Last updated July of 2019
Here are five great hikes for kids within a short drive from the South Sound.
Add them to your summer bucket list if you’re looking for outdoor adventures!
Throughout this post, you’ll find links to the Washington Trails Association. It’s a simply wonderful resource. You can read recent reviews on any hike you’re considering, and get detailed information on what to expect upon arrival. There was much more snow in the mountains than usual this year, so pay special attention to trip reports. You may be surprised to find some paths near Mt. Rainier still have snow!
The following 5 hikes are all locales my family has enjoyed in the summer months. Note that these are all true hikes, stretching for at least a mile or more in length, without nearby bathrooms. You’ll want to bring along the Ten Essentials for Hiking.
Note from SFM-Note the change to the the trailhead/parking
Denny Creek Slide is 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. Note that this is an extremely popular hike that is 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 keep an eye on the little rascals! There are several small waterfalls just beyond Denny Creek, or go all the way to Franklin Falls
2019 Update-This hike is current not recommended by the Forest Service due to unstable trees. Choose a different one this year!
The hike to Greenwater Lakes is surrounded with beautiful scenery the whole way. It’s mostly flat, and there are several good turn around spots. You can even take the dog! You can also hike further in to Echo Lake, but Greenwater Lake makes a fine turn around for a shorter outing for shorter legs. Do bring your bug spray for all wooded hikes this time of year, especially the ones that go by water!
Hike a pretty, wooded trail along a river to Skookum Flats. There are 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 which is not suitable for young children. The waterfall is most dramatic in spring and early summer and goes down to a trickle in late summer. The river water is swift moving and cold year round. You’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass to hike here.
You have to pay to enter the Stevens Canyon Entrance of Mt.Rainier National Park to make this trek, but it is totally worth it! The Grove of the Patriarchs hike is short, flat, and you get to walk across a rope bridge to a magical island of giant, old growth trees. Note that some of the trip reports reference Silver Falls, which shares a parking lot with Grove of the Patriarchs. You can add that on to this hike, but it will be much longer. You can easily just go the grove and back again.
Parts of the hike to Sheep Lake 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 more ideas, I’ve linked to my favorite hiking guides below (my affiliate links). The new edition of the Best Hikes With Kids Book is awesome! There is also a new edition of the Mountaineers Day Hiking Mt. Rainier guide. They also have hiking guides to other areas, and they’re all great.
If these sound like too much for your tiny tots, you may want to check our Ten South Sound Nature Walks Perfect for Young Hikers, which are all short and very close to suburbia!
Got a favorite family hike I should add? I’d love you to hear it in the comments!