5 Urban Hikes to a Beach
There's just a couple of short weeks before school starts, yet nature is calling our name. Try one of these urban hikes to get your family moving and having fun this summer.
Hook your children with an appealing destination: There’s nothing like the lure of a sandy beach to get your kids through a few switchbacks. Here are five idyllic spots for getting some good exercise under the guise of having playtime at the beach.
With lush forest, meadows, wetlands, saltwater beach and more than six miles of hiking trails, 220 acre Carkeek Park in North Seattle will entice the reluctant. Try the Wetland Trail boardwalk, then traverse the North or South Bluff Trails for the workout and the spectacular views of Puget Sound. After your hike, head over the footbridge toward the beach, where kids can station themselves right over the train tracks as powerful locomotives thunder by. Carkeek’s expansive beach lets children skip rocks, play in the water at the mouth of Piper’s Creek, look for sea critters and picnic on driftwood. Don’t leave without a spin at the playground. My kids love the salmon-shaped slide and the train spotting – it’s their reward for working up a sweat on the trails.
Location: 950 N.W. Carkeek Park Road, Seattle. www.seattle.gov/parks.
The largest park in Seattle at 534 acres, with more than seven miles of trails, Discovery has multiple habitats: ponds, meadows, forests and saltwater beaches. We like the Loop Trail (2.8 miles), with several habitats and remarkable panoramas of the Cascade and Olympic Mountains. Three paths from this trail take you down to the seaside for beachcombing. If you prefer a sandy beach (good for small children), take the South Beach Trail. The North Beach Trail takes you to a rockier beach, especially great during low tides. Note: the beach is at least 1.5 miles from the parking lots. Not completely tuckered out after your trek? Try the playground, nestled in the trees at the east end of the park.
Location: 3801 Discovery Park Blvd., Seattle. www.seattle.gov/parks.
Just north of the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal in West Seattle lies beloved Lincoln Park. This green space is noted for its diversity – it’s lined with 4.6 miles of walking paths, almost as many bike trails, scattered playgrounds and playfields, and both a wading and outdoor pool. Fourteen trails offer plenty of choices for your family to take in nature at your own pace. Kids will enjoy the paved path along the shoreline, hiking up to the great vantage points of the upper bluff and looping back down again. There are plenty of picnic tables along the beach where you can relax after your hike, watch passing ferries and pause for a midday feast before checking out the area’s intertidal community.
Location: 8011 Fauntleroy Way S.W., Seattle. www.seattle.gov/parks.
Point Defiance Park
About two million people visit this 702-acre gem in Tacoma each year to experience old-growth forests, lush gardens, scenic views, beaches, hiking trails and attractions (the park includes Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum). Five Mile Drive winds through the forest, offering vistas of Puget Sound, the Cascade and Olympic Mountains, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. It’s closed to vehicle traffic every Saturday and Sunday until 1 p.m., allowing families to check out the scenery in safe surrounds. There are more remote hiking paths, as well as a paved promenade for an easy stroll from the Marina to Owen Beach. Watch the ferry boats head over to Vashon Island and the kayakers paddling about (rent kayaks at the beach). Picturesque gardens showcase native plants. There is so much to do here, you might just have to pay a few visits.
Location: 5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma. www.metroparkstacoma.org.
Saint Edward State Park
My family adores this Kenmore park. Several trails among its 316 acres lead you along forested trails to the shoreline of Lake Washington. Marked with mileage and level of difficulty, you can choose the path that works best for your family. Our favorite is the Seminary Trail, little more than a half-mile to the water. We love the short hike that allows us more time to play around in the sand, have a picnic and watch the boats out on the lake on a nice day. Be sure to search for the giant, hollowed-out tree near the shore – it’s a great spot for photos. Head up the trail and end your adventure at “castle park,” one of our area’s most unique playgrounds. Take note: This is a state park, so you must have a Discover Pass or pay for a day pass on site for $10.
Location: 14445 Juanita Drive N.E., Kenmore. www.parks.wa.gov.
Things to Bring
After failing to pack important items on several occasions, we now have our hiking/beach combo excursions down to a science. I recommend bringing the following “stuff” on your outdoor adventures:
- Sandals: There’s nothing worse than hiking in wet shoes after you are done at the beach (oh, the complaining!). And it’s usually too cold or too rocky for kids to go barefoot. Pack a pair of sandals for each child and you’ll be happy you did.
- Extra layers: If your child is likely to sit down in the sand or rocks, the beach will leave them soggy-bottomed. As well, the cool breeze off the shoreline feels even cooler after you’ve worked up a sweat hiking. Extra layers will help all of that.
- Wet wipes: After a few times of trying to eat a picnic lunch with sandy hands, I now pack these on every trip.
- Sustenance: Bring plenty of water and healthy snacks for hiking, then a picnic lunch for your starving little monsters who just conquered the hills.
- Camera: This probably goes without saying, but green foliage plus children with a healthy glow on their cheeks equals great pictures.
- Paper and pencil: Park yourselves on a bench for a rest and have the kids pencil in the view. They can also journal about what they see on the beach.
- Trail map: All of these parks have detailed online trail maps. If you’ve never been to the site, or if you are directionally challenged like me, it’s a good idea to have one handy in your backpack.
- First aid kit: After my son slipped on a wet rock on the Denny Creek hike and cut his head, this mom never goes anywhere without a first aid kit. You never know when you, or someone else around you, may need it.