50 Hikes with Kids Oregon and Washington


By Wendy Gorton

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 3, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Winner of the 2018 National Outdoor Book Award

Handcrafted for Northwest caregivers that want to spark a love of nature, 50 Hikes with Kids highlights the most kid-friendly hikes in Oregon and Washington. These hikes are perfect for little legs—they are all under four miles and have an elevation gain of 900 feet of less. Some are even accessible by stroller. Every entry includes the essential details: easy-to-read, trustworthy directions; a detailed map; hike length and elevation gain; bathroom access; and where to grab a bite to eat nearby. Full-color photographs highlight the fun things to see along the trail.



In 2006, when I was into my second year of teaching fourth graders, I became a PolarTREC GoNorth! teacher explorer. I packed up with a top-notch, experienced adventure crew, and we set out to spend two weeks dog sledding, interviewing locals about climate change, and collecting snowpack data. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done to date, but it introduced me to the ideas about adventure learning pioneered by the University of Minnesota’s Dr. Aaron Doering.

My goal was to help interpret the experience for my students back in my classroom and students from around the world who wanted to feel a piece of real-life adventure. Every night, our dogs rushed us through the snow to the next research hut in the middle of Finland. Once inside, we peeled off our layers, cooked dinner from our meal rations, used our maps to plan the next day, and got a good night’s sleep. I was physically and mentally exhausted, but I still managed to take pictures, create podcasts, and even host a live webinar with my home classroom. Then as now, I studied each day’s route with the eyes of a child—finding the nooks that delighted me, asking myself big questions, documenting things that interested me but that I couldn’t identify on the spot, and pondering how to find out about them.

Ten years later, I was thrilled to be creating mini-adventures in my own backyard by writing this book for the kids of Oregon and Washington, helping them to become their own intrepid adventurers. The 2016–2017 winter in the region, however, was one of the worst in recent history, a playful jab from Mother Nature to let me know that even though my goal was to share beautiful Pacific Northwest wilderness with parents, caregivers, and kids, she wasn’t going to make it easy on me. That’s totally fine, because that’s the spirit of this book—not only enjoying getting out and getting dirty, but learning to be okay with all kinds of weather, things not working out according to your original plan, and pivoting instead of giving up. That is truly the adventurous spirit and life lesson I hope to spark in all kids.

A young adventurer takes on the Soapstone Lake Trail

My interest in helping to raise a generation of resilient, curious kids also extends to my day job in education, a field I chose because I want to make sure every child gets a chance to fall in love with a subject that resonates and to make it his or her life’s work.

The driving question behind this book is how we can design experiences that inspire wonder in our children. That is the question to keep in mind as you use this book, too. If we can provide a fun environment and the initial sparks of curiosity, we can—as educators, caregivers, aunties and uncles, grandparents, and parents—help children discover and explore the world around them and learn to appreciate natural beauty even from the youngest of ages. The aim of this guide is to give adults some tools to help ignite questions on the trail, to teach kids that it’s great to stop and look at things instead of just rushing from point A to point B, and to begin to introduce a broader understanding of just how many unique places we live near in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. By simply venturing out and interacting with kids along the trail, we are building the skills they need to learn how to question things they see around them—everywhere—and to look for answers.

Many of these adventures provide a taste of treks kids may embark on as college students or adults—imagine them summiting Mt. Hood or backpacking the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier in a few years. In the meantime, this guide aims to provide kids of all ages a curated selection of some of the most varied and interesting destinations in the region, while reassuring busy adults about what exactly to expect from any given trail, the features they will see when they arrive, and the logistical details that can make or break an outdoor excursion. I hope you get a sense of the love steeped in these pages—the love for outdoors, the love for adventure, the love for planning and preparation, and the love for family and community. My father was my co-adventurer on nearly every hike, tackling bathroom mishaps, downed trees, and often squeezing in up to four hikes a day to test and find just the right ones for this guide, as choosing which adventures to include was no easy task. The Pacific Northwest’s number of “kid-friendly” hikes is almost staggering, but I developed a firm Kid Filter of awesome features, simple driving and turnkey instructions on the trail so you’re not second-guessing yourselves, honest-to-goodness dirt on the bottom of your shoes and not pavement, and no interpretive signs, giving you a more adventurous and hike-like experience rather than a sterile stroll.

Many of us have seen the copious amounts of research about the benefits of getting kids outdoors more and interacting with the world in an open-ended way. As you romp with your own crew through the outdoors, just keep in mind that while the scavenger hunt items called out on each hike might help you to add excitement or learning opportunities to your hike, finding them all should not be the main goal of your outing. I wrote this book to help you get outside, spend time with your family, and have fun. Kids lead more structured lives today than ever before in history. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you see how much they enjoy simply being set loose in wide-open spaces. I hope this guide will help you foster curiosity and a love of nature in the kids in your lives and that it helps to raise our next generation of naturalists. Experiencing the wonders all around us creates lifelong habits of seeking out adventure, appreciating the gifts nature gives us every day, and caring about keeping our natural resources clean, beautiful, and accessible for many future generations as well.

All the scaffolds you’ll need to plan even more of your own adventures are here.

Trailsign marks the spot on the Sahalie and Koosah Falls Trail


This guide is designed to help kids become co-adventurers with you in the bountiful Pacific Northwest, so build excitement by involving them in the planning process from the beginning. Take the time beforehand to look at each hiking adventure together, talking about which features your adventure partners would most like to see and the length and elevation gain on the trail. Let this help inform you on what to pack in your adventure bags.

For maximum success with younger kids, no hike listed here is over 4 miles long or has an elevation gain of more than 900 feet. This means that there can be plenty of time for exploration, rest stops, snacks, and just taking in the view.


1 Stone House in Macleay Park Portland 1.75 moderate cool stone ruins, babbling creek
2 Spencer Butte Eugene 2.2 challenging sweet summit view, gnarly rock formations
3 Majestic Falls Salem 1.6 moderate two gorgeous waterfalls, cool bridges and stairs
4 Abandoned Mine at Henline Falls Salem 1.9 moderate mine you can go into, waterfall
5 Upper Trestle Creek Falls Eugene 3.7 challenging hike behind a waterfall
6 Goodman Creek Salem 3.8 moderate bridges, river beach
7 Rowena Plateau The Dalles 1.9 moderate top-of-the-world views, wildlife
8 Mirror Lake Portland 3.4 moderate lake, pika, wildflowers
9 Old Salmon River Trail Portland 4 easy bridges, rambling river, big trees
10 Elowah Falls Portland 1.6 moderate powerful waterfalls, rock amphitheater, bridge
11 Sahalie and Koosah Falls Bend 1.8 easy double waterfalls, cool flora, mushrooms
12 Steelhead Falls Bend 1 moderate canyon, waterfalls, birds
13 Chimney Rock Prineville 2.8 challenging cool rock structure and feeling of accomplishment
14 Todd Lake Bend 1.8 easy toads, mountain views, lake
15 Obsidian Field at Paulina Lake Bend 2.4 moderate beautiful lake, hot springs, obsidian
16 Oregon Badlands Bend 3 easy dreamlike trees and big, big sky
17 Zumwalt Prairie Enterprise 2.3 easy prairie, history, birds
18 BC Falls Joseph 2.6 moderate bridge, waterfalls
19 Anthony Lake Baker City 2.4 moderate alpine lakes, dramatic mountains
20 Borax Hot Springs Burns 2.1 easy tall mountains, desert landscape, hot springs, history
21 Fall Creek Falls Roseburg 2.1 moderate huge boulders, waterfalls
22 Sterling Mine Ditch Tunnel Medford 1.9 moderate rolling hills, history, tunnel
23 Rainie Falls Medford 3.9 challenging salmon, rushing river, history
24 Mill Creek Falls Medford 2 easy huge boulders, two waterfalls
25 Upper Table Rock Medford 2.75 challenging geology, view, history, summiting something
26 Coffenbury Lake Portland 2.6 easy lake fun, swimming
27 Hug Point Portland 1 easy low-tide sea cave, history, waterfall
28 Soapstone Lake Portland 2.9 moderate newts, lake, bridges
29 Wilson River Falls Portland 3.1 moderate waterfalls, river, bridges
30 Waxmyrtle Trail Florence 3.3 easy birds, beach
31 Sweet Creek Falls Florence 2.2 moderate neat bridge structures, multiple waterfalls
32 Whalen Island Pacific City 1.8 easy island, viewpoints, birds


33 Lacamas Creek Falls Vancouver 2.4 moderate waterfalls, bridges, geology
34 Pool of the Winds Vancouver 2.6 moderate waterfalls, bridges, pools
35 Catherine Creek Arch Vancouver 1 easy cool rock arch, creek
36 Steigerwald Lake Vancouver 2.1 easy birds, birds, birds
37 Benson Beach Caves Ilwaco 3.4 easy caves, beach, driftwood
38 Hole-in-the-Wall Forks 3.2 easy geology, beach, sea stars
39 Ebey’s Landing Coupeville 3.5 challenging views, beach, birds
40 Rosario Head Oak Harbor 1.5 easy history, tide pools, beach
41 Bagley Lakes Glacier 2 easy lakes, mountain views, boardwalks
42 Naches Peak Seattle 3.6 moderate lakes, mountain views, wildflowers
43 Heybrook Lookout Seattle 1.9 challenging fire lookout, mountain views, cool rocks
44 Twin Falls Seattle 3.5 moderate waterfalls, lookout deck
45 Franklin Falls Seattle 2.3 easy waterfalls, history
46 Boulder River’s Feature Show Falls Everett 2.4 easy twin waterfalls, river
47 Umtanum Creek Falls Ellensburg 1.9 easy waterfalls, creek
48 Old Tumwater Penstock Pipeline Leavenworth 2.4 easy history, bridge, river
49 Lake Lenore Caves Wenatchee 1.2 moderate caves, views, history
50 Bennington Lake Walla Walla 2.7 moderate lake, dam

The trail to Todd Lake


Can you remember the first cave you walked upon? The first waterfall that misted your face? Each adventure was chosen for a destination or item of particular interest to motivate young legs and reward hard work. As co-adventurers, encourage kids to talk about which types of natural features tickle them the most and why.

Lakes 8 Mirror Lake
14 Todd Lake
15 Paulina Lake
19 Anthony Lake
26 Coffenbury Lake
28 Soapstone Lake
36 Steigerwald Lake
41 Bagley Lakes
42 Naches Peak Lakes
50 Bennington Lake
Waterfalls 3 Majestic Falls
4 Henline Falls
6 Goodman Creek Falls
10 Elowah Falls
18 BC Falls
21 Fall Creek Falls
33 Lacamas Creek Falls
45 Franklin Falls
46 Boulder River’s Feature Show Falls
5 Upper Trestle Creek Falls
11 Sahalie and Koosah Falls
12 Steelhead Falls
23 Rainie Falls
24 Mill Creek and Barr Creek Falls
29 Wilson River Falls
31 Sweet Creek Falls
34 Pool of the Winds’ Hardy and Rodney Falls
44 Twin Falls
47 Umtanum Creek Falls


  • “Kids and parents will both love the suggested scavenger hunts along each trail.” —The Seattle Times

    “Easy-to-read maps, beautiful full-color photographs, and amusing scavenger hunts." —Portland Monthly

    “This book is the perfect companion for Portland-area weekend warriors.” —Portland Tribune

    “If you’re a Pacific Northwest family, or traveling out West this summer, this helpful and beautifully designed trail guide will inspire you to explore all that Oregon and Washington has to offer.” —Hike It Baby

    “A great travel companion when road-tripping with children.” —Northwest Travel and Life Magazine​

    “A fantastic guidebook.” —NW Kids​

On Sale
Apr 3, 2018
Page Count
280 pages
Timber Press

Wendy Gorton

Wendy Gorton

About the Author

Wendy holds a master’s degree in learning technologies and is a former classroom teacher. As part of her quest to bring science education alive, she worked as a National Geographic Fellow in Australia researching Tasmanian devils, a PolarTREC teacher researcher in archaeology in Alaska, an Earthwatch teacher fellow in the Bahamas and New Orleans, and a GoNorth! teacher explorer studying climate change via dogsled in Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Today, she is a global education consultant who has traveled to more than fifty countries to design programs, build communities, and train other educators to do the same.

Learn more about this author