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Hit the trail! Great summer hikes with kids

Those lazy days of summer can be a welcome rest -- or the cause of a major case of cabin fever. If you're longing to get a little exercise and fresh air, why not take your kids on an adventure and head for one of the many excellent family-friendly trails that abound in our area?

It's easier to get started than you think. You'll just need to gather some basic safety and hiking equipment (see below) and a few snacks, plus sunscreen and plenty of drinking water. Outfit the kids in comfortable shoes, layered clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. And make sure your goals are realistic: Sometimes, getting to the top of the mountain or the end of the trail takes a back seat to smelling the flowers or peeking under rocks. Go with the flow! Know when it's time to turn around. Kids who don't feel forced to hike are kids who joyfully hike again and again.

Here's a look at two local beauties that provide gorgeous views and lots of interesting discoveries along the way.

Twin Falls, Olallie State Park

Twin Falls has a wide, well-maintained trail that meanders along the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River before climbing (somewhat steeply) to jaw-dropping views of the lower falls.

Pack a towel for this one! After a level quarter-mile, a lovely wide bend in the river invites water play among the rocks. Keep a close eye on little ones, who will love splashing and digging in the mud along the banks. Stop here on the way up, or save it for the way back as a picnic spot and a place to get some well-earned rest.

After this point, the trail starts to climb, following several switchbacks up to two benches with your first view of the spectacular lower falls. The trail heads down a bit from here, then back up. At about .9 mile, it levels to cross a little wooden bridge. Watch for a spur trail, complete with wooden rails, on your right; this is the way to the viewing platform over the falls.

You'll want to linger a while on this platform (perhaps for a snack and photographs) before turning back. The trail continues on to the upper falls, but those views can't compare to what you've already seen, and following this trail will double your mileage. Instead, turn left (back the way you came) for a 2-mile round-trip journey.

The trailhead is about 35 miles east of Seattle on Interstate 90. Take Exit 34. At the end of the ramp, turn right onto 468th Ave. S.E. At about .6 mile, turn left onto Southeast 159th St. (you'll see a sign on your right for Twin Falls). The trailhead (and a pit toilet) is at the end of the road.

Talus Rocks

Somewhat closer to the city, but slightly more strenuous, is this 2.8-mile hike, which holds a big payoff when hiking with kids. The rocks themselves are mysteriously beautiful, a Northwest Stonehenge tucked away at the top of the trail and covered in ferns. Some of the rocks have trees growing around them, and others create dark caves. Interesting railings keep the clambering safe. But your kids will have to hike a fairly steep half-mile to reach them. Many a 3-year-old has made this journey, but if your kids need a gentler start, skip down to Tradition Lake (below).

This trail is part of a complex of trails that shoot off from the Tradition Lake trailhead, which means that you'll want to keep an eye on directions to make sure you get (and stay) on the right trail. From the parking lot, follow the signs to the trailhead. At .1 mile, head left at a four-way intersection, through a wooden gate. At .2 miles, follow signs and turn left on West Tiger 3. You'll pass a trail on the left before beginning a steep climb. At 1 mile, turn right onto Connector Trail. You'll reach the rocks after 1.4 miles.

Tradition Lake

If you (or your kids) aren't up for the climb to Talus Rocks, try one of the other great hikes from this trailhead in the Issaquah Alps. The Round the Lake trail is mostly level and skirts the placid lake, which is lined with snags that can be prime eagle hangouts. Check the trail map at the main kiosk for directions.

Getting there:

The Tradition Lake trailhead is located about 21 miles east of Seattle on Interstate 90. Take exit 20. Turn right at the end of the exit, and then right again onto Southeast 79th St. After about a half-mile, you'll pass through a white gate. The road reaches a dead end at an (often crowded) gravel parking area. There are bathrooms near the main kiosk and group picnic areas.

Kristen Dobson was ParentMap's managing editor and the organizer of a multi-generational hiking group.


For more hikes with kids:

Best Hikes with Children in Western Washington and the Cascades, by Joan Burton, the Mountaineers.

Beyond Mount Si: the Best Hikes within 85 Miles of Seattle, by John Zilly, Adventure Press.

Hiking with kids? The Mountaineers have compiled this list of the "Ten Essentials," which should be taken on any hike:

  • Extra clothing (for changing weather or unplanned swims)
  • Extra food
  • Sunglasses
  • Pocket knife
  • Fire-starter candle
  • First-aid kit
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Flashlight (with working batteries)
  • Map
  • Compass
  • Also bring:
  • Treats (a favorite sweet to celebrate a job well done)
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellent (if desired)
  • Tissues
  • Cell phone (for emergencies only -- keep it turned off!)
  • Your wallet (never leave anything valuable in your car)

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