Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park, Vantage
Sometimes you just need a road trip east to escape the gloom of the Puget Sound region. East of sunny Ellensburg, on the banks above the Columbia River, sits a fascinating Interpretive Center at Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park. Note that this spot is close to a 3-hour drive from Seattle.
Indoor options: I recommend visiting the Interpretive Center before doing a hike. Kids can learn all about petrified wood, how it was formed and where it was found in the area. The Interpretive Center is open on weekends through May 15; open days increase toward the summer months. Call 509-856-2700 or check the website for current hours and days of operation when planning a visit.
Favorite trails: After you learn about petrified wood, take a 3-mile hike at the nearby trails, seeing petrified logs in the ground and experiencing the desert in spring.
Logistics: For directions, head to the state parks website. You’ll need a Discover Pass to park. These destinations are about three hours from Seattle, so you might consider staying overnight in the area. There is camping at the state park on the banks of the Columbia River.
Extras: If you still have energy, head back west along the Old Vantage Highway to the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility, where you’ll get to see giant wind turbines up close and learn how they work. The center is open April 1–Oct. 31.
Any of these hikes will help lift your spirits, work out the wiggles and give everyone a dose of inspiration. Just pack your rain gear, mittens and a warm hat, plus a change of clothes for the car ride home, and you’ll be cozy enough. You’ll have great memories to carry you through until summer, when you’ll be able to enjoy more sunny days and trails.
More nature adventures with kids around Puget Sound:
Editor's note: This article was originally published a few years ago and was most recently updated in March 2020.