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Top 8 Kid-Friendly Hikes Near Seattle: Easy Trails & Waterfalls for Families

Franklin Falls Hike is a perfect beginner hike with toddlers. Here, a mom and two daughters are walking on a path that runs along a river, an hour outside of Seattle.

Seattle offers an array of beautiful short hikes that are perfect for young kids, especially those featuring enchanting waterfalls and serene lakes. Did you know Washington has more waterfalls than any other state? With so many to choose from, it can be tough to decide which ones to explore, especially with young kids in tow. 

Explore the Best Kid-Friendly Hikes

To help, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite kid-friendly lakes and waterfalls to visit. Each is located in popular areas, so you can easily add other activities to your adventure. Whether you’re exploring the picturesque Franklin Falls or enjoying a leisurely walk to the viewpoints at Snoqualmie Falls, these hikes are short, easy, and sure to provide a fun and memorable outdoor experience for the whole family.

Table of Contents

Tips for Hiking with Kids

And guess what? There’s no perfect age to start hiking with kids—the best time is RIGHT NOW. Whether they’re babies, toddlers, or teens, hiking can be a rewarding experience for both you and your kids.

  • Choose the Right Hike: Opt for trails that are not too long, difficult, or dangerous. Short trails with easy terrain are best for beginners.
  • Set a Goal: Select hikes with a destination, like a creek, waterfall, lake, or picnic area. Kids are motivated by a reward at the end.
  • Have the Right Gear: Ensure you have the appropriate gear for hiking with kids, including a comfortable carrier for babies, a sturdy backpack, and necessary supplies like water, snacks, and first aid.
  • Wear Proper Shoes: Make sure everyone, especially the kids, wears proper hiking shoes that provide good support and traction to prevent slips and falls.
  • Start Early: Begin your hike early in the day to avoid crowds and ensure ample time to enjoy the trail at a leisurely pace.
  • More Snacks and Water: Did I mention snacks? Keep kids energized and hydrated with plenty of snacks and water breaks.
  • Dress Appropriately: Layer clothing to adapt to changing weather conditions and bring waterproof gear if hiking near waterfalls.
  • Take Frequent Breaks: Allow for rest stops to let kids explore and appreciate their surroundings.
  • Stay Safe: Keep an eye on little ones near water and steep edges, and always stay on marked trails.
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Starting young is beneficial, but every age comes with its own challenges. The key is to get out there and enjoy the experience together. Seattle’s trails provide the perfect blend of adventure and natural beauty for families with young kids. Here are some of the best hikes to enjoy together and some of our family’s favorites as beginner hikers.

1. Franklin Falls

Distance: 2 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Trailhead: Franklin Falls Trail Head
Parking Pass Required: Northwest Forest Pass

Franklin Falls is a must-visit for families with young kids. This short and relatively flat hike follows the South Fork Snoqualmie River, leading to a stunning 70-foot waterfall. The trail is well-maintained and offers plenty of opportunities for kids to explore nature up close. The final approach to the falls can be a bit slippery, so take care and consider bringing water shoes or extra layers for the spray.

Check out our 360-degree immersive photos of the Franklin Falls hike and waterfall to get a feel for the adventure right from the comfort of your home! Click on the pins to move around!

Franklin Falls is one of our favorite hikes with young kids. We even took our 2.5-year-old, who walked more than halfway on her own, with her dad carrying her at other times. Our 6-year-old walked the entire trail, including short snack and lunch breaks. This was her first hike, and we were impressed with her stamina. The trail is very popular, and we saw many families with kids along the way. The parking lot is spacious, with three different areas to park, which is a nice change from the smaller parking lots at other popular trails.

There are toilets at the trailhead; however, with kids, we always like to bring our own porta potty for cleanliness and comfort, as they feel more comfortable using it in the car. Additionally, there are no garbage receptacles at the trailhead, so be sure to pack out all your trash!

2. Twin Falls

Distance: 2.6 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
Trailhead: Twin Falls Trailhead
Parking Pass Required: Discover Pass

Twin Falls, located in Olallie State Park, is another fantastic option for a family hike. The trail takes you through lush forests along the South Fork Snoqualmie River, leading to several viewpoints of the impressive Twin Falls. With a series of gentle switchbacks, the trail is manageable for young hikers, and the spectacular waterfall views make the effort worthwhile.

When hiking with young kids, we usually stop at the main lookout point to view the large waterfall, using this as the goal to keep them motivated, before heading back. The trail is well-maintained, though busy, with hikers of all experience levels, including families with young children and babies. The trail remains fairly level along the river, providing a safe buffer so we didn’t worry about the kids falling in. However, it does ascend quickly, so be prepared for a breath-taking climb up to the bench lookout.

There are also spots along the river where you can hike down closer to the water. The parking lot for the trail is very small and tends to fill up quickly on weekends, so plan to arrive early or be prepared to walk a bit to reach the trailhead.

3. Snoqualmie Falls

Distance: 1.4 miles round trip (or parking lot viewpoints)
Elevation Gain: 300 feet
Trailhead: Snoqualmie Falls Park
Parking Pass Required: None

Snoqualmie Falls is one of the most famous waterfalls in the area, and there’s even a hotel right on site (Salish Lodge, great food by the way)! While not a traditional hike, the trail to the viewpoints of Snoqualmie Falls is a short walk that offers breathtaking views of one of Washington’s most iconic waterfalls. This spot is popular with both locals and tourists, offering amazing views just a short walk from the parking lot. The sheer power and beauty of the falls are sure to captivate kids and adults alike.

For kids who still have energy after visiting the falls, head over to nearby Fisher Creek Park. This fantastic playground features two zip lines and is perfect for letting kids burn off some extra energy!

For those wanting to explore more, there’s a great hike that takes you down to the water. The 0.7-mile interpretive trail from the upper falls viewpoints to the lower falls viewpoint is family- and pet-friendly, making it perfect for beginners. This trail introduces the basics of the flora and fauna near Snoqualmie Pass. However, beware: some families have mentioned that the walk back can be very challenging, especially with young, tired, and hungry kids!

If you visit during the fall, you’ll be welcomed by a vibrant display of autumn colors. The steep section of the trail provides a short challenge on the way back up, but it’s an excellent introduction to the region for novice hikers. At the bottom of the hill, the trail passes by a lower parking lot and then follows a boardwalk along the river. Enjoy the sound of the crashing waters as you walk the final flat 0.3 miles to a viewpoint of the river cascading down in a cloud of spray.

The Snoqualmie Tribe considers the falls to be humanity’s place of origin, and indigenous peoples of this region have come, and continue to come, to this sacred place for restoration and reflection.

4. Coal Creek Trail

Distance: 2.5 miles round trip (Cinder Mine Trailhead option)
Elevation Gain: 250 feet
Trailhead: Red Town Trailhead or Cinder Mine Trailhead
Parking Pass Required: None

Coal Creek Trails is a fantastic family-friendly hike that takes you back in time to a historic coal mining past. Pretend you’re a coal miner on an adventure as you enjoy the lush foliage, giant old-growth trees, and calming creek. This hike feels wonderfully remote and serene, with minimal elevation gain, making it perfect for little legs. Along the way, you’ll see signs educating hikers about Coal Creek and the miners who worked there.

The beautiful hike includes bridges, waterfalls, and fascinating artifacts from the past. If you don’t want to hike the entire 4-mile trail with little ones, you can start at Cinder Mine Trailhead for a shorter walk. Turn right at the trailhead and head down into the ravine for a quick jaunt to the falls.

This easy hike leads you through a historical coal mining region. While the towns are gone, you can still see some artifacts from the past, including a coal mine shaft and an information kiosk about its history. Cougar Mountain was a bustling coal mining area from 1863 to 1963, with miners tunneling six miles under the mountain and strip mining the surface, eventually extracting 11 million tons of bituminous coal. Remnants of this mining past are evident in the large holes along the trail, formed when miners’ underground extractions got too close to the surface, leading to cave-ins. Be sure to stay on the trail to avoid these deeper and potentially dangerous holes, with one of the larger ones rumored to go 518 feet below sea level. You might also spot a few railroad cart turntables, although they are difficult to see as the forest has grown over their concrete foundations. You may even catch the smell of coal and burnt cinders from time to time.

5. Gold Creek Pond

Distance: 1 mile loop
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Trailhead: Gold Creek Pond Trailhead
Parking Pass Required: Northwest Forest Pass

For those looking for an easy and scenic walk, the Gold Creek Pond trail is perfect. This flat, paved loop circles a beautiful alpine pond, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains. With plenty of picnic spots along the way, it’s a great place for a leisurely family outing.

Gold Creek Pond is an ADA-accessible trail atop Snoqualmie Pass, making it ideal for small children who can walk the entire route, parents pushing strollers, and people in wheelchairs. It’s hard to believe, but in the 1970s and early 1980s, this serene area was a gravel pit used for building I-90. Since then, agencies have worked together to reclaim the land, transforming it into the peaceful spot it is today.

The crystal-clear, blue, and very deep pond (which looks more like a lake) beckons visitors. A paved spur trail leads down to its banks, so there’s no need to scramble. Kids will love throwing rocks in the water and exploring the area. This trail offers a perfect mix of natural beauty and accessibility, making it a wonderful destination for all ages.

6. Bellevue Botanical Garden

Distance: Various trails, up to 2 miles
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Trailhead: Main Entrance
Parking Pass Required: None

In the heart of bustling Bellevue downtown lies the urban oasis of Bellevue Botanical Garden, a 53-acre refuge brimming with flowers, waterfalls, rock gardens, native plants, ponds, meandering hiking trails, and a suspension bridge. This location is perfect for families looking for an adventure without the long drive.

For a fun hiking experience, look out for trail markers for the Ravine Experience, which is about a 0.3-0.5 mile walk from the parking lot depending on which path you take. Look for the Takeuchi Loop trail, which will take you past the Yao Japanese Garden. Kids will love spending time on the suspension bridge, taking in the views high above a creek below and holding tight as the bridge gently sways. The garden’s diverse landscapes and accessible trails make it a delightful outing for young children.

7. Discovery Park Loop Trail

Distance: 2.8 miles loop
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Trailhead: Discovery Park Visitor Center
Parking Pass Required: None

Located in Seattle, Discovery Park is another great oasis to visit, and it’s just a short drive from downtown. The park features a playground, adding extra fun for the kids. The Discovery Park Loop Trail is a 2.8-mile loop that takes hikers through beautiful forests and meadows and showcases breathtaking views of the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains on clear, sunny days. The park is teeming with large trees, wildflowers, and wildlife, making every visit an adventure.

The loop itself is easy with minimal elevation gain, although it might be a bit of a challenge for the youngest toddlers. The mountain and water views are spectacular, and kids will enjoy dipping their toes in the water, so bring an extra pair of clothes. You’ll also see the West Point Lighthouse, a working lighthouse and a popular spot for photos.

8. Saint Edward State Park

Distance: 2.3 miles loop
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Trailhead: Saint Edward State Park
Parking Pass Required: Discover Pass

Experience the hidden gem of Saint Edward State Park, a secluded urban forest near Kirkland, Washington. Tucked away in a residential neighborhood and next to a naturopathic college, this park features miles of trails, most of which lead to a beautiful view of Lake Washington. Some of the paths are a bit steep for beginners and children, so be prepared for an actual hike, not just a walk (though the longest trail is just over a mile, so the challenge doesn’t last long!).

This beautiful state park includes a monastery converted into a hotel and a huge wooden playground with musical instruments, slides, swings, and more. The playground is a hit with kids, providing plenty of opportunities for fun and exploration. To enter and park here, you will need a state Discover Pass. Saint Edward State Park is a treasure that offers a blend of natural beauty and historical charm, making it a fantastic spot for a family outing.

Final Thoughts

Exploring the kid-friendly hikes near Seattle offers families the perfect blend of adventure, natural beauty, and educational experiences. Whether it’s the enchanting waterfalls of Franklin Falls, the historical allure of Coal Creek Falls, or the serene beauty of Gold Creek Pond, each trail provides unique memories and bonding opportunities. These easy and scenic hikes ensure that both young and old can enjoy the great outdoors together. So pack your gear, grab some snacks, and set out on an unforgettable family adventure in the stunning landscapes around Seattle. Happy hiking!

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