The Pacific Northwest is one of the best places to get outside and explore, especially with children! A clear, crisp Fall day is the perfect time to take your kids outside and see the changing leaves, get a breathe of fresh air, and try to spot some wildlife. Sometimes hiking and taking your children on adventurers seems a little intimidating. If you’re thinking about getting outside for a couple hours, try this list of local hikes/nature walks. If you plan accordingly, you can have your kids participate in an activity at some of the visitor centers.
Bellevue Botanical Garden’s Ravine Experience
The Bellevue Botanical Garden is an amazing experience for children! It consists of a trail featuring a 150-foot steel suspension bridge. The bridge sways as visitors walk high over a ravine amid a second-growth forest of soaring conifers. Look for birds and deer on this hikers-only trail and know that there are rare coyote sightings here. The garden is open daily from dawn to dusk.
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 Visitor Center, which is open daily from 9 a.m.–4 p.m.
Evans Creek Preserve, Sammamish
With short hiking trails and a boardwalk completed a few years back, Evans Creek Preserve sits on the site of a former 170-acre farm on the northern border of Sammamish. Wander through wetlands, meadow and forest. Spot birds from four viewing platforms. Look for deer, find a group of big leaf maple trees and count all 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.
Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, Olympia
The Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National 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; plus otters, salmon, harbor seals and more. Don’t miss the 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 accessible and suitable for all ages.
Notice: The boardwalk will be closed until October 31st, 2019.
The hike: Once you reach Heybrook Lookout, you are rewarded with a sky-high lookout tower with panoramic views. This hike is great for children who love walking or have been hiking before. You’ll climb a steep trail from Highway 2, through shady green forest, to a sturdy tower that lets hikers see over trees to nearby peaks and valleys. Though it’s all uphill, even young children will be able to complete this hike to a worthy goal! A picnic table at the summit provides a place for eating lunch.
Details: 2.6 miles round strip, 850 feet elevation gain. No pass needed for parking.