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. 

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.

5 Fantastic Winter Hikes Near Portland

Originally posted on PDXParent.com on February 7th, 2022

We all spend a lot of time indoors during our wet Pacific Northwest winters. However, with the right gear and knowledge, you can make winter one of your favorite hiking seasons. Trails are less crowded, migratory birds are in the area, and waterfalls are full. That said, weather can be unpredictable, trails can be muddier, and there may be road hazards.

For winter hiking with kids, it can be good to stay lower in elevation, closer to cell service, and away from fire-damaged areas. It’s also a great idea to:

Latourell Falls Loop

Image courtesy Jessica Becker

Walk right up to two waterfalls on this 2.4 mile loop hike. This hike is a Gorge treasure and is appropriate for kids who can navigate steep trails that are slippery when wet and are narrow with drop-offs. This hike also has great Gorge views as well as fun trees to climb on and walk through. Be prepared for the cold sensations of waterfall spray as you make your way around the loop.

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge — Oaks to Wetlands Trail

Image courtesy Jessica Becker

Winter is the best time to visit the refuge because of all the migratory birds! You don’t have to walk very far on this easy 2 miles out-and-back trail to see and hear the noisy and beautiful swans that flew south for the winter. Along the trail, you may even come across deer, birds of prey, ducks, and more. Bring a pair of binoculars and stop to read any interpretive signs. A section of the trail is closed on Thursdays and there is a fee to park. Consider a drive on the nearby Auto Tour Route to see even closer-up views of winter waterfowl and birds of prey. 

Oxbow Regional Park – Ancient Forest Loop 

Image courtesy Jessica Becker

Winter means fewer visitors at popular Oxbow Regional Park, which means animals are more likely to be out and about. The gentle 1.5 mile Ancient Forest Loop is a great place to track animals year round, but winter is an especially good time to practice your fox walking and owl eyes skills. Use caution near the swift river and save time for some playground play. 

Old Salmon River Trail

Image courtesy Jessica Becker

If you’ve ever wanted to hike through a fairy forest, the Old Salmon River Trail in Welches is the place to visit. You can hike up to 3.8 miles out-and-back along the river through a mossy old-growth forest. There are multiple parking areas and every section of this trail is beautiful. Plan on playing by the riverbank and climbing on and hugging massive trees. Keep an eye on kids around drop-offs and the swift river. 

Cooper Mountain Nature Park

Cooper Mountain Loop, courtesy Sarah Hummel via AllTrails

This Metro-run park is a fantastic place to hike in winter. You can combine small loops to hike up to 3.2 miles of oak savannah and ponderosa pines. The trail has some elevation gain, depending on the loops you choose. Keep an eye out for deer, birds of prey, and views of Mt. Hood. There are interpretive signs along the trail, as well as ‘listening trumpets’, which are designed to amplify the sounds of nature. No dogs are allowed and there is an awesome nature playground at the trailhead.