Local author and homeschooling mom Jessica Becker shares five of her favorite kid-friendly spring hikes within 45 miles of Portland.
Spring is absolutely stunning in our area! The land feels like it is waking back up with temperatures warming, migratory birds arriving, and flowers blooming. Spring can also be quite unpredictable weather-wise, and there are some extra considerations for spring hiking with kids:
● Plan for quickly changing weather. Check the weather the morning of your hike, but make sure you have extra layers for rain, wind, or hail.
● Dress in layers and avoid cotton. The combination of cool spring temperatures and rain can still put you in hypothermia territory.
● Make sure you do a tick check after your hike and watch out for poison oak.
● Keep an eye out for rainbows.
● Maintain reasonable expectations and have fun!
Below are five of Jessica’s favorite hikes for experiencing springtime in our area:
In addition to lovely flowers, trees, and creeks, spring hiking at Tryon Creek State Natural Area often includes an owl sighting. Hiking in the morning or evening from February through June is best for seeing owls, especially barred owls. It is important to give owls space and exercise good birding ethics. There are 8 miles of trails at Tryon, but there are several kid-friendly shorter routes you can take.
The area around the Wildlife Botanical Gardens is a family favorite year-round, but spring is certainly the most exciting. There is a lot of diversity here, with ten different gardens, two ponds, an orchard, an arboretum, and a native forest. Start out by wandering through the gardens to the west of the parking area, and then head north through the orchard on your way to the ponds. Next, head west on several loops through lovely forest. In this mile of wandering, keep an eye out for frogs, turtles, birds, and some excellent rolling hills. There are no toilets available. The gardens are free to attend.
The Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge is finally re-opening May 1st after 2 years of closures to restore habitat and enhance recreation opportunities. A favorite among birders and local families, the Refuge comes alive in springtime. Bring a pair of binoculars and practice your birdwatching on the flat gravel trail (expanded to almost 4 miles). Be sure to check out the family-friendly reopening celebration on May 7th.
Hopkins Demonstration Forest, a lovely 140-acre privately owned forest, is open to the public for up to 5 miles of hiking. You can visit a pond, a creek, a log house, a fire lookout, and more, all while learning about various habitats. Be sure to download a copy of their native plant and animal list before you drive out to the forest.
This hike to Dry Creek Falls takes you on the famous Pacific Crest Trail to an amazing waterfall. Along the way, you will encounter wildflowers and hike through an area impacted by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. The juxtaposition between the burnt trees and the green understory is intense. This 4.4 mile out-and-back hike may be challenging for some kids due to the longer distance and steady elevation gain, but the hike is worth it! Avoid this fire-damaged area during heavy rain.
For more recommended hikes, check out Jessica Becker’s Less-Crowded Kid-Friendly Hikes in Oregon and Washington or order a copy of Becker’s latest hiking guide — little feet hiking: Columbia River Gorge.