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Family Friendly Hikes: West Coast USA

Looking for great hikes that take you through forests, along streams, to the tops of mountains, and even underground? Want something the whole family can do together (without complaining)? The West Coast USA is filled with gorgeous nature and incredible trails. But with so many to choose from it can be hard to pick which ones to do. That’s why we put together a list of our favorite family-friendly hikes in the West Coast USA that are doable for kids of all ages and still have the wow factor that we all love.

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 painful. 

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.  Most of the West Coast USA hikes I’ve listed here are only one mile each way with barely any elevation gain.  I also added in a few longer ones (2 miles each way) that require a little climbing but are doable for grade school-age kids or if you don’t mind giving the occasional piggyback ride.

Family Friendly Hikes in the West Coast

Family-Friendly Hikes in Oregon

Garfield Peak, Crater Lake National Park

Trail length: 3 miles RT, out-and-back
Elevation change: 1000 feet

Crater Lake, US & Canada road trip
It’s great when we find short hikes that the family can do together

Though the views of Crater Lake are stunning from the rim, the view from the top of Garfield Peak exceeds even those. Be prepared for the possibility of snow on this one.  We were there in June and much of the trail still had snow on it.  However, the magical scenery of snow on the ground and the surrounding mountains make this another national park that you really should not miss!  Start this hike at the Crater Lake Lodge.

Sahalie and Koosah Falls

Trail length: 2.6 miles RT, Loop
Elevation change: 400 feet

Sahalie Koosah Falls, 5 adventurous things to do on the Mackenzie river trail, oregon

If you love moss-covered forests, 100-foot waterfalls, and crystal-clear rivers, the gorgeous forest setting here is worth the drive. The trail through the 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. 

If you are up for a little longer but equally as gorgeous hike, be sure to drive a few miles further west to hike Tamolitch Falls (aka Blue Pools). See our blog 5 Things To Do Along the Mackenzie River Trail for more details.

South Falls, Silver Falls SP

Trail length: 1.0-mile loop or up to 7.6 miles
Elevation change
: depends on which route you take

Silver Falls SP, Oregon

The easiest way to view the 177-foot South Falls is a 1-mile loop down to a cave behind waterfalls and then come up via the scenic bridge at the base of South Falls. To see Lower South Falls you follow the Maple Ridge Trail and then have to climb 400 feet back to the South Falls Day-use Area. This is a total of 2.6 miles roundtrip.

When we did it, Victor took the younger kids on this first section, then I continued with the older kids to the North Falls which allowed us to pass by almost all of the falls on Ten Falls Trail. If you do the entire loop of the Ten Falls Trail it’s 7.2 miles with 800 feet of elevation gain.

Related Oregon Blogs:

Family-Friendly Hikes in Colorado

Alberta Falls, Rocky Mountain National Park

Trail length: 1.7 miles, RT, Out and Back 
Elevation change:  200 feet

Alberta Falls, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, best hikes for young kids

Rocky Mountain National Park is a beautiful destination and one of our favorite national parks.  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 to not have to deal with parking at the trailhead.

Related blog: Best Day Hikes From Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Devil’s Kitchen, Colorado National Monument

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.  

Also from this trailhead is a hike to a pool and waterfall. This trail follows a streambed 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.  

From the pool, we added 1.6 miles each way to hike to a beautiful waterfall. Part of this hike is fairly steep so keep that in mind if you choose to continue past the pool.

Both these hikes start right by the east entrance to the Colorado National Monument at the Devil’s Kitchen trailhead.

Rainbow Lake, Frisco  

Distance RT: 2 miles
Total elevation gain: 
232 feet

Best Fall Hikes To Do In Summit county Colorado
Gorgeous fall colors surrounding Rainbow Lake

One of the easiest and most bang-for-your-buck hikes is the easy trek to Rainbow Lake.  This hike starts a few blocks off Main Street in downtown Frisco at the Rainbow Lake trailhead. It’s a great hike to do in the Fall and if you are looking for more challenging hikes in the area, be sure to read our blog Best Hikes Near Breckenridge. Also, check out our blog 24 Things to Do In Silverthorne, Colorado for a few more hiking ideas near this one.

Saint Mary’s Lake/Glacier, Georgetown

Trail Length: 1.4 Miles RT, Out and Back
Elevation change:  400 feet

St Mary's Glacier, Colorado, best hikes for young kids

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 wasn’t something we saw very often back in 2015. Today, that’s a much different story 🤷‍♀️.

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.  

Related Colorado Blogs:

Family-Friendly Hikes in Washington

Second Beach, Olympic National Park

Trail Length: 1.4 miles RT, Out and Back

nomads at Second beach in Olympic National Park
Second Beach

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 a moss-filled temperate rainforest and ends on a breathtaking stretch of beach with sea stacks.  The kids loved tidepooling here!  You can even pack a tent and camp overnight on the beach.   

Park at the trailhead for Second Beach in La Push, Washington.   

Spruce Trail + Hall of Mosses, Olympic NP

Trail Length: 2 miles RT, Out and Back

Spruce Trail Hoh Rain Forest Best Hikes in the PNW

This is such a gorgeous hike through a temperate rainforest with some trees over a thousand years old (yep 1,000!).  All the trees are covered with long dangling mosses.  Start at the Hoh Rainforest visitor center in Olympic National Park and combine the Spruce trail with the Hall of Mosses trail.

Skyline Trail to Glacier Vista, Mount Rainier NP

Trail Length: 2.5 miles, RT, out and back
Elevation gain: 900 feet

Glacier Overlook, Skyline Trail, Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park

This trail is steep but it’s mostly paved and only one mile each way so young kids can make it if you take your time. It is an absolute must-do hike at Mount Rainier National Park because you get up close to the gorgeous Nisqually glacier. If your legs can take it, continue on to Panorama Point. It’s worth the effort I promise! Click here to read our blog with a complete list of our Favorite Hikes in Mount Rainier NP.

Blue Lake, Washington Pass

Trail Length: 4 miles RT, Out and Back
Elevation Change:
1100 feet

best campground Washington
Blue Lake

This is one of the most beautiful lakes we’ve ever been to. 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 while soaking in the views.

The trailhead for this hike is on the east side of North Cascades NP and is a great stop on a road trip from Seattle to Leavenworth.

Family-Friendly Hikes in Arizona

Lava River Cave, Flagstaff

Trail Length: 1.6 miles RT, out and back

Flagstaff Lava Tube, Arizona, best hikes for young kids
We look exhausted coming out of this one!

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 a high clearance vehicle, I don’t recommend taking an RV down it.

Brighton Lakes, Salt Lake City

Trail Length: 3.5 miles RT, Out and Back
Elevation Change: 1200 feet

This isn’t one of the easiest on this West Coast list, but it may be the most beautiful.

While Lake Mary is the prettiest lake, we think the extra thirty minutes to Catherine Lake were 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.

Family-Friendly Hikes in Wyoming

Grand Prismatic, Yellowstone National Park

Trail Length: 1.4 miles RT, Out and Back
Elevation Change: 150 feet

Grand Teton to Yellowstone to Glacier National Parks Road Trip Grand Prismatic
Grand Prismatic Spring from Overlook

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 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 crowded. 

Park at Fairy Falls Trailhead. If you are headed to Yellowstone, our blog One Day in Yellowstone has tips on the best time to see Grand Prismatic and Old Faithful.

Ski Lake, Jackson

Trail Length: 4.4 miles RT, Out and Back
Elevation Change: 450 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 small but pretty and it’s a perfect spot to have a snack before turning back and enjoying the beautiful forest and meadows once more.

Family-Friendly Hikes in Montana

Avalanche Lake, Glacier National Park

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 a 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.

Family-Friendly Hikes in California

Falls Hike, Russian Gulch, Mendocino

Trail length: 4.6 – 5.5 miles
Elevation change: 250–350 feet depending on which fork you take

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Waterfalls are always worth the hike

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 an enjoyable hike through the temperate rainforest of Mendocino.

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Have you done any of these hikes with your family?  Let us know in the comments or share your favorite family-friendly hike in the West Coast USA!

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10 Kid Friendly Hikes in the Western U.S. • Nomads With A Purpose

Wednesday 20th of June 2018

[…] Related blogs: 7 Family Friendly Bucket List Hikes 11 Gorgeous Hikes That Are Great for Young Kids […]

Megan Reamsnyder

Monday 29th of January 2018

Our kids loved the Alberta Falls hike! Great list, definitely some to put on the bucket list!


Tuesday 30th of January 2018

It's such a pretty hike! So glad you enjoyed reading!

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