My family loves to hike, but we rarely travel more than four miles from our home for these walking adventures. We are always hitting the default button by driving to our favorite local haunts, Discovery and Carkeek Parks in Seattle.
This year, I vowed to get us out of our comfort zone and onto trails a little further afield, within 90 minutes of our front door in Seattle. To that end, read on for nine fairly new or recently renovated hiking trails that offer fun for kids and a variety of difficulty levels.
Skip to the first hike or browse all the hikes:
1. Grand Ridge Trail Park, Issaquah
2. Bellevue Botanical Garden, Ravine Experience
3. Evans Creek Preserve, Sammamish
4. , Paradise Valley Conservation Area Woodinville
5. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
6. Margaret's Way, Issaquah
7. Beckler Peak Trail, Skykomish
8. , Centennial Trail Snohomish-Skagit
9. Guemes Mountain, Guemes Island
Grand Ridge Trail Park, Issaquah
Completed several years ago by tireless Washington Trails Association volunteers, the
Grand Ridge Park trail is a seven-mile multiuse trail overlooking Issaquah and Sammamish. Kid attractions along the way include several small bridges and a 40-foot cedar log stringer bridge built with wind-fallen trees. A 605-foot cedar-decked boardwalk spans a peat wetland surrounded by thick stands of western hemlock and Sitka spruce. Look for barred owls, pileated woodpeckers, deer, squirrels, swallows, finches and bald eagles. Cougar, black bear and bobcat are sometimes spotted in this area, too.
Length of trail/difficulty: This seven-mile trail includes some rolling terrain and a roughly 1,100-foot elevation gain. Kids ages 10 and older should be able to walk the entire network, while younger children can explore shorter loops. Hikers, bikers, horses and leashed dogs share this trail.
Getting there: You can start a hike from several trailheads. Find directions at . No pass required. wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/grand-ridge-park
Most recent reports: See recent reports from the trail at wta.org
Photo: Courtesy of King County
Walking the Ravine Experience at Bellevue Botanical Garden Bellevue Botanical Garden’s Ravine Experience
Bellevue Botanical Garden's Ravine Experience is a trail featuring a 150-foot steel suspension bridge that sways as visitors walk high up within this second-growth forest with its soaring conifers. Pick up a free native plants/nature walk trail guide available at the
. Look for birds and deer on this hikers-only trail and know that there are rare coyote sightings here. The Visitor Center is open daily from dawn to dusk. Bellevue Botanical Garden Length of trail/difficulty: This short hike is appropriate for all ages, although some children decline to cross this sturdy yet gently swaying bridge. Also explore ten acres of gardens at this free-to-the-public botanical center. Many of the seven gardens are located near the new Visitor Center, which is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Getting there: Find directions to the garden here. Overflow parking is at , next door. Wilburton Hill Park
Photo: Courtesy of Bellevue Botanical Garden
Evans Creek Preserve, Sammamish
With short hiking trails and a boardwalk completed in 2011,
Evans Creek Preserve was established on the site of a former 170-acre farm on the northern border of Sammamish. Wander through wetlands, meadow and forest; and bird watch from four viewing platforms. Look for deer, find a group of big leaf maple trees and count all of the short bridges over the wetlands.
Length of trail/difficulty: Approximately two miles of mostly level trails and one long boardwalk make for easy hiking for walkers of any age. This is a hiker-only area, but dogs on leashes are welcome.
Getting there: Find driving directions here. Park patrons must use the designated parking lot, which is located in a residential area. No pass required.
Trip reports: Find hikers' recent trip reports at wta.org.
Photo: Courtesy of Sammamish Parks
Paradise Valley Conservation Area, Woodinville area
Even though Paradise Valley is not far from State Route 522, hikers are enveloped in a vast 800-acre park of woodlands, wetlands and streams, including one of the Sammamish River system’s most productive salmon streams. Look for frogs, salamanders, bald eagles, hawks, owls and deer.
Length of trail/difficulty: With 13 miles of trails, there is a hike for every level here. Some trails are designated for mountain bikers and equestrians; Cascara Trail is the area’s shortest hiker-only trail. The Washington Trails Association website notes that loops off the Mainline Trail offer vistas that include the Cascade Range.
Getting there: Find driving directions to Paradise Valley at snohomishcountywa.gov. Know that the parking lot (room for approximately 40 cars) fills up quickly on weekends and on beautiful summer days. No pass required.
Tips: This park has a skills course for mountain bike riders. Hikers are allowed on every trail, though. Keep your eyes out for both bikers and horses when you are on multi-use trails.
Trip reports: Find recent hiker trip reports at wta.org.
Photograph by Stephen Lee.
Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, Olympia area
The Nisqually Wildlife Refuge is a nature wonderland just a short drive from Interstate 5. On two miles of trails, visitors can explore seven different types of habitat, each inhabited by a community of wildlife — Canada geese, bald eagles and American bitterns, otters, salmon, harbor seals and more. Don’t miss the recently installed Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk trail, a one-mile boardwalk that traverses the Nisqually delta and includes viewing platforms and an observation tower. At the visitor center, kids can pick up an explorer’s workbook, which they can complete to become a Junior Refuge Manager.
Length of trail/difficulty: This hiker-only destination has two miles of flat and well-maintained trails that are handicap accessible and suitable for all ages. Note: There isn’t a picnic area.
Getting there: Find driving directions here. There is a $3 parking fee.
Trip reports: Find hiker trip reports at WTA.org
Photo: Courtesy of Nisqually Wildlife Refuge
Photo credit: Sonja Hanson Margaret’s Way trail, Issaquah
One of our region’s newest hikes is
this trail on Squak Mountain, which Washington Trails Association finished last summer. Named after a park planner, Margaret MacLeod, who helped spur the preservation of several areas in the Issaquah Alps, the trail starts at Squak Mountain Lodge and wanders along wooded hillsides and near creeks, ending at Five Corners. Turn around or continue up to Debbie’s View lookout point for views of Mount Rainier.
Length of trail/difficulty: The trail is 2.7-mile one way, 5.5 miles round-trip, with an elevation gain of 1,500 feet.
Getting there: Find directions at . No pass required. wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/margarets-way
Beckler Peak Trail, Skykomish
Although the first mile and a half of the rebuilt
Beckler Peak Trail is on old logging roads, soon enough the path dips into an old-growth forest. As the trail begins to climb, look for alpine blueberry shrubs and white granite outcroppings. The summit is breathtaking, with views of the town of Skykomish, the Skykomish valley, mountains, alpine lakes, the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness and the edge of the Wild Sky Wilderness. Keep your children close at the top, though: The summit is rocky, with some steep terrain.
Length of trail/difficulty: This hiker-only trail is a more difficult hike, suitable for older kids (ages 8 and up) who are experienced hikers. It’s 7.4 miles round-trip and climbs steadily but gently with more than 2,000 feet of elevation gain.
Getting there: Follow the driving directions to Beckler Peak trailhead at . wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/beckler-peak
Centennial Trail, Snohomish-Skagit
is 30 miles of contiguous trail through Snohomish all the way to the Skagit County line. This former Burlington Northern railway corridor has been turned into a 12-foot wide paved path perfect for hikers, bikers, and horse riders. The last four miles was dedicated to the Nakashima family last November. This Japanese family owned the land until they were interned during WWII. Visit the Centennial Trail while hiking the trail. The trail can also be a nice bike route for families, less crowded than many of the Seattle-area trails. Nakashima Family Barn Trailhead Length of trail/difficulty: Pick your trailhead based on your needs. Some of the trailheads have playgrounds for youngsters, while older kids can bike the entire line in one day. Getting there: Pick your parking trailhead by exploring online. Tips: The Centennial Trails travels through Snohomish, Lake Stevens, and Arlington, making for an easy lunch out in any of these towns. Also know that the trail hosts about 16 events a year, so check online to plan your trips around these events.
Trip reports: Find recent hiker trip reports at wta.org.
Guemes Mountain, Guemes Island
Any trip that includes a ferry ride and a jaunt to the highest point on an island sounds like childhood nirvana.
Guemes Mountain, located in a conservation area and protected by a unique partnership, is the highest point on Guemes Island, an island in the San Juan chain that you can access by ferry from Anacortes. The view from the top of Guemes Mountain includes the Skagit flats, Mount Baker, the Cascade mountains, Samish Island and several other San Juan Islands.
Length of trail/difficulty: This easy 1.2-mile trail (one way) is perfect for almost any level of hiker.
Getting there: Find directions on the Skagit Land Trust site. You will need to take the Guemes Island Ferry from Anacortes, which has frequent service and crosses the channel in about five minutes. Note: There is only parking for four cars at the trailhead of Guemes Mountain (plus a bike rack), so ponder bringing bikes on to the ferry instead of a car, and biking to the trailhead, 3 miles away. (You could also reserve two bikes from a bikeshare program at .) Anderson’s General Store
Other things to do on Guemes Island: Check out our complete pocket guide to Guemes Island.
Trip reports: Find recent hikers' trip reports of Guemes Mountain at wta.org.
Photo: Courtesy of Skagit Land Trust
Carkeek Park. Photo credit: Elisa Murray More easy hikes you don’t have to leave the city for
Carkeek Park, Seattle: The short loop trail that ascends from Piper’s Creek in this magnificent North Seattle park is a perfect starter hike for young kids, offering views of the Sound and even a “secret fort,” a hollowed-out tree kids can play in. Follow with playtime at the salmon-themed playground, or trainwatching.
Schmitz Preserve Park, West Seattle: Just a walk from Alki Beach, this park offers 1.7 miles of trails amid old-growth forest and a creek. Walk the unpaved trails and get a taste of what the city was like 100 years ago; the park land was donated to the city between 1908 and 1912 to preserve the forest in its natural state.
Lakeridge Park, South Seattle: Who can resist a hike in a place called Dead Horse Canyon? Though this 35-acre canyon in South Seattle has changed its name, the old name sticks. The half-mile roundtrip hike, which ascends into the canyon and back up, is shady and offers a walk across a wooden bridge that kids love. See also:
Secret Urban Hikes
10 Kid-friendly Spring Hikes
10-plus Last-Minute Camping Spots