"Hey, kids! Let’s go hiking!” Skeptical looks — even groans — greet your suggestion. To kids, hiking sounds an awful lot like work — and what’s in it for them, anyway?
But you know where your wild things belong: out in nature, scampering free on the trails, peeking under rocks, examining bugs and slugs. Somehow, the idea just isn’t catching on. What to do?
Try the one sure-fire wilderness lure for any kid: water!
You don’t need to be in great shape to take your kids on a mini-Splash Mountain adventure. Here are two easy and fun hikes with watery payoffs that will have kids clamoring to go back again and again. Remember to pack the “10 Essentials” (see sidebar) and, for these hikes, a towel, bathing suit and a plastic bag for toting soggy things back to the car.
Denny Creek water slide
Your kids will shout with glee when they get a load of this natural water park near Snoqualmie Pass. A very gently stepped rock-slab waterfall makes for exhilarating butt-surfing and sliding. The hike to the slide is an easy one and a half miles through a beautiful old forest and over log bridges. At one point, the trail goes under a freeway overpass — fascinating for children, if a bit off-putting for parents. But soon, the rush of traffic fades, replaced by the sound of rushing water and the happy splashing of children. Note: In early spring, the water volume can be dangerous; this hike is best for May and later. Bring bug spray to this one and get an early start: It’s a family favorite around here, and the parking lot fills up on summer days.
To get there, take I-90 east to Denny Creek, Exit 47. Turn left and go over the freeway. Turn right on road no. 58, pass the Denny Creek Campground at about three miles. Turn left onto road no. 5830. Follow the signs to the Melakwa Lake trailhead for trail no. 1014. Find more information on the Washington Trails Association website.
Here’s a lovely little lake to play in, also off I-90 in the North Bend area, with a bonus feature: the first-rate Cedar River Watershed Education Center. Start with a visit here to learn more about where our drinking water comes from. Interactive exhibits allow kids to follow a water molecule through the water cycle, find out how much of their body weight is water, and more. My kids are always captivated by the water drums: a collection of drums in the main courtyard that are “played” by falling drops of water, controlled by computer. Hypnotic.
From the visitor’s center, take a stroll along the Lake Trail — a level mile and a half of paved and gravel trails — and plan a picnic on the shore. (Bring a blanket; there are no picnic tables.) Be warned: If you swim there are no lifeguards.
From there, heartier hikers can walk to the Rattlesnake Ledge trailhead and head up the forested switchbacks for a while. This is a challenging uphill grade, and parents will want to keep a close eye on little ones around steep drop-offs.
To get there, take I-90 east to 436th Avenue Southeast, Exit 32 (just past the North Bend exits). Take a right off of the exit, going south on 436th Avenue Southeast (it turns into Cedar Falls Road). Drive about three miles, following the signs posted for Rattlesnake Lake.
Kristen Dobson is ParentMap’s managing editor and the mother of two “mountain goats,” ages 8 and 11.