Located east of North Bend, the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road accesses dozens of popular hiking trails. Here are three kid-friendly hikes in the river valley.
Garfield Ledges is the most strenuous of the three kid-friendly hikes we love along Middle Fork Road, but the views are worth the extra energy. While driving, resist the temptation to stop at the numerous other trails and day-use areas you will pass on the way to the trailhead. You’ll know you’ve arrived once you cross a bridge where the nicely paved road ends and some pretty large potholes live. A Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking. Be aware that if you plan to go in the winter, this road is not plowed so make sure and check the road status and weather report.
Once you’ve parked in a large gravel parking lot, you’ll find plenty of picnic tables to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Snoqualmie River with pit toilets conveniently at the base of the trailhead. From the very beginning of the trail, it starts out steeply and doesn’t relent very much to the top. While this trail is short (a little over 1 mile to the top), it is steep with several switchbacks, roots, and rocks. The trail is well maintained, but make sure your laces are tied securely.
About 0.5 miles into the hike, you will find a very nice viewpoint that might be enough for some casual hikers. But if you are serious and want to invest some sweat equity for a better view, keep going up. You’ll know you’re at the halfway point as you climb some stairs that can be a little big for small legs.
The view here is one of the best in the Snoqualmie area of the Cascades, so find a nice rock or tree to sit on because you’re going to want to stay a bit just to take it in. Make sure to hold onto little ones and stay away from the edge. From the viewpoint at the top, the Taylor River and Middle Fork River convergence is visible far below. Stegosaurus Butte rises abruptly just across the valley, and Preacher Mountain stands majestically beyond. Far off in the distance, on a clear day, you might also be able to see Grouse Ridge and Rattlesnake Ledge.
We did this hike with a group of toddlers and their moms, and if your kid is into hiking, they will do great. But remember that this is a fairly steep hike and a carrier pack of your choice is advisable. It is also dog friendly, but as with most parks, they need to stay on the leash.
Unlike Garfield Ledges, this is a fairly flat, easy-does-it trail that the little ones can easily enjoy. You will find the trailhead at a pull-off (to the right) on Middle Fork Rd. There are only about 3 or 4 parking spots, so get there early! A Discover Pass is required for parking.
Once you have arrived, you actually have a “choose your own adventure” option of which trail you would like to take. If you head off to the left, you are greeted by a well-surfaced trail that will take you 1.5 miles around Oxbow Lake. If you head down to the right, you will descend down an old logging road that has been converted to a trail, where you will find a spur trail to the river’s edge. Continuing onward, you will soon reach a large bridge that serves as a viewing platform at the outlet to Oxbow Lake.
The well-maintained trail ascends under a canopy of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, red cedar, bigleaf maple and alder. The trail turns to the northeast and continues on to complete the loop and connect to the trail junction. At this point, you can return to your car and either pick another hike or enjoy a day-use area.
Mine Creek Day-use Area
This little gem would be easily missed, as it is right at the entrance to Middle Fork Road and could be easily dismissed for those eager to rack up the miles on the numerous trails in the area. There is a decent-sized pull-off area for parking above the river. You will descend down a small trail that will walk you along the river on a maintained trail. You can either choose to continue to walk along the trail or find an access point to go explore the rocky beach that splits the river off into a small stream that eventually meets back up with the main flow.
There are no picnic tables or pit toilets here, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying a serene and peaceful area to watch the river speed by on a lazy day.