When hiking in Washington, you will need a Discover Pass, a National Park Pass, or a Northwest Park Pass to park at most locations (figure out which one you need here). For each pass, you can get the annual pass, or buy a daily only pass. I would recommend having cash on you if you are hoping to buy any of the passes on-site. Check out conditions and anything else you need to know at the Washington Trails Association. Also, always be safe, and pack your bear spray!
The exploring in Washington State is endless. Most of the locations I have chosen so far are close enough to Seattle that I can make a day trip out of it. All adventures are very family-friendly, to the point that you may want to call them nature walks, but whether you call them a nature walk or not, my toddler is calling them a hike!!
Twin Falls [at Olallie State Park]
This hike is rated as moderate, and I would categorize that fairly enough, because there are a lot of rocks and roots, so if you have a toddler that’s hiking by foot, there will be quite a bit of hand-holding. If you’re doing it without kids, or with a munchkin on your back, you can still get a good workout in. It’s an out & back hike – after you’ve seen the upper falls, the trail continues on, but there’s really not much more to see past that point. Definitely take in the lower falls, because that is the most stunning view point, in my opinion! Expect about a 45-minute drive to get to this hike from Seattle-proper, and then enjoy a 4km (give or take, depending how far you go), out and back hike, with just under 200 metres of elevation gain. [This one is best to do with a young child in the carrier, or a very capable kid!]
Gold Creek Pond Loop [at Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest]
This hike is easy, and it is the perfect toddler-friendly hike for those toddlers who want to ditch the carrier. It’s less than 2 kilometres and has a very minimal elevation gain – AKA it’s flat. You get the most phenomenal view for very little effort…a clear pond, crisp mountains, and bonus if you also get the sun shining. This location is also great for snowshoeing, bringing sleds for pulling kids in, and all the winter magic that snow brings [for this, you’ll need a Sno-Pass]! You’re looking at about an hour drive time from Seattle-proper.
Dege Peak [at Mount Rainier National Park]
This 5-km out-and-back hike is rated as moderate. It is a great way to get out to Mount Rainier National Park (expect a 3 hour drive from Seattle), and to stare at the beauty of Mount Rainier on the return part of the hike. The beginning part of the hike is great for toddlers to wander on their own, but about two-thirds of the hike will require a young toddler to be in the carrier for safety. This hike is closed in the winter, so definitely try and complete it before the road closures! Note that Mount Rainier National Park requires a fee to enter, and to start this hike you’ll want to park at “Sunrise” (the highest parking lot).
Discovery Park [in Seattle]
This adventure is right in Seattle, but it deserves an honourable mention, because it leads to such a beautiful point, and is the perfect destination for lighthouse lovers. There are many different areas to wander and explore in Discovery Park, as the entire park is 534 acres, so make sure you park at the point that gives access to the Lighthouse. You’ll be looking at close to 7km there and back, so bringing the carrier for any tired legs may be worth it!
Nisqually Wildlife Refuge [in Olympia]
If you’re a birder, or a wild animal lover, this is the place to go to see the natural enjoying nature! Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is also mostly stroller-friendly, although most ideal with an all-terrain stroller. I suggest bringing cash to pay for parking there, as it was the envelope-drop system when I went. Expect just over an hour drive from Seattle-proper to arrive at the Wildlife Refuge.
Beach & Outbound Trail [at Dash Point State Park]
Beach and Outbound Trail is a perfect spot for a toddler-led hike. The whole hike is 2.6km, and it is flat for the kiddos with only 66 metres of elevation gain, and so much nature to take in. The best part, is after you’re done, you should take your lunch to the other side of the parking lot and picnic on the beach – you couldn’t ask for a better view! A wonderful location only 45-minutes from Seattle-proper.
I feel so blessed to get to explore this beautiful State, and I hope you have the chance to as well!