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.

Bells Mountain Trail from Cold Creek Day Use Area

When it’s raining/snowing/hailing, one of my favorite hikes is along the Bells Mountain Trail starting from Cold Creek Day Use Area (located in the Yacolt Burn State Forest in Southwest Washington). The western red cedar and Douglas fir trees protect you from falling precipitation and the creek is so lovely. There are several beach spots along the creek and a lot of native plants budding and blooming. You can learn more about this 3.6 mile hike and it’s western red cedar trails in my first book “little feet hiking.”

Waterfall near the trailhead
Short user trail down to the creek
So many types of trees: western hemlocks, Douglas firs, western red cedars, and big-leafed maples
Skunk cabbage (yellow flowers) and false hellebore (looks a bit like corn stalks)
Weathered trillium flower
Bridge near trailhead
Western red cedar trees
Amazing nurse stump

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND CLICKABLE LINKS for “little feet hiking: Mt. Hood”

Recommended Websites, Organizations, and Books:

Website links for Mt. Hood

Website links for organizations with interests in the area::

Website links for hiking and naturalist topics:

Book recommendations for Mt. Hood:

Recommend hiking, first aid, and survival books:

Recommended plant books:

Recommended wildlife books:

Recommended nature connection books:

Recommended accessories:

  • Compass
  • Measuring tape (for measuring tracks)
  • Binoculars
  • Camera
  • Magnifying Glass

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND CLICKABLE LINKS for “little feet hiking: Columbia River Gorge”

Recommended Websites and Organizations:

Website links for the Columbia River Gorge:

Website links for organizations with interests in the area::

Website links for hiking and naturalist topics:

Recommended Books and Accessories:

Book recommendations for the Columbia River Gorge:

Recommend hiking, first aid, and survival books:

Recommended plant books:

Recommended wildlife books:

Recommended nature connection books:

Recommended accessories:

  • Compass
  • Measuring tape (for measuring tracks)
  • Binoculars
  • Camera
  • Magnifying Glass