“little feet hiking” on KGW News!

Originally posted here on KGW News on August 18th, 2022.


Finding fun trails for kids close to home

Jessica Becker is a mom and self-published author. Her “Little Feet Hiking” books help parents find fun outdoor learning experiences close to home.

CLARK COUNTY, Wash. — In this week’s Let’s Get Out There, we head to the Tarbell Trail in Clark County. For the grown-ups who love to hike, it can be easy to zone in and charge toward the goal. But once you add kids into the mix, it’s a whole different ballgame.

Self-published author Jessica Becker hopes families use her books as a way to explore trails close to home. In addition to being a writer, she’s also a Clark County mom.

“We like to bring people here that have never hiked before, because it’s got some fun challenges, but it’s also easy to get to and not too hard,” said Becker.

The Tarbell Trail is one of her favorites and it’s easy to see why. It boasts great views of Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier, edible plants like huckleberries and thimbleberries, plus a chance to see wildlife — or at least the evidence they leave behind.

No matter how short the hike, an outing with kids can be a whole other animal.

“I like letting the kids lead, it gives them like a feeling of being in control and some autonomy,” said Becker.

Becker left a fast-paced corporate job after she became a mom, and she found that slowing down was hard. She began hiking with her daughter and learned that going slow is the best way to explore.

Friend and fellow mom Rachel Valentine comes here quite a bit with her three kids as well.

“Seeing the kids really develop this excitement, but also they kind of learn where they can hit their limits and you get to encounter that in nature’s playground,” she said. “I think that’s one of the most exciting parts of it.”

“My goal is to kind of give people a place where they can go close by to their house that gives them a sense of adventure with their kids,” added Becker. She humbly guesses there aren’t many trails in the area she hasn’t been on, but her experience of them has changed over time.

“Being a hiker before kids, I was just kind of going as fast as I could to get to the viewpoint, and having kids and hiking with them has made me slow down,” she continued. “And there’s just so much to see and so much to learn.”

Credit: Jon Goodwin, KGW

So Becker took everything she’s seen and learned, and put it into her four-book series “Little Feet Hiking” — the most recent edition highlighting the Columbia River Gorge was released last spring. Two focus on Southwest Washington and one on the Mount Hood area. In all, her books feature about 150 hikes to do with kids. Next spring, she’ll publish her fifth book, on the Portland metro area.

Becker is self-published, making it incredibly hard for her to promote her book. However, it allows her to dig into a specific area and offer families a resource to know what’s in their backyard.

History, wildlife, and level of difficulty are just a few things she includes. Setting parents’ expectations with kids who may like to stop and take in what’s around them, Becker’s books help with that as well.

“I’ve also had a lot of adults say, ‘Hey, this would be really great for me. I have an injury or I’m getting older, and I don’t feel as confident on the trail. Where can I hike and just get these really awesome viewpoints or these really neat connections with nature?’” she said.

Maybe hiking is a long-time passion of yours, or perhaps you’ve never been out on a trail. Either way, “Little Feet Hiking” will help you see those things you weren’t even looking for. For parents ready to brave the outdoors with little ones, be honest with yourself and your little one’s capabilities. If you get out there with those little feet, be sure to take in all the little things the trail has to offer.

To buy the “Little Feet Hiking” books, visit littlefeethiking.com.

Let’s Get Out there airs once a week on KGW’s 4 p.m. newscast and The Good Stuff, which airs Monday-Thursday at 7 p.m. We’re including viewer photos for this series. You can text your photos to 503-226-5088 or post them on the KGW Facebook page.

Portland Kids Hiking Book – ON SALE NOW

I haven’t been posting much lately because I’ve been so busy writing my Portland kids hiking guide. It is finished and on sale now! For now, the only place to buy it is on Amazon, but I’ll update as that changes. Check out “little feet hiking: Portland Metro – 50 hikes and learning adventures for kids within 25 miles of Downtown Portland” here!

6 Toddler-Friendly Hikes near Portland, OR

Originally posted on PDXParent.com on August 8th, 2022

Hiking with toddlers is a ton of fun … and also an exercise in patience. These hikes make it easier.

Credit: Jessica Becker

Toddlers don’t seem to be all that interested in hiking towards a goal or learning about what they encounter along the trail. Instead, most want to experience nature with their whole bodies and spend lots of time in one place. On hikes, it is common for toddlers to plop down in the middle of the trail for dirt play, run into a creek and get soaking wet, pick plants, wave sticks, refuse to walk, and sometimes even have a huge fit on the trail. (Pro tip: Turn back BEFORE kids get tired and cranky.)

If you want your toddler to hike, it’s important to pick short trails without too many hazards like rushing water, drop-offs, poison oak, etc. Unfortunately, you cannot totally eliminate all hazards in nature and, on any trail, you will still need to keep an eye on what your kids put in their mouth (mushrooms and toxic plants!) and keep kids from running ahead out of sight. That said, there are trails that are better for toddlers. Below are six of these better-for-toddlers hikes, all within a 30-minute drive of Portland.

Tualatin Hills Nature Park – Beaverton, OR

This awesome park in Beaverton has 1.5 miles of paved trail and 3.5 miles of non-paved trails. Dogs are not permitted in the park, so the park is a great place to view wildlife like deer, birds, and amphibians. You will want to keep an eye out for bikes on the paved trails and avoid the trails that get too close to the ponds if your kids tend to run towards water. Restrooms and fun exhibits are available at the nature center.

Credit: Janene Ritchie

Salmon Morgan Creek – Brush Prairie, WA

There is a lovely forest tucked away in the middle of a Brush Prairie neighborhood and it’s a great place for toddlers to roam. In addition to several flat trails, you will find many climbing logs, massive trees (perfect for hugging and peering into), and lots of shade. You may even have a midday owl sighting. The Red Cedar Trail and Fir Loop are great for toddlers as long as you don’t take the side trails to a viewpoint and the creek. The Alder loop can be quite muddy and have some stinging nettle along the trail. There are no restrooms available here. Please respect the neighbors and do not block driveways. 

Credit: Jessica Becker

Columbia Springs – Vancouver, WA

Columbia Springs is a neat place for toddlers. There are five short trails that combine to make a 2 mile hike. The trails vary in difficulty and trail surface. There are plenty of trees and rocks to climb on, as well as two wildlife viewing decks, hatchery fish tanks, and a fish feeding pond. There are bathrooms onsite.

Credit: Jessica Becker

Hoyt Arboretum – Portland, OR

There are so many trails at Hoyt Arboretum and they vary in toddler-friendliness. For the most toddler-friendly hike here, start out on the paved accessible trail as seen on this awesome map from Super Nature Adventures. For a more challenging toddler hike, check out the trail from Stevens Pavilion, past the Fairy Forest, and along the Spruce Trail to the Redwood Deck. The loop beyond this gets less toddler-friendly. You could also check out the Magnolia Loop, but there are a few road crossings that require some hand-holding. Hoyt has a lot of kid-friendly activities as well.

Credit: Jessica Becker

Powell Butte – Portland, OR

Powell Butte Nature Park is an excellent spot for kids to work on their uphill hiking and take in distant mountain views, all while hiking on an ancient and extinct volcano. The most toddler-friendly section of the park is the uphill paved Mountain View Trail.  It is a 0.7 mile hike to the Mountain Finder overlook, where on clear days you will see the five closest major volcanoes and some lesser mountains. The Mountain View Trail doesn’t have much shade, so be sure to bring sun protection. From the Mountain Finder overlook, you could also add on the 0.8 mile Summit Lane loop. The visitor’s center has restrooms and displays. 

Credit: Gabrielle Buchanan, Alltrails

Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge – Sherwood, OR

Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge is one of several kid-friendly wildlife refuges in our area. Here you can hike 2 miles out-and-back on the year-round River Trail to a wetland observation deck. This gravel trail can be used by all-terrain strollers and there are no dogs allowed, which allows you to see tons of wildlife like birds and deer. There are a few spots along the trail that come close to water, but the trail is wide and you should be able to keep kiddos away. There is one drop-off down to the creek just past the trail junction with the Ridgetop Overlook trail (so just grab your kiddo’s hand at this junction and release when you pass the drop-off). Leave some time to explore the nature center. Flush toilets are available near there. Learn more here.

Credit: Jessica Becker

Bonus Tips

  • Find trails with nearby playgrounds to incentivize (just don’t let kids see the playground before your hike)
  • Hike in the morning when temperatures are cooler and bellies are full from breakfast
  • Bring lots of snacks and water in a fun reusable water bottle; bring a high-value snack for when times get really desperate
  • Bring ways to engage your kids (like magnifying glasses or a stuffy/doll), but wait to bring them out until you need them
  • Expect that you will walk slowly, make lots of stops, and mentally prepare yourself that you may not complete your hike as expected
  • Bring a back-up carrier
  • Encourage kids to keep going and proudly celebrate small wins
  • Know that your kids will get older and be able to hike farther; toddler hiking is all about exploration and instilling a love of nature
  • Learn from other parents, such as Backwoods MamaTrips with Tykes, and Hike It Baby.
Credit: Jessica Becker

Can’t get enough of the great outdoors? Check out more family-friendly hikes here.

6 Family-Friendly Summer Hikes

Originally posted on PDXParent.com on July 1st, 2022

Credit: Cody Nichols, Alltrails.com

Summer in the Pacific Northwest means it’s time for adventure! We have just a few months to soak in all the warmth and sun — what better place to do that than on the trail? Longer days and great weather means it’s easier to travel a little bit further from home, too. While the weather is milder in summer, there are some unique considerations for summer hiking with kids:

Check out these family-favorite hikes for experiencing summer in our area:

Mary Young and Cedar Island – Portland Area

Credit: Kim Koga, Alltrails.com

Mary S. Young Park is an excellent choice for a summer hike.  The shady forest offers respite on hot summer days, and the seasonal bridge over to Cedar Island allows hikers to reach a neat island on the Willamette River. On the island the beach is a mix of rocks and sand, and there is a fishing platform available, too. This park is popular with dog-owners and you may encounter some dogs off leash. It is only about a 0.5 mile hike from the main parking area to Cedar Island, but you can add on trails to make an almost 4 mile hike. Parts of the trail are ADA-accessible and the park can be reached by bus. 

Whipple Creek Regional Park – Vancouver Area

Credit: Jessica Becker

Take a break from the warm days of summer by hiking through the cool and shady forests that make up Whipple Creek Regional Park. There are 4.3 miles of trails, but you can combine different trails to suit your needs. This park is popular with horses, so read up on horse etiquette before hitting the trail. 

Pool of the Winds – Columbia River Gorge, Washington Side

Credit: Meg Asby

This hike takes you to a beautiful waterfall by way of lovely forest and passing views of Hamilton Mountain, Bonneville Dam, and the Columbia River Gorge. If you look at the falls in the right light, you may even see a rainbow! The Pool of the Winds Hike is only about 2 miles round-trip and requires a steady climb from the trailhead. Make sure to pick up a Washington Discover Pass before heading to the trailhead.

Sherrard Point – Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Side

Credit: Aaron B., Alltrails.com

Once the snow has melted (usually sometime in June), you can summit an ancient and extinct volcano without much work at all! By climbing up a 0.3 mile one-way paved path and several sets of stairs, you can reach the top of Sherrard Point, the summit of Larch Mountain. On a sunny day, you can see five volcanoes from this fenced-in summit viewpoint. You’ll need to keep a hand on younger kiddos since the viewpoint has extreme drop-offs and it is unclear how sturdy the railings are. For a longer hike, you can head north from the parking area on Larch Mountain Trail #441. The forest is quite spooky through here and you’ll encounter some amazing trees as you hike along. The trail is only downhill from the parking area, so remember that you’ll need to come back up the hills when you turn around.

June Lake – Mt. St. Helens Area

Credit: Jessica Becker

The trail to June Lake really has it all: a waterfall splashing into a pretty lake, views of Mt. St. Helens, rough-skinned newts, a lava field, wildflowers, and a paved road all the way to the trailhead. There isn’t even a pass required. This moderate hike is around 2.8 miles round-trip and has some elevation gain, as well as a rocky trail. Keep in mind that the trailhead has no toilet or cell service. Consider combining the hike with a visit to Lava Canyon or the Trail of Two Forests. There are toilets at both of these locations. 

Zigzag Canyon and Little Zigzag Canyon – Mt. Hood Area

Credit: Jessica Becker

The Timberline Trail heading west from Timberline Lodge offers such an epic kid-friendly mountain experience. The snow melts in July and is soon followed by amazing wildflowers. From the trail, you will have views of high desert to the east, Mt. Jefferson and mountain lakes to the south, and Portland to the west. Consider combining this hike with a camping trip in one of Mt. Hood’s many campgrounds. The trail is 2.4 miles round-trip to Little Zigzag Canyon and 4.4 miles round-trip to Zigzag Canyon. This hike is for more experienced kid hikers and parents should use caution near drop-offs, especially at Zigzag Canyon. 

Shady hikes for our June 2022 heat wave

The heat is suddenly here and everyone will be flocking to our local waterways. In addition to being crowded, our waterways aren’t the safest places during the rapid snowmelt that comes with our first heat wave of the year. The awesome thing about our area is that we have so many amazing forests that can keep us cool on the hottest days. Below are my recommendations of hikes that should currently be snow-free, shady, and keep you away from the big bodies of water that will be rushing and dangerous right now.

Whistle Punk Trail, “little feet hiking” guide

From my first guide “little feet hiking”:

-Vancouver Lake North Trail (stay out of the lake due to hazardous lake conditions)

-Salmon-Morgan Creeks Natural Area (there is a small creek on this hike)

-WSU Cougar Trails (there is a small creek on this hike)

-Whipple Creek (there is a small creek on this hike)

-Volcano View Trail (need Ape Cave Parking reservation)

-Whistle Punk Trail

-Saddle Dam (there is a small creek on this hike)

-Goat Marsh Lake

-Summit Springs (the creeks you cross will be running high, but probably couldn’t sweep you away)

Merrill Lake Conservation Area, “little feet hiking two”

From my second guide “little feet hiking two”:

-Columbia Springs

-Battle Ground Lake

-Lower Marble Creek Falls

-Fort Cascades Historic Site (stay on the trail to avoid the Columbia River)

-Merrill Lake Conservation Area

-Cedar Flats Natural Area

-Lacamas Lower Falls (Lacamas Creek will be rushing, but the trail doesn’t go close to it)

-Pacific Crest from Trout Creek

-Larch Mountain (WA)

Barlow Wayside hike, “little feet hiking: Mt. Hood”

From my third guide “little feet hiking: Mt. Hood”:

-Barlow Wayside

-Lost Creek (there is a creek, but it shouldn’t be so rushing that it carries you away)

-any of the three Lost Lake hikes in my book

-Catalpa Lake

-Still Creek Trail (there is a large creek at the turnaround point)

-Pioneer Bridle Trail

-Meditation Point

-Hidden Lake

-Lower Twin Lake

Nellie Corser Wildlife Unit, “little feet hiking: Columbia River Gorge”

From my fourth guide “little feet hiking: Columbia River Gorge”:

-Bridal Veil Falls (there is creek access here, but it shouldn’t be so rushing that it carries you away)

-Latourell Falls (there is creek access here, but it shouldn’t be so rushing that it carries you away)

-Larch Mountain Environmental Education Site (there is a small creek here)

-Larch Mountain Summit

-Wahkeena and Fairy Falls (needs corridor reservation, creek crossings)

-Nellie Corser Wildlife Area (there is creek access here, but it shouldn’t be so rushing that it carries you away)

-Dry Creek Falls (there is creek access here, but it shouldn’t be so rushing that it carries you away)

-Emerald Falls (there is creek access here, but it shouldn’t be so rushing that it carries you away)

-Skamania Lodge Trails

-Fort Cascades (stay on the trail to avoid the Columbia River)

Tarbell Trail – Yacolt Burn State Forest

View of Mt. St. Helens from the trail

Do you love wildflowers and volcano views? Yeah, so do I 😁

I’m always telling you all about the under-rated Tarbell Trail in the Yacolt Burn State Forest (write-up in “little feet hiking“). This time of year, the area is full of native wildflowers, migratory birds, animal tracks, and volcano views (on clear days of course). I’ve been hiking this trail for 10 years and it has been so neat to see the clearcut forest grow back and the diversity of the plants growing along the trail. Today, I saw anemone flower blooming and tiger lily not far behind.

The best time to visit if you want to see wildflowers is late May through June. Keep an eye out for wild irises and lupine in the more open areas, and beargrass when hiking through the shadier forest section.

Wild iris and lupine blooming on the trail in June

Remember to bring your WA Discover Pass, sun protection and extra water on this hike. On sunny days, there isn’t much cover from the sun. Also, avoid drinking the non-potable water at the trailhead (the water is for horses) and watch out for mountain bikes zooming down the trail.

Awesome rock along the trail

Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge is finally open!

The new entrance to the refuge.

Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge is open after a 2 year closure! I love the new trail…the first mile takes you along the dike, so you get an amazing vantage point looking down. After the first mile, you can get deeper into the refuge and now hike over 4 miles! Today we saw a white pelican, a bittern, herons roosting, an osprey with babies, purple martens, a red tail hawk, an egret, and more. So excited to visit regularly and update my hike descriptions.

View of Larch Mountain (Oregon) from the Mountain View Trail

Parking was challenging on opening day, so try visiting on a weekday in the coming weeks. There is a lot of excitement about the new trails, which all have new names. Also, remember that the trails aren’t complete yet, so it will look like a bit of a construction zone in some places. Check out the new trail map and head on over!

Big thanks to Columbia Gorge Refuge Stewards, Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other partners for making this happen! Check out this great write-up here.

Portland Metro Kid-friendly Trails – East of I-205

It may be a while before I get to a Portland Metro kid’s hiking book. But I’d like to share some great kid-friendly trails for different areas of the Metro area. Below are trails east of I-205, but also not considered to be in the Gorge or at Mt. Hood.

Photo: Jamie Hale/The Oregonian

Oxbow Regional Park:

  • Many trails from which to choose
  • Recommend the Ancient Forest Loop
  • Highlights include: shady forests, wildlife, river access
  • Risks include: lack of cell service swift and cold river

Main website: https://www.oregonmetro.gov/parks/oxbow-regional-park

Brochure and map: www.oregonmetro.gov/sites/default/files/2022/03/01/Oxbow-Regional-Park-brochure-with-map-20220301.pdf

Kids’ Activity Guide:www.oregonmetro.gov/sites/default/files/2019/02/08/Oxbow-kids-activity.pdf

Photo credit: Hikespeak.com

Powell Butte:

  • Many trails from which to choose
  • Recommend the 1.4 mile round trip to summit
  • Highlights include: volcano views, wildflower meadows, shady forests

Main website: www.portland.gov/parks/powell-butte-nature-park

Trail map: www.portland.gov/sites/default/files/2020-05/powell-butte-nature-park-trail-map-2016.pdf?_ga=2.156890684.663354398.1650130941-1849457657.1647808343

Hike description: www.hikeoregon.net/powell-butte.html

Photo Credit: https://ncprd.com/

Mt. Talbert Nature Park

  • Up to 4.2 miles of hiking
  • Highlights include: hiking atop an extinct volcano, creek access, shady forest, city views, and wildlife viewing opportunities. 

Main website: www.oregonmetro.gov/parks/mount-talbert-nature-park
Great trail description:www.accesstrails.org/overview/mount-talbert/index.html

Photo credit: Hikespeak.com

Scouter’s Mountain

  • 1.25 miles of trail
  • Highlights include: views of Mt. Hood, old forest, picnic shelter, spring flowers, and the opportunity to hike on top of an extinct volcano

Main website: www.oregonmetro.gov/parks/scouters-mountain-nature-park

Access Trails hike description: www.accesstrails.org/overview/scouters-mountain/index.html

Hike it Baby hike description: https://trails.hikeitbaby.com/trail/scouters-mountain-nature-park

Photo credit: Jessica Becker

Tickle Creek:

  • Up to 1.8 miles one-way
  • Highlights include: creek access, pretty western red cedar trees, nurse logs, and five fun bridges

Hike it Baby trail description: https://trails.hikeitbaby.com/trail/tickle-creek-trail

Hiking project trail description:  http://www.hikingproject.com/trail/7034010/tickle-creek-trail

Photo Credit: Resa K., Alltrails.com

Cazadero State Trail

  • Up to 6 miles round-trip
  • Recommend starting from Boring trailhead (although it is uphill on the way back)
  • Highlights include: creek access (keep an eye out for unmarked trails taking you down to the creek), old western red cedar trees, and wide gravel path
  • The trail follows the old Oregon Water Power and Railway Company line

Access Trails hike description: www.accesstrails.org/overview/springwater/cazadero.html

Trail Link hike description: www.traillink.com/trail/cazadero-trail/

Photo credit: Oregon State Parks

Milo McIver State Park

  • Up to 6 miles of trails (consider checking out the 2 mile Riverbend Loop)
  • Highlights include: Clackamas river views, shady forest, Mt. Hood views, and lots of amenities

State Parks website: https://stateparks.oregon.gov/index.cfm?do=park.profile&parkId=102

Great write-up from Our Big Little Adventures: https://ourbiglittleadventures.com/milo-mciver-state-park-a-local-outdoor-getaway

Brochure and trail map: https://stateparks.oregon.gov/index.cfm?do=main.loadFile&load=_siteFiles%2Fpublications%2F45362_McIver_Brochure%28web%29102058.pdf

Photo credit: http://www.thedangergarden.com/

Eagle Fern Park

  • Up to 4 miles of trails
  • Highlights include: old-growth forest, ADA-accessible interpretive trail, creek, nurse logs, birds, playground, and more

Main website: www.clackamas.us/parks/eaglefern.html

Trail guide: https://dochub.clackamas.us/documents/drupal/b1585121-6469-421e-9a03-d39859449fd3

Trip Report from Trail Dad: http://www.trail-dad.com/trip-reports/eagle-fern-park

What other kid-friendly trails east of I-205 do you love? Comment below.