I’m so excited that spring in Seattle has finally arrived! After the long, wet winter we’ve had, the kids and I are itching to get some hikes under our belt.
You may not know this about me, but I am not a big fan of winter. Give me a hot summer day and a cool beach, and I’m a happy girl. But anything cold and wet, on the other hand, puts me in a grumpy mood. Even the prospect of snow, with all its promise of playful snowball fights and snowman building, can’t get me excited about the cold weather.
This past winter here in Seattle was a wet one, and I’m so glad that it’s finally done. I think the thing that got me through was the thought of all the summer outdoor plans we have for this year, including some of the Washington state hikes recently suggested by some of my favorite Seattle bloggers on the 2 Travel Dads site. One of the things I love about hiking with my kids is just the chance to be out in nature with them, away from the distractions of the Ipad (for them) and social media (for me). We can just be together, act goofy, and explore all the wonderful things that the world has to offer. Even writing this now, I’m itching to hop into my car and drive out to the nearest park!
As I was making our summer plans, my mind kept thinking back to our outdoor adventures last summer. One memorable adventure was a trip to Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state, during the same road trip when we visited the Redwoods. While we didn’t camp that time around, we did spend a lot of time at the park, exploring all the different hikes and trails. Our kids are still fairly young, so we didn’t do any long hikes. Rather, we chose shorter ones, which allowed us to see many different parts of the park, and gave the kids a bit of rest as we drove from one hike to another.
Established in 1899 and encompassing an area of 369 square miles, Mount Rainier is a favorite camping and hiking destination for Seattle locals, and really easy to get to from the city. Heck, I get a gorgeous view of Mount Rainier on my drive home from work every day! Reaching up to 14,000 feet at its highest point, it’s also a popular place for mountaineers. In fact, the park gets approximately 1-2 million visitor per year.
In my opinion, the best time of year to visit Mount Rainier is between the months of July and September, when the temperatures are the warmest. But as I mentioned before, I’m not much of a snow person. For those of you who love the snow, you can pretty much visit any time of year, as long as the roads are passable.
If you have young kids and are thinking of introducing them to hiking, Mount Rainier is a great place to start. Though there are plenty of long hikes, include the 93 mile long Wonderland Trail, which circumnavigates the mountain, there are also a good number of short easy hikes. Here are my five favorite easy Mount Rainier hikes for young kids.
Located 1.9 miles southwest of Longmire, one of the visitors center situated in the southwest corner of the park, Twin Firs is an easy .4 mile loop through old growth forest. It’s really short, with only a few uphills, which makes it a good introductory hike for kids.
Trail of the Shadows
Another trail near Longmire is the Trail of Shadows, which starts just across from the National Park Inn. This trail is slightly longer than Twin Firs, at .7 miles, but it’s fairly flat, and takes you through meadows. What I liked about this trail is that it also takes you through some of the historical parts of the park, back when it was used as a hot springs resort area in the 1800s. It was like walking back into time!
Along the southern face of Mount Rainier is a place called Paradise. Yes, Paradise does exists, and it’s in Washington state! It’s a gorgeous area, reminiscent of the opening scenes from the Sound of Music, and it’s also one of the more popular parts of Mount Rainier to visit. A short half mile hike from the Paradise Visitors Center is Myrtle Falls, which gives you a stunning view of the summit. The trail to the falls is paved the whole way through, so it’s wheelchair and stroller accessible.
Grove of the Patriarchs
Ever since our visit to the Redwoods, we’ve loved walking among ancient giant trees. The Grove of the Patriarchs is a 1.2 mile loop through old growth forest, located near the Stevens Canyon Entrance on the southeastern part of the park. There were plenty of ancient trees to marvel at during our hike, but the highlight was definitely the suspension bridge that takes you across one of the park’s many creeks. The kids loved testing their bravery and crossing the bridge on their own!
By far, my favorite hike at Mount Rainier National Park is the trail around Tipsoo Lake. Located in the northeastern part of the park, along the Mather Memorial Parkway (State Road 410), it’s a half mile loop around the lake. We loved it because we were able to get some lovely views of the mountain, while also admiring the flowers in the fields and observing the guppies swimming in the water. It’s also a good hike to end with, as it leaves you with a lasting impression of the mountain.
If you can’t tell already, we love being in the outdoors! Though we’re not what you would call extreme outdoor enthusiasts, we do enjoy adventuring out in nature. I’m still a city girl at heart, so these short trips into the woods is just enough for me to get my outdoors fix. And with two young kids in tow, it’s helpful to keep these jaunts in nature relatively short, in order to introduce them to the outdoors bit by bit.
If you’re looking for a way to get your kids hooked on the outdoors, these five easy hikes are a great place to start. So what are you waiting for? Go out there and explore Mount Rainier with your little ones!
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