One of the things I love the most about living in the pacific northwest is the abundance of beautiful places to explore, and nature to surround myself with. My husband and I have both worked very hard to expose our children to as many diverse settings as possible without having to travel to far. For those of you living in the pacific northwest or planning a visit here are a few of my family’s favorite kid friendly destinations!
Mt. St. Helens
With over a dozen trails leading up and around the mountain there is something for everyone at Mount Saint Helens. It’s worth the drive up to the top of the overlook to take in the awesomeness of a mountain that literally blew its lid. The top of the mountain can be a bit cold and windy though so plan on hiking a little further down. The Hummocks trail is a really beautiful trail although at nearly 3 miles it is one of the longer ones I am going to recommend. However, the sweeping views of the valley are well worth its length. The trail itself is well taken care of and easy enough for even the little ones.
Wynoochee Dam a campground, park and trail head all in one! Once there, you have a couple of options. You can stop at the dam’s visitor center and get an up close and personal look at the inner working of a functional dam. If that’s not your thing you can drive another 1/2 mile down the road and immerse yourself in the beauty that is the park. There are several picnic tables and tons of grass for you to sprawl out in and enjoy the serene calm of the lake and surrounding second growth forest.
The next turn past the park entrance is a campground. You can reserve a spot online or take your chances and just show up. Of course I recommend the first. The campground consists of two loops and is well paved, which makes it perfect for bike riding, stroller walks or even just a leisurely evening stroll. The sites are relatively private, which is a real plus, and a couple of them even have direct trail access to the swimming area at the park.
Lake Quinault is not one, but two different destinations. If you stick to the south shore you can take any number of trails that lead around the lake, up into the forest and down along the river. Most of the trails converge and meetup with others so you can really create your own adventure. However, with the little ones in tow the rain forest nature trail is a winner. At only 1/2 mile it is a great starter hike for those little legs. The terrain is varied and there are several interpretive signs to help guide you along the way.
A mile or so down the road from the rain forest loop is the world largest Sitka spruce. This massive tree is a short and flat 1/3 of a mile walk down a well maintained trail. Once there you can climb on and take pictures with the tree itself as well as enjoy a picnic lunch!
The world’s largest western red cedar is also located at Lake Quinault, however you will find it a short drive away on the north shore of the lake. The trail leading there is also only a 1/3 milk, however it is very steep and has very deep steps so be prepared! When you do make it to the top you will find that the tree itself has buttress roots, which allow you to walk inside the many “rooms” at its base. Which makes the trek well worth it!
The Mima Mounds are an area of deep discussion as no one really knows what caused the mounds to appear. Was it aliens, geologic forces, or super sized groundhogs. We may never know! There is an observation deck and unmanned information center at the start of a half mile paved loop trail, which provides more information, but little conclusive evidence. If you are feeling a little more adventurous you can venture out onto the flat 1.5 mile loop and get an up close and personal look at those mounds. This is an ideal walk for kids as there are no hills and an abundance of flowers!
Nisqually Wildlife Refuge
One of our favorite places to go when we need a change of scenery is the Nisqually. With a short 1 mile loop trail that is well maintained and easy to walk it is a quick and easy way to get back to nature. Located directly off I5 you can’t hear the traffic as you walk through the swampy marshes, the forest and the delta. If you (or your kids) are feeling up to it there is a longer 5 mile trail that leads out into the delta and back again!