An EPIC 12-mile hike to an Alpine Lake that sits beneath a shimmering white glacier . . . I’m in. A 4-mile roundtrip hike that gains 3000 feet in elevation . . . awesome. A scramble hike that involves sheer drops and three points of contact . . . sweet! Bringing my younger kids on these hikes . . . sounds absolutely painful.
Some days I have to put my competitive and somewhat overzealous ego aside and find hikes that the whole family can enjoy. These are seven of the most rewarding hikes we have done in the Western U.S. and Canada that were good for our two youngest who were five and eight year olds at the time. And these hikes still had the WOW factor for myself and the older kids.
There’s a reason that almost every summer we travel through California, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, and Canada. The nature and hiking opportunities are amazing. Granted you have hundreds of choices in all these destinations, these have been some of our family’s favorite hikes.
Garfield Peak, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Starts at The Lodge
3 miles roundtrip
Gains 1000 feet
Though the views of Crater Lake are absolutely stunning from the rim, the view from the top of Garfield Peak exceeds even those. The short 3 mile round trip hike gains only 1000 feet. Be prepared for the possibility of snow on this one. We were there in June and much of the trail still had snow. However, the magical scenery of snow on the ground and the surrounding mountains makes this another national park that you really should not miss!
Related Blog: 10 Places You Can’t Miss On An Oregon Road Trip
Hidden Canyon, Zion National Park, Utah
Starts at Weeping Rock Trailhead
3 miles roundtrip
Gains 1000 feet
From the Weeping Rock Trailhead there are two amazing hikes–Observation Point and Hidden Canyon. While the views at the Observation Point are epic, it’s hard to get kids to hike 8 strenuous miles. Luckily, there’s another fantastic 3 mile hike where the trail splits right after some switchbacks.
Hidden Canyon is perfect for kids. It’s fun for anyone to hike and scramble through the tall, slot canyon. While it doesn’t have the exposure that Angels Landing has, the hike to the slot involves some ledges with drop offs so be sure your kids hold onto the chains. There are only a few sections like this and I felt like there was very little real risk. However, if you have a fear of heights it may be better to stick to an easier hike at Zion like the Watchman trail.
Related Blog: Southwest National Parks Road Trip Itinerary
Blue Lake, Washington Pass, Washington
Starts at Blue Lake Trailhead
4.5 miles roundtrip
Gains 1100 feet
This is one of the most beautiful lakes we’ve ever been to AND the hike is only 4 miles round trip and has very little elevation change. The patches of lime green meadows on the opposing mountains reminded us of hiking the Alps. Make sure to pack a picnic because the turquoise waters and gorgeous glaciers will beckon you to stay awhile soaking in the views.
Related Blog: Cascade Loop Road Trip Itinerary
Wapta Falls, Yoho National Park, British Columbia
Starts at Wapta Falls Trailhead
2.4 miles roundtrip
Gains 180 feet
Even the large amount of water that pours off of Nevada Falls in Yosemite does not compare to the cascade of Wapta Falls. Water pours over the wide river edge and sprays mist through the air forming a perfect rainbow. The natural kaleidoscope and the light green glacial waters should be enough motivation to get your kids down this short mile hike.
If the beauty isn’t enough, then the possibility of wading across the shallow section of the river and playing like Tom Sawyer on the large mound of dirt forming an island beneath the falls will be. Pack a wetsuit for younger kids to splash in the frigid waters, but use caution, the current can get going fast in some areas.
Related Blog: Canada National Parks Road Trip Itinerary
Brighton Lakes, Park City, Utah
Starts at Brighton Ski Resort parking lot
3.5 miles roundtrip
Gains 1200 feet
We’ve hiked to a lot of alpine lakes over the past few years, but this one requires the least amount of effort for an equally gorgeous views.
While Lake Mary is the prettiest lake, we think the extra thirty minutes to Catherine lake were totally worth it. The contrast of colors between silvery grey stone speckled with forest green pine trees set atop the deep blue waters is enough motivation to throw a whiny toddler on your back to hike the last mile from Lake Mary to Catherine Lake to soak in the views.
If you stop at all four lakes, your trek will be just under four miles round trip with 1200 feet of elevation gain. While not an easy feat for younger children, the short spacing between lakes makes it easy to take your time and rest at each lake with a snack while taking in the beauty of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
Related Blog: San Diego To Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary
Ski Lake, Teton Pass, Wyoming
Starts at Philips Canyon Trailhead
4.4 miles roundtrip
Gains 455 feet
If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought I was back in southern Germany hiking the Black Forest. We were lucky to be here right at the peak of wildflower season and one of the few days of the year when the Tetons were in the mid-seventies. On this hike the journey is almost more beautiful than the destination. The lake is smalll but pretty and it’s a perfect spot to have a snack before turning back and enjoying the beautiful forest and meadows once more.
Related Blog: What To See If You Only Have One Day In Yellowstone
Ewoldsen Trail, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, California
Starts at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
4.2 miles roundtrip
Gains 1500 feet
Even though this one is a bit strenuous, it’s only 4 miles and with a little motivation, your kid will be able to do it.
The best way to figure out which hikes to do is to ask locals. So when we did and were told that we had to do this hike because of the views, we listened. Even though it is a loop, you will swear you are climbing for at least three-fourths of the hike. We did this hike after already hiking 12 miles with the kids over the last two days! This meant that I pretty much had to carry Tatiana on most of the hike, but it was well worth it.
The beginning of the hike starts in redwood groves and crosses rumbling streams before it climbs and climbs and climbs to spectacular views of the stunning turquoise colored ocean. The top of the trail is remarkable dry and you feel like you have climbed into an entirely different ecosystem than what you expect to find in Big Sur. Make sure you walk under the tunnel to take a picture of the iconic McWay Falls.