8 Family-Friendly Trail Options to Explore

As April’s unusually persistent showers start to turn into May flowers, many Pacific Northwesterners are eager to get outside and enjoy the silver (or cloudy grey) lining of living in such a damp area: the epic scenery. Between verdant forests, cascading waterfalls, and staggering peaks, the Pacific Northwest has an endless array of options for those looking to enjoy the outdoors.


For families with children, finding and preparing for an accessible hike can be intimidating. However, the payoffs are large. Studies show that time in nature reduces stress, improves sleep and cognition, enhances creativity, and boosts mental health for kids and adults alike, to name just a few benefits. 


Below is a list of 10 family-friendly hikes that are accessible from the greater Seattle area, offer beautiful scenery, and include activities or sights that help engage children and adults of all ages.

Discovery Park

Discovery Park Loop Trail

Distance: 2.8 miles; Elevation Gain: 140 feet 

Discovery Park spans 534 acres and offers a number of enjoyable trail options. However, the Loop trail is a highlight. The path traverses through mossy forest before opening up to reveal panoramic vistas of Puget Sound.


Along the way, you’ll pass by a number of historic buildings, remnants of the former Army base Fort Lawton. In addition, Discovery Park offers a playground and relatively plentiful parking and bathroom options, making this a very family-friendly locale.


Pop-Up Story Walk at Brightwater Educational Center

Distance: 3 miles; Elevation Gain: 120 feet 

Popup Story Walk’s latest installation is available at the Brightwater Educational Center in Woodinville. On this 3-mile trail, families hike past a series of storyboards that together tell an inspiring story and keep young kiddos engaged.


The trail also passes through wildlife-dense wetlands. If you’re lucky, you may spot frogs, salamanders, and more!

Mine Road Trail

Distance: 3.9 miles; Elevation: 557 feet

For those looking for a little more solitude and a dose of history, Mine Road Trail is a great option. It is rare to find other hikers on this trail and the miniscule parking lot is a testament to its lack of traffic (the parking lot will have a sign for the Neiderprum Trail, which Mine Road Trail follows for most of its length). This trail is heavily forested with peekaboo views of steep mountain ranges.


At the trail’s terminus, you’ll find a spooky mine shaft that youngsters will enjoy peering into (though stay safe and do not venture inside!) The nearby town of Darrington was historically peppered with mines that unearthed gold, silver, zinc, and many other resources and this mine shaft is a fun reminder of that history.

Mine Road Trail

Farrel McWhirter Trail

Distance: 2.1 miles, Elevation Gain: 98 feet

The Farrel McWhirter trail is an easy, accessible jaunt through forested terrain. The trail is also shared by equestrians so families may have the opportunity to see horses pass by. However, keep in mind that horses have the right of way on any trail.


While the trail itself is enjoyable, children may be especially excited by the opportunity to see farm animals at the Barnyard, which is located next to the trail’s start and gives families the opportunity to view cows, horses, chicken, sheep, and pigs.

Iron Goat Trail

Distance: 6 miles; Elevation Gain: 700 feet

Iron Goat Trail is an exciting option for train- and/or history-loving children. At the parking lot, you’ll find a large red caboose, which is a great photo opp and preview for the rest of the hike. As you continue on the trail, you’ll pass by old train tunnels and snow sheds, with plentiful signage to describe the historic railway that once operated through this area.


The trail is also the site of the 1910 Wellington Avalanche Disaster, which was the deadliest avalanche event in U.S. history and involved railcars being swept away by an avalanche. While the story may be best reserved for older children, it highlights the fascinating history of the area. Local legend has it that it is a great spot for Sasquatch sightings as well.

Iron Goat Trail

Twin Falls Trail

Distance: 2.5 miles; Elevation Gain: 636 feet

After a rainy Winter, Washington’s waterfalls are especially iconic. The Twin Falls Trail includes a gorgeous waterfall that will be mesmerizing for adults and children alike. In combination with the peaceful forest, rushing river, and budding flora, it’s hard to find a more beautiful and relatively accessible hike in the area.

Pretzel Tree Interpretive Trailhead

Distance: 0.5 miles; Elevation Gain: 26 feet + Squak Mountain Connector Trail; Distance: 2.2 miles; Elevation Gain: 856 feet

Similar to the Pop-Up Story Walk, Pretzel Tree Interpretive Trailhead includes an engaging story children can follow as they walk along the trail. At the end of the story, hikers get a view of the “Pretzel Tree,” intertwined tree trunks that, indeed, appear very pretzel-like.

Twin Falls

Pretzel Tree is a short, half mile hike, so for those looking to add a little extra mileage, drive 7 minutes to the nearby Squak Mountain Connector Trail, which adds an enjoyable and somewhat hilly 2.2 miles of peaceful, forested trail.

Dead Horse Creek Trail

Distance: 2.2 miles; Elevation Gain: 725 feet

Those willing to drive a little farther from the Seattle area will be well-rewarded by this hike. Dead Horse Creek Trail is best hiked in the Summer and so should be saved for a little later in the season. However, come August, its wildflowers are in full and magnificent bloom. With Rainier’s peak as a backdrop, this stunning hike is likely to be a highlight of any family’s outdoor adventures.

Rainier and Wildflowers

Before heading out, review best safety practices for hiking with children and remember to check weather and trail conditions. Washington Trails Association and AllTrails include recent reports on trail conditions for most trails in the area.

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Christine Leibbrand

Christine Leibbrand is a native of Washington state and current Seattleite who works as a Policy Development Analyst at University of Washington. In her spare time, she loves to run, rock climb, hike, and draw. She also has a passion for writing, particularly about topics related to health, wellness, personal finance, and the environment. For more of Christine's writing, check out her blog, Department of Adulting or Instagram @christineleibbrand.

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