“What are good hikes for kids at Mt.Rainier?” is one of the most popular questions we get here at Sounds Fun Mom. There are so many great hikes at Mt.Rainier, including lots that are suitable for children. Choosing just a few is hard, but we gave it a shot! Of course, we’d love to hear your favorites, too. Note: These are primarily hikes for the summer months. Always check trail conditions before you head out, especially this year as the snow pack was big.
We’ve tried to give you enough info here to help you choose. The Mountain is big, so you’ll want to pick a hike based on how far you want to go, what you want to see (mountain vistas? waterfalls? big trees?), and, of course, on the skill and endurance of your little hikers. Do be sure to take the 10 essentials on any outing.
We’ve also linked to the always helpful Wta.org through out this post. Be sure to check recent trip reports for up-to-date information, and when in doubt, check with a ranger and start short! When you’re hiking with kids the journey really is more important than the destination!
- Grove of the Patriarchs Easy, magical hike that goes over a bridge to an island of some of the state’s oldest trees. You won’t get mountain views here, but the trees are truly other worldly, and kids love the bridge. Short and easy! You may want to combine the first part of this hike with the Silver Falls hike (see below).
- Sunrise Nature Trail this little 1.5 mile hike doesn’t get much love in guide books, maybe because it’s called a nature trail. It starts right behind the visitor’s center at Sunrise (also excellent). Go up the steps and then head right. There are labeled plants and trees to explore, and amazing views. At the corner, there is a wooden sign. You can take the trail just above this first one to meet up with the main path-it sort of makes a triangle and then you go back to the center. Or just turn around the way you came! It will take you about 45 minutes total-maybe longer if you’re letting little ones walk on their own. We think it’s an excellent introduction to the mountain. Note this is the first section of the Sourdough Ridge trail. We have also taken it all the way to Dege Peak, which is another underrated hike, though a bit more difficult with some loose rocks and elevation gain-most sure footed school aged kids should be o.k. with it.
- 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! There are some alternate ways to get there if you want a shorter distance. Be sure to check out the visitor’s center/ranger station while you’re here. There is also a super short nature walk. You don’t need to stay at the campground to do any of them.
- Naches Peak Loop A longer hike that does gain some elevation, but there are lots of postcard worthy views around every corner. This might be my favorite hike in the park. Do make sure to go clockwise! This is the one I’d do with out of state visitors-assuming they’re reasonably fit. This hike starts at Tipsoo Lake. If you just want a picnic and a walkabout, you could just hang out there!
- Bench and Snow Lakes Easy hike to a pair of pretty alpine lakes with the option of water play in the summer months. These are particularly popular, so expect company! We have a more detailed hike report for this one here.
- Be sure to check the comments on this post for other recommendations!
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.
- Greenwater and Echo Lakes This one is just after the little town of Greenwater (Watch the speed limit signs here!!) and 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. It’s shaded and gentle the whole way, with lots of lovely views of the river. There are also lots of good turn-around points-no need to go farther than you want! This area would also be an excellent first backpacking destination.
- 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-NOT for anyone but the sure footed (or mountain goats). Young children can just enjoy a peek-a-boo view. Do note that getting to the trailhead requires going down one very bumpy road! If you want to see the waterfall in full force go during the late spring/early summer.
- Sheep Lake A bit of this goes up hill, but it’s generally easy, and very pretty. The very first bit is the steepest, and may not be suitable for young children on their own. We also had relatively little company on this one, something that can’t be said for most of the hikes on this list. It ends at a bona fide alpine lake where kids (and your dog) could easily play the day away. You do need to bring bug spray. We got eaten alive doing this one late in August.
Any guidebook or ranger can give you more detail about these hikes or suggest others. I also always recommend Joan Burton’s excellent book, Best Hikes With Kids (my affiliate link). If you’re ready for longer adventures, the Mountaineers guides are the best imho.
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.
New here? I write just for South Sound families. If you live or play in Tacoma, Puyallup, or just about anywhere between Kent-Olympia, I’d love to have you stick around. We have a fun Facebook page. You can also find us on Instagram or subscribe to the weekly newsletter (It’s a list of South Sound weekend pics, and it comes out on Thursday). We’d love to hear about the hikes you have planned for the summer!