Top 3 Family Dayhikes

Pack up your brood for a day in the outdoors with these kid-friendly trails.
Avatar:
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0
Pack up your brood for a day in the outdoors with these kid-friendly trails.

Mt. Washburn, WY | Silver Falls SP, OR | Back Bay NWR, VA

MT. WASHBURN, NY

Climb a big (easy) peak.

Yellowstone National Park's 10,243-foot Mt. Washburn is a gentle giant. The payoff on this five-mile round-trip: 360-degree views of the country's first national park, including the maw of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and–on a clear day–the distant Tetons. A herd of bighorn sheep inhabits the upper slopes, plus there's a firetower (complete with restrooms) at the top. Start from the Chittenden Road trailhead for a steady 2.5-mile climb on a wide, gravelly trail up Washburn's open ridge. The three-mile Dunraven Pass Trail offers greater challenges: steep switchbacks and a ridgeline traverse. Either way, it's 1,400 feet of elevation gain, a huge accomplishment for kids about 8 and up. nps.gov/yell

The Carrot

Keep them climbing with the promise of huckleberry ice cream served in a homemade waffle cone–from Raccoon's in Gardiner. (406) 848-2240

The Way

Drive 4.7 miles north of Canyon Junction, on Canyon-Tower Rd., to Dunraven Pass Picnic Area. Chittenden Road trailhead is another 4.75 miles straight ahead.

Mt. Washburn, WY | Silver Falls SP, OR | Back Bay NWR, VA

SILVER FALLS, SP, OR

Visit 10 waterfalls in one day.

This 7.5-mile loop drops into an old-growth forest that shades Silver Creek Canyon in Oregon's Willamette Valley. The route tags 10 waterfalls from 27 to 178 feet high. You'll never hike more than a mile without seeing a cascade–they're interspersed along the south and north forks of Silver Creek–ideal for kids as young as 6 (read: easily bored). Bailout routes at South Falls, Lower South Falls, and just past Middle North Falls, at the halfway point, create shorter loops in case of any midhike meltdowns. Kids enjoy following the trail into deep hollows behind four of the falls, where you'll get close enough for a light misting. It's a popular destination, so go midweek and start from the day-use areas near North Falls or Winter Falls instead of the more developed South Falls. oregonstateparks.org

The Carrot

After a dip in the park's swimming area, head to Mac's Place for burgers. They have a Kids Eat Free special on Tuesdays (three little ones max). (503) 873-2441

The Way

Drive 30 miles south of Portland on I-5 to exit 271 at Woodburn; follow OR 214 for 30 miles, through Silverton, to Silver Falls State Park.

Mt. Washburn, WY | Silver Falls SP, OR | Back Bay NWR, VA

BACK BAY NWR, VA

See river otters, whales, and dolphins.

The coast at 9,200-acre Back Bay is a great place to spot dolphins and humpbacks heading south each fall. Loggerhead sea turtles lay nests here too, though encountering a hatch, typically on evenings in early fall, is rare. Start at the visitor contact station for a four-mile leg leading into adjacent False Cape State Park (extend the trip with primitive beachside campsites at Barbour Hill; 800-933-7275). Return on the 3.5-mile East Dike Trail, cutting through still waters where bald eagles, deer, and river otters gather. This relatively long day is best for hikers 10 and up. fws.gov/backbay

The Carrot

Grab a slice at Pungo Pizza on the way home. In addition to a carb reload, kids will dig the big game room. (757) 721-4900

The Way

From Virginia Beach, take US 60 south to General Booth Blvd. Go 5.8 miles to Princess Anne Rd. Then take Sandbridge Rd. to Sandpiper Rd. to the park entrance.