • Bring the 10 essentials. If you’re planning even the smallest hike, you’ll want to be prepared.
  • Do choose a hike! Visitors centers are tons of fun for kids to explore, but you’ll want to do at least a short walk for a real mountain experience. Ask for suggestions at any visitor’s center or check out some I’ve listed in this post.
  • Be sure to have your kids do the junior ranger program. Simply ask a ranger at any visitor’s center. The program is free, and after completing activities in the provided booklet, kids earn a junior ranger pin. If they attend a ranger lead program, they’ll also score a patch. My kids have earned junior ranger pins and badges at many parks over the last several years, and it’s always so much fun. The first time our oldest got one he was actually trembling as he took his little ranger oath, he was so excited! If your kids don’t have time to finish the requirements during your visit, they can take the booklet home and send it in.
  • Stop for gas and food before you go. You can’t get gas anywhere in the park, and while you can get food, it’s pricey.
  • Entry into the park is 15.00 for a single day. An annual pass is 30.00 Entry is free Sunday!
  • For some specific hike ideas, you might enjoy this post.

Great Hikes Near Mt.Rainier With Kids (Some with dogs, too)! The Wildflowers are Blooming!

If you’re a wildflower fan, there is no better time to head to Mt.Rainier. The fields are ablaze with color, and it’s hard to beat for a daytrip with visiting family, or a, “Wow!” end to summer break. If you’re new to the area, or you just haven’t been to the mountain in a while, you’ll want to read this post on an outing to Mt.Rainier first. It’s got lots of good basic tips and links to resources to help you plan.

It’s Wildflower Time at Mt.Rainier. We saw these on our way to Sheep Lake two weeks ago.


What are some good outings once you’re in the park and you’ve gotten the lay of the land? There are literally dozens of great hiking guides to Rainier, but here are a few that are favorites in our house:

  • Grove of the Patriarchs  Easy, magical hike that goes over a bridge to an island of some of the state’s oldest trees. Kid approved!
  • Silver Falls  Starting in the Ohanapecosh campground, this easy hike ends at a beautiful waterfall and never gains much elevation. I will tell you it took us 3 times to finish it-it’s an easy hike, but it’s a hike, not a walk!
  • Naches Peak Loop  A longer hike, but lots of postcard worthy views around every corner.

We’ve also recently discovered some easy, dog friendly options. While you can’t take your dog on Any trails that are part of the park, there are National Forest Lands and parts of the Pacific Crest Trail both in and just outside of the park boundaries, where leashed dogs are welcome. Note that these require a National Forest Service Pass. You can get these at the ranger station in Enumclaw, where you can also ask for help if you’re confused about what passes to get and where to go! Our boys and the rescue lab enjoyed all three of these, which are mostly flat and easy.

On the trail!

  • Greenwater Lakes  This one is just after the little town of Greenwater, well before the Mountain. It’s a great option for an easy, closer hike. There are a lot of skinny, log bridges to cross, which may not be fun with a toddler.
  • Skookum Flats/Skookum Falls  Pretty views, and almost the whole hike is flat and shaded. You do have to scramble straight up a hillside if you want to get right up by the waterfall at the end. Young children can just enjoy a peek-a-boo view.
  • Sheep Lake A bit of this goes up hill, but it’s generally easy, and we saw lots of beautiful wildflowers. It ends at a bona fide alpine lake where kids could easily play the day away. You do need to bring bug spray. We got eaten alive!
  • Summit Lake I haven’t done this one, but my mom, who is a frequent hike leader, says it’s a good one for kids, dogs, and flower fans.

Any guidebook or ranger can give you more detail about these hikes, or I always recommend Joan Burton’s excellent book, Best Hikes With Kids. The Washington Trails Association is also an excellent resource. You can use their site to search for hikes by feature-dog friendly, waterfalls, etc. It’s a lot of fun to explore.

I know many of you are regular hikers and backpackers, so I hope you’ll share your favorites, too!

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll want to make sure you read these other posts with great summer daycation ideas:

 Exploring Mysterious Mima Mounds

Paddling Around the Arboretum

Riding the Great Wheel

Visiting Jetty Island