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Hiking with Grandkids

Guidebook author Joan Burton writes about hiking with her grandkids. These hikes are excellent to take children on where ever you live in the state: Wilderness Peak, Kukutali Preserve, Hummocks Trail, Beaver Lake and Ranger Hole.

By Joan Burton

Hiking with your grandkids can be a joy. It’s a chance to have uninterrupted time together and to show them some of your favorite places. Just as when you hiked with your kids, once again you need to set up some ground rules about staying on the trail and not cutting switchbacks. Planning to stop and wait for grandma and grandpa at designated rest stops is a good idea, too.

Northwest Washington

Kukutali Preserve

Location: Puget Sound & Islands
Length: 2.5 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 200 feet 
Best Season: year-round

Kukutali Preserve by Irainaud.jpegKids will love the wide trails at Kukutali Preserve. Photo by lrainaud.

This is one of the newer state parks, with wonderful child-pleasing beaches, views across Skagit and Similk Bays to Deception Pass and Mount Erie from tiny Kiket Island. The kids can enjoy walking a 2.5-mile loop trail around the island and gazing into the waters off the mouth of the Skagit River and Hope and Skagit Islands. Seals, cormorants, and oystercatchers may appear to divert them. A bird sanctuary is off limits.

> Plan your visit to Kukutali Preserve

Beaver Lake

Location: North Cascades - Mountain Loop Highway
Length: 4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 100 feet
Best Season: year-round

Beaver Lake by bigfoot23.jpegLush green views around the river. Photo by bigfoot23.

Beaver ponds are the destination of this trail about 4 miles out of Darrington on the Mountain Loop Highway. The trail is almost completely level and follows the whitewater of the Sauk River.

The network of ponds is fascinating because new, smaller ponds intercept dams across large, older ponds. Some of these ponds represent years of work, but where are the engineers today? Have the kids look for freshly peeled sticks and branches for evidence that beavers are still at work here. A small washout along the bank trail should not be a hindrance to the hike.

> Plan your visit to Beaver Lake

WTA Suggested Hike

North Centennial Trail (Snohomish) - Bellingham Area: Bring the whole family to see the beautiful and historic Nakashima Farm and take a walk along the North Centennial Trail (Snohomish). Length: 4.0 miles, roundtrip. Elevation Gain: 50 feet.

> Plan your visit to North Centennial Trail (Snohomish)

Olympic Peninsula

Ranger Hole - Interrorem Nature Trail

Location: Olympics - North
Length: 2.1 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: minimal
Best Season: year-round

Ranger Hole Photo by kalsequim.jpeg
Ranger Hole is a beautiful and easy adventure. Photo by kalsequim. 

This trail is a bit of Olympic history the kids will enjoy. Out of Quilcene head for the Duckabush River Road. Emory Finch built the historic Interrorem ranger’s cabin in 1906 for his bride Maybelle. Signs in the surrounding forest tell what their lives were like. You can even rent the cabin for the night and stay there yourselves.

Next, head for the Duckabush River, where in the Ranger’s hole, Finch, who was the first ranger in the Olympic Forest caught his fish dinners. Drop down the steepening trail for less than a mile.  Hold hands as you enjoy up close views of the whitewater river.

> Plan your visit to Ranger Hol - Interrorem Nature Trail


Southwest Washington

Hummocks Trail

Location: South Cascades -- Mount St. Helens
Length: 2.3 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 100 feet
Best Season: spring - fall

Hummocks Trail by luna1000.jpegSee the geological formations created by the Mount St. Helens eruption on the Hummocks Trail. by luna1000.

The Hummocks Trail in the Mount St. Helens Monument can be a 2.3- mile loop trip on the road to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The hummocks are steep geological mounds and formations left after the eruption and subsequent floods. But if there are two grandparents, drop off kids and one grandparent at the trailhead, and have the other meet them at Johnston Ridge. The hike is not steep, but it will give them the chance to hike on the Hummocks and Boundary Trail, past the Loowit View Point, and then see the interpretive displays about the volcanic eruption.

> Plan your visit to the Hummocks Trail


Central Washington

Icicle River Gorge

Location: Central Cascades -- Leavenworth Area
Length: 4 miles, roundtrip 
Elevation Gain: 150 feet
Best Season: spring - fall

Icicle Gorge by ColleenValley.jpeg
See the beautiful Icicle Creek as you walk along the Icicle River Gorge trail. Photo by ColleenValley.

Just out of Leavenworth, this trail provides a great four-mile loop walk for kids. Drive the Gorge road for 15 miles to the trailhead on the south side. Begin hiking along Chatter Creek in trees, then cross it on a bridge. Heading upriver, pass a series of small waterfalls and rapids. Cross tributaries and Icicle Creek itself on a road bridge, continuing downriver to widening vistas. Arrive at a spur trail leading you back to the trailhead. If the river seems gentle, remember that this is the river flowing out of the Enchantment Lakes.

> Plan your visit to the Icicle River Gorge


Puget Sound

Whittaker Wilderness Peak

Location: Issaquah Alps -- Cougar Mountain
Length: 3 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1228 feet 
Best Season: year-round

A pleasant waterfall greets you at the beginning of the Whittaker Wilderness Peak Trail. Photo by Chris.

Whittaker Wilderness Peak is out of Issaquah on the east side of Cougar Mountain is a lovely new trail close to Seattle. From the trailhead on Highway 900 plan a 5-mile loop with a gain of about 1400 feet. Start up the Whittaker Trail, and when you reach the Deceiver trail, turn left.

Continue through mossy old maples and cedars past enormous andesite boulders studded with ferns. The trail follows an old logging road. Take the Shy Bear trail to Wilderness Peak, the highest point on Cougar Mountain, but one without a view, and for the loop hike, return to the car on the Gombu Trail. Give credit to Harvey Manning for his vision of setting aside the regional park of Cougar Mountain.

> Plan your visit to Whittaker Wilderness Peak


North Cascades

Cutthroat Lake

Location: North Cascades -- Methow
Length: 4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 440 feet
Best Season: summer

Cutthroat Lake by Gabep.jpeg
Dogs on leashes are welcome along the scenic Cutthroat Lake trail. Photo by Gabep.

The beautiful Cutthroat Lake trail in the North Cascades is reached from Highway 20 just east of Washington Pass. An easy 2 1/2 miles gaining only 400 feet, the trail follows Cutthroat Creek to the large shallow lake. Fishermen find the namesake trout, but they cannot camp here and neither can families. Once at the lake, gaze upward 3000 feet to Cutthroat Peak, and east to Silver Star and Liberty Bell mountains. Larch trees in the fall frame the lake in gold. If the kids are strong, you may want to head on up to Cutthroat Pass at 6800 feet. There you may be lucky enough to see signs of mountain goats browsing in the meadows of the North Cascades.

> Plan your visit to Cutthroat Lake