Update-Do be sure to check the comments on this one for more great ideas! We’d love to hear yours, too!
Looking for a walk that feels more like a hike, but won’t have your little ones weeping before they’ve left the trailhead? I hear you!
My family loves to hike, but there were several years when it seemed like we had one disaster after another. If you have little ones who are too big to carry, but too short to walk very far, here are 10 outings that might do the trick!
Each trail feels like a real adventure, but they’re short, flat and won’t have you more than a few minutes from juice boxes, hand wipes, and real potties. You might want to consider trying a few of these trails as training runs before a longer adventure!
There are several trails around Snake Lake. Each trail is flat with plenty for kids to explore, and if your walk is a bust you can look at the exhibits inside the Nature Center or play on the awesome Discovery Pond playground. This is a FREE outing, too (though it’s nice to leave a donation).
Location: Tacoma Nature Center, 1919 S Tyler Street, Tacoma
Wide, easy trails through the woods, plus a small playground by a little stream kids love to muck around in. There are also plenty of picnic tables, so you can brown bag it and make a day of it. Note: Several years ago the secluded shelters here were attractive spots for not-so-attractive behaviors. I haven’t heard reports of that in ages, but consider this your heads-up.
Location: 23rd Avenue SE and 9th Street SE in Puyallup
A super short walk that includes a half mile boardwalk into the forest. There is lots of beautiful, ancient moss to see, birds to identify and frogs to spot. A perfect afternoon adventure spot. Be sure to ask about their special programs if you check it out.
Location: 21656 184th Ave SE, Renton. Be sure to follow the directions on the Shadow Lake site as it’s a bit tricky to find.
A boardwalk, a bog, and bunnies! There are trees toppled on their sides, and you can take a peak at the roots, which measure about 6′ across! Lots for kids to see on this flat, easy walk that feels like you’re really out in the wild. There are benches to take a rest, and plenty of fun photo opportunities on this well designed and beautifully maintained trail. There is also an old cabin to peer in at the trailhead, too!
Location: 411 S 348th St, Federal Way
Have a wild adventure right in Tacoma! There are several different hike possibilities here, or just go as far as the creek and let the kids float leaves and look for fish. The edible forest is also interesting to check out. Note that parking is tight here, and you are out of sight of the car quickly, so don’t leave valuables. This park gets a lot more use than it used to, and we feel perfectly safe here. We have heard from other readers that they prefer to do it with a group (never a bad idea)!
Location: Roosevelt & E 42nd St, Tacoma
Dumas Bay Sanctuary, Federal Way
While nearby Dash Point State Park offers a similar experience, Dumas Bay is the private, secluded version. Take a short stroll through the forest, where the trees open wide to welcome you to a sandy beach where there are usually few visitors. This wildlife sanctuary is located in a neighbored, but has its own parking lot.
Location: 30844 44th Ave SW, Federal Way
Near Gig Harbor? The SFM grandma recommends Cushman Trail, a paved, but non-motorized trail that’s perfect for beginning bike riders. Wide paths and multiple bathrooms along the way!
Location: There are multiple access points along the trail, including 96th St NW, Grandview, Hollycroft and 14th Ave NW. Check out the site to see a map and choose the spot best for your crew.
Near Lacey or Olympia? Check out Priest Point! This park features a great variety of trails, some with a 10% grade, some with stairs, and some with a boardwalk. The most accessible point is at Shelter #1, which has paved parking, bathrooms, and a playground. While in Olympia, you might also want to explore trails surrounding the capital building, as well as reader recommended Chehalis Western Trail. This is a long one that’s great for biking. There are several different access points, so your trek can be as long or as short as your littlest one can handle!
Location: 2600 East Bay Drive NE, Olympia
Before embarking on the flat boardwalk, check out the awesome playground and visitor center. There are Just for Kids activities including a Nature Explore Area for kids ages 2-8 and a Junior Refuge Manager workbook with fun activities for ages 4-11. This is also a great place for bird watching! The walk itself is actually quite long if you do the whole thing, but it’s totally up to you how far you want to go.
Location: 100 Brown Farm Rd NE, Dupont
If you thought Point Defiance was just a zoo and aquarium, think again! There are several trails in the park that have the feel of a hike, ranging in length from 1-4 miles. Views include the Olympics and Cascades; check out the newly renovated Pagoda or the Botanical Gardens. The spine trails near the rhododendron garden are good ones to try.
Location: 5400 N Pearl St, Tacoma
For more options, check out this free Pierce County Walking Guide or just look under our outdoor adventure tab in the menu bar.
For even MORE ideas, check out Joan Burton’s Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington (My Amazon link). We have used this one over and over again, and it’s been well worth the investment.
Do you know a good walk I missed? Let us know! And don’t miss other readers’ suggetions in the comments. Walk on!