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10 Easy Interpretive Trails to Try with Kids in Washington State

Walk a little, learn a lot on these kid-friendly hikes recommended by Washington Trails Association

Published on: July 15, 2015

Photo by Kristin Wall, Flickr

Whether you have little ones, limited mobility or simply need to stretch your legs after a long car ride, a short interpretive trail can do the trick. What's more, these trails provide information that can enrich your visit as you learn about the ecology, geology and human history that have shaped the environment.

We've chosen 10 of our favorite interpretive trails around Washington state but there are many more that we could share. If you like these, we encourage you to seek out others on your own adventures and write about them as a trip report on this WTA page.

Photo by Jon Stier 

1. Quinault Rainforest Nature Trail

Location: Olympics, West
Round Trip: 0.5 mile
Elevation Gain: 40 feet

Hike it: If you only have the time for a quick peek at the lush landscape surrounding Lake Quinault, don't miss this short nature loop. Interpretive signs provide an excellent introduction to the ecology of the area. Those who have more time can connect to a larger system of trails that ultimately pass by the historic Quinault Lodge.


Photo by Nutmeg

2. Living Legacy Interpretive Trail

Location: Olympics, East
Round Trip: 1.5 miles

Hike it: Learn about the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps on this 1.5 mile interpretive loop from the Hamma Hamma Campground. The first quarter mile is barrier-free, but then this short trail gets down (or up, as it may be) to some business.

Photo by Neeti Mathur

3. Fire & Ice Trail

Location: Mount Baker
Round Trip: 0.5 mile
Elevation Gain: 100 feet

Hike it: Snow lingers long at Mount Baker, but this trail is one of the earliest to melt out. It's an excellent place to orient yourself to this superlative country and learn more about how volcanoes and glaciers have shaped it. After this trail, make sure to drive to Artist Point and walk the short distance to Huntoon Point for more amazing views.

Photo by jbk51691

4. Deception Falls

Location: Stevens Pass
Round Trip: 0.5 mile
Elevation Gain: 50 feet 

Hike it: The rest stop east of Skykomish on Stevens Pass hides a secret: a delightful, half-mile interpretive trail to the multi-tiered Deception Falls. You've probably sped by it before, but next time, take a short break and stretch your legs. You won't be sorry. Looking for a longer interpretive hike? Try the Iron Goat Trail for a historical perspective on the railroad industry in this area.

Photo by Lori Raymaker 

5. Traditional Knowledge Trail

Location: North Bend
Round Trip: 0.3 mile

Hike it: This new interpretive trail on Snoqualmie tribal land showcases the native plants traditionally used for medicine and food by Native Americans. After touring this area, consider visiting the new Rain Garden nearby.

Photo by Jon Stier

6. Pretzel Tree Trail

Location: Near Issaquah
Round Trip: 0.5 mile

Hike It: Tucked just off the Squak Mountain picnic area, the Pretzel Tree trail tells the story of forest animals who go on an adventure to find the Pretzel Tree. It's an engaging tale for young kids or new readers, and at the end, there is the infamous Pretzel Tree! Do you prefer ecology in a story like this? Consider the Swamp Trail at Tiger Mountain to learn about Zoe and the Swamp Monster. 

Photo by Sudsymaggie 

7. Trail of the Shadows

Location: Mount Rainier National Park
Round Trip: 0.5 mile
Elevation Gain: 20 feet

Hike It: A stop-over at Mount Rainier's Longmire isn't complete without a short detour on the Trail of Shadows. It's a self-guided trail, so hopefully the box is packed with trail booklets. You'll pass by a 1888 logging cabin, mineral springs and beaver dams.

Photo by Susan Elderkin 

8. Layser Cave

Location: Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Round Trip: 0.25 mile
Elevation Gain: 100 feet

Hike It: One of the most important archaeological sites in Western Washington lies just off the forest road to Mount Adams and the east side of Mount St. Helens. Only a quarter mile from the spur road, this cave was discovered in 1982 and was found to contain tools and bones dating back 7,000 years. Interpretive signs help put the human history here in context. If you have more time, you may also want to visit the Cispus Braille Trail at the Cispus Environmental Center for a short sensory hike.

Photo by Jon Stier

9. Eruption Trail

Location: Mount St. Helens
Round Trip: 0.5 mile
Elevation Gain: 25 feet

Hike It: After exploring the fascinating exhibits in the Johnston Ridge Observatory at Mount St. Helens, take this short loop to see the effects of the blast up close. You'll see areas still barren after more than 30 years, but also the remarkable resurgence of plant and animal life as it takes hold on this windswept ridge.

Photo by Holly Weiler

10. Log Flume

Location: Near Republic
Round Trip: 0.5 mile
Elevation Gain: None

Hike It: Need a bit of a break on a long journey across Highway 20? This fun trail near Kettle Falls and the Columbia River tells the story of early logging operations. This was the site of a 5-mile long log flume at one time, and you can still see remnants today.
From 9 Kid-Friendly Hikes 90 Minutes or Less from Seattle

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