I love hiking, but when my kids were younger, it was a huge accomplishment if I could convince them to hike two miles. With practice and patience, they eventually developed a love for hiking. Now, our trips usually include a lot of long, steep hikes to alpine lakes with my older kids, but I’m still always scouting out some easy hikes that our six-year-old can do with us. These 11 gorgeous and short hikes are amazing for little kids. Most are only one mile each way with barely any elevation gain. I also threw in a few longer ones (2 miles each way) that do require some hills to climb, but are totally doable for grade school age kids or if you don’t mind giving the occasional piggyback ride.
Sahalie and Koosah Falls, Oregon
Trail length: 2.6 miles RT, Loop
Elevation change: 400 feet
If you love moss covered forest, 100-foot waterfalls, and crystal clear rivers, the gorgeous forest setting here is worth the drive. The trail through old growth forest follows both sides of the river and gives you great views of both waterfalls. This hike is between Eugene and Bend. To get here from Bend, drive Highway 126 for 68 miles until you pass McKenzie Bridge, then after 19 more miles, near milepost 5, pull into the large, well-marked Sahalie Falls parking area. Start the hike at the Sahalie Falls overlook and head left downstream.
Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls, Oregon (NOTE: Check Trail Conditions. Fire in area previously)
Trail length: 3.8 miles RT, Out and Back
Elevation change: 500 feet
We love this hike and have done it several times. This is another hike through lush, old-growth forests of douglas fir, cedar, and hemlock trees. The trail is blanketed by dewy ferns and moss-covered rocks, and winds along a trickling (or sometimes raging) creek bed. This hike is so popular that many hikers doing the PCT will divert from the usual course over the Benson Plateau to experience the magnificence of the Eagle Creek gorge. There is one area that is a bit unsafe for small kids, but there is a chain to hold onto. We took it slow and I know my kids are good at following directions, so I felt safe doing it, but if you have very small children or a fear of heights, you may want to bypass this one. Your reward at the end is a beautiful waterfall that drops into a pool of freezing cold water with tons of people swimming. I highly recommend jumping in, just not too long or hypothermia may set in! We happened to do this hike in early August both times, which means right at the peak of blackberry season. There’s nothing better than eating wild blackberries along the path! This hike starts right off I-84, about 40 miles east of Portland. Take Exit #41 and turn right. The trailhead is about 1/2 mile to the end of the road.
Alberta Falls, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Trail length: 1.7 miles, RT, Out and Back
Elevation change: 200 feet
Rocky Mountain National Park is a beautiful destination and one of our favorite national parks. On this hike, I kept expecting Tumnus the satyr to walk out of the trees at any moment. Something about the remnants of snow surrounding the trail and the white bark of the aspen trees reminded me of Narnia. At less than a mile each way and only 200 feet of elevation gain, even your most reluctant toddler can make it to the rumbling waters of Alberta Falls. This hike starts from Glacier Gorge trailhead and in the summer it is worth taking the free shuttle so as to not have to deal with parking at the trailhead.
Devil’s Kitchen, Colorado National Monument, Colorado
Trail Length: 1.5 miles RT, Out and Back
Elevation change: 300 feet
This short 1.5 mile round trip hike to Devil’s Kitchen is especially nice if your kids like scrambling up slickrock. This trail takes you to the base of the rock formation and into the rock opening. We also did the hike to First Waterfall which added an additional 1.6 miles each way. This trail follows a stream bed all the way up to a pool and then onto a hundred foot waterfall. The first part of the trail to the pool is mostly flat, and my kids loved being able to hop back and forth over the trickling stream by stepping on the stones in the creek bed. There were also many boulders to scramble over along the way, which kept them busy and entertained. The second section that takes you from the pool to the waterfall does climb steeply for a bit. Both these hikes start right by the east entrance to the Colorado National Monument at the Devil’s Kitchen trailhead.
Saint Mary’s Lake/Glacier, Georgetown, Colorado
Trail Length: 1.4 Miles RT, Out and Back
Elevation change: 400 feet
Although this hike can get a bit crowded, it is one of the easiest glaciers to hike to. The fact that there was snow on the ground while we hiked it at the end of May made it so that my kids needed no motivation to get to the lake and glacier other than the snow. What can I say, we are from So Cal and snow isn’t something we see very often. As if the beauty of the glacier wasn’t enough, the smile on my kids’ faces having a snowball fight was priceless. This trail can get busy especially on the weekends and it costs $5 to park at St Mary’s Glacier trailhead which lies 11 miles down Fall River Rd.
Second Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington
Trail Length: 1.4 miles RT, Out and Back
One of our favorite kid-friendly hikes was a super short one near Forks, Washington. The hike itself is only .7 miles, one way, but it’s through moss filled temperate rain forest and ends on a breathtaking stretch of beach with sea stacks. The kids loved tide pooling here! You can even pack a tent and camp overnight on the beach. Park at the trailhead for Second Beach in La Push, Washington.
Lava River Cave, Flagstaff, Arizona
Trail Length: 1.6 miles RT, out and back- double check
This one’s a cool experience for kids and adults alike. It is a short one mile from the entrance to the end of the cave. But be prepared with flashlights and jackets as it’s dark and cold (40 degrees F). The ceiling in some places gets very low (3 feet) and there is one spot where the lava tube forks and while they do meet up again forming a lollipop shape, I recommend staying left where the ceiling is higher. Getting here requires driving down the long fire access road, Fire Rd 171B, and while you don’t need high clearance vehicle, I don’t recommend taking an RV down it.
Grand Prismatic, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Trail Length: 1.4 miles RT, Out and Back
Elevation Change: 150 feet
Technically you don’t even have to hike to this one, since you can just see it from the lookout on the east side of the lake. But if you park at and hike the .7 miles to the lookout on the west side of the lake the views are incredible. I highly recommend trying to get here early or late in the day if you are visiting in the summer, since it can get really crowded. Park at Fairy Falls Trailhead.
Avalanche Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana
Trail Length: 4.5 miles RT, Out and Back
Elevation Change: 700 feet
There are so many gorgeous hikes to do in Glacier National Park. This trail meanders through a forest and after an hour opens up to stunning mountain, waterfall, and lake. It was a great setting for a picnic and my kids enjoyed splashing around in the water. This hike starts at Trail of the Cedars Trailhead.
Falls Hike, Russian Gulch, Mendocino, California
Trail length: 4.6 – 5.5 miles
Elevation change: 250–350 feet depending on which fork you take
The first 1.6 mile trail is mostly flat and runs alongside the Russian Gulch Creek. It used to be an old logging road and now you will be enchanted by ferns and lush forest. The second part will take you to a 36-foot waterfall. When you reach the fork, the left fork is only 0.7 miles while the right fork is 1.6 miles and a bit steeper. I recommend doing it as a loop, but if you are looking to keep it shorter then definitely stay on the left fork out and back. There is parking at the trailhead which is at the end of the campground. While the hike is a bit longer, it was a very easy hike and quite enjoyable being in the temperate rainforest of Mendocino.
Ewoldson Trail, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, California
Trail length: 4.5 miles RT, Loop
Elevation change: 1600 feet
Julia Pfeiffer is more than just a leg stretcher. While my then 4 year old did manage to get through it, it did require carrying her on my back often. But it’s worth it! I love how it starts off meandering through an old growth forest before climbing steeply to epic views overlooking the turquoise ocean that makes the Big Sur coastline so famous. This hike is also the same place you park to take a picture of the iconic McWay Falls.
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Have you done any of these hike with your family? Let us know in the comments or share your favorite family friendly hike in the USA!