For anyone new to hiking, the idea of heading out on an unknown trail into the woods or the mountains can be a bit daunting. Add kids into the equation and the prospect can seem even more challenging.
But hiking with kids doesn’t have to be hard, and it doesn’t take much to get them outside and excited about hitting the trail. Below are four great kid-friendly hikes for beginning hikers of all ages and abilities.
Before you get to those, we’ll offer a few pointers for hiking with kids, too:
- Start easy — You want your kids to have fun on a hike, not get exhausted, so pick trails that are short and don’t have much elevation gain.
- Break often — Take lots of rest stops along the way and bring plenty of snacks and drinks to keep the kiddos hydrated, fed and happy.
- Pick rewarding trails — Kids can find intrigue just about anywhere they go, but having fun sights and sounds along a hike can help hide the exertion and keep their minds wandering. Hikes to waterfalls or lakes are great, as are those with giant trees, historic buildings or interesting wildlife.
Portland area hikers can avoid a long car ride to the trailhead with a trip to Tryon Creek State Natural Area on the south side of the city. This forested gem is laced with an interconnected network of trails that can be strung together for strolls of any length. Suggestions for kid-friendly hikes include the Cedar Trail Loop and the Lewis and Clark Trail Loop. Both start from the nature center, which is also home to a gift shop and regular kid-focused, ranger-led activities, all of which can make a hike here even more fun.
Length: Up to 4 miles roundtrip
For an easy introduction to massive old-growth trees and a pristine and wild river, it’s hard to beat the hike along Mount Hood’s Salmon River. The straight-forward and mostly flat path edges along the river, passing under soaring cedars and Doug firs. Scenic lunch sites are easy to find along the way. The hike heads uphill after about 2 miles, so it’s best to turn around earlier so as not to overdo it with the little ones.
Length: 3.5 miles roundtrip
Having a jaw-dropping destination as part of a hike is one of the best ways to entice young hikers to carry on. Tamanawas Falls on Mount Hood’s northeast side serves that purpose well. The walk is a scenic one that rises less than 600 feet over about 1.75 miles on the way up. Cold Spring Creek adds a nice soundtrack to the hike, and a few stout bridges make for some fun crossings. And the falls? Everyone will be happy.
Length: .5 mile
More of a walk than an actual hike, the Trail of Two Forests is nonetheless a fascinating amble and a great introduction to Mount St. Helens. The loop trail passes over ancient lava beds, under towering trees and along cool imprints of trees left in the lava called “lava casts.” There are also a few tunnels left by fallen trees engulfed in a lava flow that braver hikers can crawl through.