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Summer Hikes for Families by Age

If you need some inspiration on where to take the kids this summer, look no further! Guidebook author Joan Burton gives readers her suggestions for nine excellent summer hikes for families. And we've even broken in down in age ranges.

If you need some inspiration on where to take the kids this summer, look no further! Guidebook author Joan Burton gives readers her suggestions for nine excellent summer hikes for families. And we've even broken in down in age ranges.

Remember when you're hiking with kids that it takes a little more planning to have a successful trip when little ones are along. And to ensure a successful trip be sure to modify your goals, pack patience and flexibility and dress in layers for success.

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Toddler Hikes (ages 2-4)

Fire and Ice

Fire and Ice kids on snow
The Fire and Ice Trail at Mount Baker is a kid-pleaser (snow!) and is less traveled than the nearby Artist Point trail. Photo by Neeti Mathur.

Location: Mount Baker
Round Trip: up to 4 miles
Elevation Gain: level
Kid Guide: Good for toddlers on up

One of the most incredible mountain settings in the state is accessible for small children once its snow has melted, usually by early August. Drive to the Heather Meadows Visitor Center and look for the Fire and Ice trail—an easy mostly level 4-mile interpretive loop. Glaciers and an active volcano are visible in both directions as you walk. A sign explaining Mount Baker’s hidden volcanic core uses words the kids will love: “The dragon with a fire in its belly.” Mount Shuksan, in the other direction, is not a volcano but its glaciers are spectacular. Ask the kids if they can find the icefall where glacial ice drops down like a waterfall.

>> Read more in WTA's Hiking Guide

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Hole in the Wall

Rialto Sea Stacks
Sea Stacks between Rialto Beach and Hole in the Wall. Photo by halfcenturyhiker.

Location: Olympic Coast
Round Trip: up to 4 miles
Elevation Gain: level
Kid Guide: This is also a good first backpack option

A wonderfully exciting beach offers many features for small children and families. Rialto Beach has huge waves and crashing surf waiting for you as you step out of the car—thrilling attractions for kids. Hold onto hands here so kids don’t go running after the waves. The Hole in the Wall, carved from solid rock by the same waves, is little more than a mile down the beach. Make sure you bring a tide table; you will need a low or moderately low tide to make your way to it and to cross Ellen Creek. Look north to see the “hole” in the sea stacks, and if the tide is out, take the kids beachcombing in the ocean tide pools.

>> Read more in WTA's Hiking Guide

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Grove of the Patriarchs

Grove of the Patriarchs kids tree
If you're camping at Mount Rainier's Ohanapecosh Campground, be sure to take in giants along the short Grove of the Patriarchs trail. Photo of some of WTA's youngest Hike-a-Thoners by Matt Loesch.

Location: Mount Rainier National Park
Round Trip: 1.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 50 feet
Kid Guide: Good for toddlers on up

Imagine one thousand year old trees. These ancient beauties are old and BIG! On this short trail on an island in the Ohanapecosh River children can walk slowly through them looking upward as much as 300 feet. There are old burn scars of ancient forest fires on some of the tree trunks, so perhaps these trees were saved by long ago high water. More than 35 patriarch trees still exist here, one cedar with a circumference of 25 feet, and a Douglas fir with one of 38 feet. The kids can think about thousand year old living trees continuing to grow upward.

>> Read more in WTA's Hiking Guide

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Bigger Kid Hikes (ages 5-9)

Spruce Railroad

Spruce Railroad family
A family walks along Lake Crescent on the Spruce Railroad trail. Photo by David Elderkin.

Location: Olympic National Park - Lake Crescent
Round Trip: up to 8 miles
Elevation Gain: 250 feet
Kid Guide: Toddlers can easily make it to the Devil's Punchbowl; older kids will enjoy continuing

A level hike along beautiful Lake Crescent open year round is a good choice for families or Scout groups. Walk for as long as the kids want to walk. The length of the old railroad grade from end to end is four miles one way, but you will surely want to walk at least one mile across the Devils’ Punchbowl on a curving bridge. The kids may not care that the railroad was built for the World War I military to bring out spruce for gliders, but they will want to peer into the water for the old train engine supposed to have jumped the tracks and to gaze from its outside at the long ago railroad tunnel. On a hot day kids can cool off and swim in the cool waters of Lake Crescent.

>> Read more in WTA's Hiking Guide

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Icicle Gorge

Icicle Gorge bridge family
The bridge over Icicle Creek is just the start. The rushing creek through the narrow, smooth-rocked gorge is spectacular. Photo by kellbell.

Location: near Leavenworth
Round Trip: 4 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 150 feet
Kid Guide: Strong 3 and 4 year olds could do this trail too

A popular 4-mile loop along the Icicle River has good reasons for its popularity. Its terrain is mostly level, the white water rapids sending fine spray upward on a hot day rush close to the trail and the scenic gorge itself is made up of sculptured bedrock. Start by turning left at the trailhead heading downstream. Cross the creek on a bridge and wander through forest along the river. This is water that has just come down from the famous Enchantment Lakes, the kids may be interested to know. At 2.5 miles you come to Rock Island Campground. Cross Icicle Creek again, and resume the trail on the other side. On a hot day families may be sitting here in folding chairs in shallow water with the kids playing around them. Continue the loop back to the trailhead.

>> Read more in WTA's Hiking Guide

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Thunder Knob

Thunder Knob Diablo Lake
Gazing at the blue-green waters of Diablo Lake is the stunning pay-off on this hike. Photo by hikewithcare.

Location: North Cascades Highway
Round Trip: 3.8 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 650 feet
Kid Guide: This trail is mostly barrier-free, but does gain elevation

Located across the street from the popular Colonial Creek Campground, this trail takes the kids into the heart of the North Cascades. At the top they can see stunning views along turquoise-colored Thunder Arm and Diablo Lake in one direction and massive Colonial Mountain and Pinnacle Peak in the other. Although the easy trail has been re-routed around a creek washout, it is gently graded the whole way, with benches at good viewpoints. The sounds of traffic from Highway #20 die away at about one mile and birdsong begins. Kids can look straight down at the City Light dock, across the lake to the twin tusks of McMillan Spires and straight up to glaciers of magnificent Colonial and Pinnacle Peak.

>> Read more in WTA's Hiking Guide

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Backpacks for Families

Indian Heaven

kid picking huckleberries
Who loves huckleberries? Everyone, and the Indian Heaven Wilderness is renowned for its plethora every season. Photo by Ryan Ojerio.

Location: Southwest of Mount Adams
Round Trip: 3.8 mile loop and other options
Elevation Gain: 650 feet
Kid Guide: Bring the bug spray or go in September

Here is a wilderness vacation heaven. In its small parkland area lie over 30 named lakes and 100 or more smaller tarns. An additional attraction is that backpackers start hiking at about 4000 feet, so there isn’t much elevation gain, although you can expect more from the eastern access than from the western one. Lakes cluster as close as 1/2 mile apart, so it is possible to camp at a different one every night without moving camp very far. Water is warm in the shallow lakes in August, so you can plan to cool off by swimming on a hot day. Berries ripen then as well, so it is possible to graze on blue berries and huckleberries as you go. Reaching Indian Heaven requires a long drive from most cities, and bugs can be an unpleasant problem until summer’s end, but in every other way this is an ideal vacation spot for family backpacking.

>>Read more in WTA's Hiking Guide

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Maple Pass

Maple Pass kids hiking
Older children will appreciate the stunning views - and the looping option - at Maple Pass just off the North Cascades Highway. Photo by Jan Wilson.

Location: North Cascades Highway
Round Trip: 7 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 2000 feet
Kid Guide: This is more often done as a day hike

A gorgeous 7 mile alpine loop trip takes backpackers into the heart of the eastern North Cascades. Views are so spectacular you can imagine you are in the Alps. Start near Rainy Lake and hike counterclockwise. You can choose to camp at Lake Ann at 1.3 miles, at Heather Pass at 2.3 miles or all the way to Maple Pass, 6300 feet, at 3.5 miles - just make sure you choose a site that is at least a half mile from the passes or lakes. The entire way you will look down on Lake Ann from different vantage points framed in heather and wild flowers. The difference in the choice of high camp elevations is that the higher camps are in more fragile alpine settings and the nights may be colder. Flowers and views at all locations are magnificent. Top out at 6800 feet and gaze at surrounding peaks and magnificent Glacier Peak to the southwest. The loop ends as you drop back to the Rainy Lake trail, blinking at what you’ve seen.

>>Read more in WTA's Hiking Guide

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Lena Lake

lena lake campsite
There are several well-established campsites at Lower Lena Lake. Photo by mhlsilverdale.

Location: Olympics - East
Round Trip: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1300 feet
Kid Guide: This trail can also be done as a day hike for kids over 5

Lower Lena Lake, on the east side of the Olympics and dominated by a shoulder of The Brothers, is a popular and beloved backpack destination. At first the trail climbs through old second growth trees, but then it enters old growth forest on long switchbacks, crossing Lena Creek, the source of the lake’s water. At 3 miles you come to the shores of Lower Lena Lake and a choice of camps. Because it is so popular you may need to go in early to get one. This is a large sub-alpine lake, formed by a long-ago rockslide that dammed the valley. The lake level fluctuates with the season like a small reservoir. Wading and swimming are possible, but the water is usually cold. When the lake is full there will be a 150-foot climb over a rock buttress called Chapel Rock to reach the shore.

>> Read more in our online Hiking Guide

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Diablo Lake Trail (Apr 17)

Diablo Lake

North Cascades

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