Local author and homeschooling mom Jessica Becker shares six of her favorite kid-friendly summer hikes within a 90-minute drive of Portland.
Summer in the Pacific Northwest means it’s time for adventure! We have just a few months to soak in all the warmth and sun — what better place to do that than on the trail? Longer days and great weather means it’s easier to travel a little bit further from home, too. While the weather is milder in summer, there are some unique considerations for summer hiking with kids:
- If it is warm in town, it still may be cool in the mountains. On the morning of your hike, check daytime and overnight weather conditions and make sure to bring the right gear.
- Keep an eye on snow levels.
- Don’t forget your mosquito repellant, sun protection, and anti-itch cream!
- Check for wildfires and smoke, as well as air quality.
- In summer, water can still be cold and swift or even unsafe due to toxins. Washington.gov has great tips for keeping kids safe or learn more about kids and water safety here.
- Educate yourself on summer safety.
- Maintain reasonable expectations and have fun!
Check out these family-favorite hikes for experiencing summer in our area:
Mary Young and Cedar Island – Portland Area
Mary S. Young Park is an excellent choice for a summer hike. The shady forest offers respite on hot summer days, and the seasonal bridge over to Cedar Island allows hikers to reach a neat island on the Willamette River. On the island the beach is a mix of rocks and sand, and there is a fishing platform available, too. This park is popular with dog-owners and you may encounter some dogs off leash. It is only about a 0.5 mile hike from the main parking area to Cedar Island, but you can add on trails to make an almost 4 mile hike. Parts of the trail are ADA-accessible and the park can be reached by bus.
Whipple Creek Regional Park – Vancouver Area
Take a break from the warm days of summer by hiking through the cool and shady forests that make up Whipple Creek Regional Park. There are 4.3 miles of trails, but you can combine different trails to suit your needs. This park is popular with horses, so read up on horse etiquette before hitting the trail.
Pool of the Winds – Columbia River Gorge, Washington Side
This hike takes you to a beautiful waterfall by way of lovely forest and passing views of Hamilton Mountain, Bonneville Dam, and the Columbia River Gorge. If you look at the falls in the right light, you may even see a rainbow! The Pool of the Winds Hike is only about 2 miles round-trip and requires a steady climb from the trailhead. Make sure to pick up a Washington Discover Pass before heading to the trailhead.
Sherrard Point – Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Side
Once the snow has melted (usually sometime in June), you can summit an ancient and extinct volcano without much work at all! By climbing up a 0.3 mile one-way paved path and several sets of stairs, you can reach the top of Sherrard Point, the summit of Larch Mountain. On a sunny day, you can see five volcanoes from this fenced-in summit viewpoint. You’ll need to keep a hand on younger kiddos since the viewpoint has extreme drop-offs and it is unclear how sturdy the railings are. For a longer hike, you can head north from the parking area on Larch Mountain Trail #441. The forest is quite spooky through here and you’ll encounter some amazing trees as you hike along. The trail is only downhill from the parking area, so remember that you’ll need to come back up the hills when you turn around.
June Lake – Mt. St. Helens Area
The trail to June Lake really has it all: a waterfall splashing into a pretty lake, views of Mt. St. Helens, rough-skinned newts, a lava field, wildflowers, and a paved road all the way to the trailhead. There isn’t even a pass required. This moderate hike is around 2.8 miles round-trip and has some elevation gain, as well as a rocky trail. Keep in mind that the trailhead has no toilet or cell service. Consider combining the hike with a visit to Lava Canyon or the Trail of Two Forests. There are toilets at both of these locations.
Zigzag Canyon and Little Zigzag Canyon – Mt. Hood Area
The Timberline Trail heading west from Timberline Lodge offers such an epic kid-friendly mountain experience. The snow melts in July and is soon followed by amazing wildflowers. From the trail, you will have views of high desert to the east, Mt. Jefferson and mountain lakes to the south, and Portland to the west. Consider combining this hike with a camping trip in one of Mt. Hood’s many campgrounds. The trail is 2.4 miles round-trip to Little Zigzag Canyon and 4.4 miles round-trip to Zigzag Canyon. This hike is for more experienced kid hikers and parents should use caution near drop-offs, especially at Zigzag Canyon.