Hiking is a welcome escape and distraction for my family, and these three fall hikes are a great way to experience the natural beauty of this area.
Both my sons, Nikhil, 9, and Simon, 6, agreed, “This was so much fun … even though it rained.”
Farrell-McWhirter Farm and Park, Redmond WA
We arrived at Farrell-McWhirter Park on a cool and dark afternoon with a light drizzle. (A little rain doesn’t stop us!)
Along with nature trails, the park has a children’s farm. It’s closed, but you can still spy horses and hear pigs, chickens, and the obnoxious call of the donkey every now and then. In a normal year, the farm areas are open for farm and animal experiences, horseback riding, and an outdoor nature school.
We walked past the red barn and the fenced-off farm to enter the park. Bathrooms and washrooms were available near the front of the park. Walking up the paved path, we were immediately covered by a canopy of tall trees. We veered off the path onto the first trail, one of five different trail loops ranging from .03 to 0.5 miles. We spent the whole afternoon and hiked three of the five loops.
A little hail doesn’t stop us!
Each walk takes you over creeks and boardwalks in a very dense forest. We veered off the path a few times to splash in streams, throw rocks, shimmy across large fallen logs, and balance on tree stumps.
It began to hail at one point of our hike. We stood and tried to catch the balls of ice in our mouths.
Raincoats are necessary for this trip. So are boots. You go through lots of soft ground, dirt, and mud. We had masks handy but didn’t run into any fellow hikers. On the east and west sides of the park there are places to rest for a picnic, ride on the tire swing, pump our legs on the swings and run in open pastures.
We had a wonderful end to our outing. We raced across the field, jumped into piles of leaves and climbed trees.
Redmond Watershed Preserve, Redmond WA
An absolutely magical place, Redmond Watershed Preserve is a wonderful choice for a fall hike. With over seven miles of trails on four different paths, there’s definitely an adventure waiting for even the littlest of legs.
Despite the pouring rain (A lot of rain doesn’t stop us!), we met up with friends to walk the Trillium Connector Trail, which loops around and veers off to the east, to connecting to Siler’s Mill Trail (about 3 miles). It was a wet, cold, muddy up-and-down hill walk. We made our way through a mature forest, wetlands, and a fern-carpeted forest floor. The trails are well-maintained and used by hikers, bikers, and horses.
The most unexpected part of our nature trip were the dozens upon dozens of mushrooms we saw along the way.
We stopped to examine them, “This one looks like a Mario Brothers mushroom” and “That one looks like a shaggy umbrella” were a couple observations. We counted, but never touched, and were in awe of these fall beauties.
Time for hot drinks
Walking over many roots and sploshing in slippery mud had us all tired by the last mile. We counted beetles that crossed our path and discovered painted little pumpkins that were out of place, but apt for the season.
Back at our cars we poured hot chocolate (for the kids), spiced chai (for the adults), and snacks all around. We were drenched, but no one complained.
(For shorter hikes, with gorgeous, lush green landscapes, boardwalks, and a lookout point to the Redmond Watershed lake, check out the Trout Loop Trail and the Tree Frog Loop trail. Both are hiker-only trails.)
Picnic areas and bathrooms are open for use. Trails are narrow and masks are encouraged.
Tolt River-John MacDonald Park, Carnation WA
Located in the Snoqualmie Valley, the Tolt River Park is an adventure that your family won’t forget!
The hike will start you off at a large parking lot across from the community sports fields. Walk into the park and your immediately challenged to one of the highlights of the trip – the 500-ft long suspension bridge over the Snoqualmie River. Signs say to have your masks on and to wait for oncoming foot traffic to pass before going on the bridge. We found this a bit challenging, since visitors wanted to soak in the scenery for a long time.
The skinny wobbly bridge swayed back and forth as we crossed and stood to admire the swift-moving river below. In the distance we saw fisherman wading in waist-deep in the water. “What if we fall in?” was one of the concerns my kids asked, but we made it across safely.
Fun with sticks and paper boats
On the other side is a campground with yurts, picnic tables and a Ranger Station. We headed east on a gravel path into a mature forest grove. We traveled off the main path, through the woods to the rocky banks of the Snoqualmie River. You could see the mist rising off the river. Hungry for lunch, we sat on large boulders (bring a blanket) for our picnic, then continued down the shore and back onto the main path.
Many little creeks and rivers lined the trail. The kids stopped to float sticks and leaves through large pipes to see if they would make it to the other side. Hikers and bikers came past, most with masks on or keeping at least a six-foot distance.
Heading further down the trail we took the Cottonwood Loop Trail. We walked through an amazing display of lush green forest and fall colors. The trail leads you to a gravel bar, by the river. We spent over an hour, exploring the land, skipping rocks, and taking in all the autumn colors.
My husband made paper boats out of scraps in my purse and helped our kids float them down river.
The best part of the day? “Everything!” sounded off Simon and Nikhil. We’ll definitely be back to explore this park again.
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