“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.

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

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