Seattle's Child

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waterfall hikes with kids

Photos by Michelle Kuhns

5 short NW waterfall hikes to take with young kids

From nearby Snoqualmie Falls all the way out to the Olympic Peninsula

Washington is teeming with waterfall hikes, and it can be overwhelming to find a good one that is kid-friendly and suitable for all adventure levels.

Here are five waterfall hikes that I took with my toddler. We found plenty of easy trails, fun parks, and, of course, waterfalls to enjoy!

waterfall hikes with kids

Tumwater Falls

Location: 110 Deschutes Way SW, Tumwater 98501 (about a 90-minute drive from Seattle, depending on starting point and traffic).
Trail length: 0.8 mile loop with several viewpoints
Parking: Free
Stroller-friendly? Gravel path and shallow stairs (near the bottom falls). Heavy-duty jogging strollers may work.
Restrooms: Located at Brewery Park and Tumwater Historic Park. Bathrooms are well-maintained flush toilets and you can access them year-round.

Field notes: Three cascading waterfalls and a 15-acre park make this our favorite toddler hike yet! There’s a small park near the upper falls with boat structures. The larger park, at the bottom, also has a variety of play structures to climb and ride. There were plenty of places to stop and learn about the rich history of Tumwater with placards to read along the hiking trail.

If you love crossing bridges, there are two on the trail. Be careful of shallow and slippery steps after the rain and from the mist of the falls.

Before the lower falls bridge, there is a fence adorned with locks. Some have names on them and hearts, while most of them are plain. If you’d like to add to your hiking experience, bring a lock with you and leave the names of all those on your journey, or place the lock on the fence for another personal reason, like in honor of someone special.

Bonus: Visit the park in the fall (September/October) to see the salmon run.

Snoqualmie Falls

Location: 6501 Highway 202 Snoqualmie, 98065 (about 45 minutes from Seattle)
Trail length: 1.4 miles out and back trail
Parking: Free parking is found near the upper observation area. The smaller lot closest to Salish Lodge charges $7/day. The lower observation area also has free parking.
Restrooms: Bathrooms are located at the upper and lower falls.

Field notes: Snoqualmie Falls is a popular hike just east of Seattle. The waterfall can be viewed from the paved upper platform or the lower observation area. If you want to hike between the two vantage points, it is a 1.4-mile out-and-back trail. This mighty 268-foot waterfall is believed by the Snoqualmie Tribe to be humanity’s site of origin.

On the way down to the lower falls, we learned about the different types of plants within the old-growth forest. Signs identify trees, plants, flowers, and fruit in the woods. Be sure to stop and examine the massive root structures of the trees. Maybe play a game of hide-and-seek!

Once you reach the lower area, by the picnic tables, there are two ways to go. One will lead you to the river, and the other will lead you to the observation platform. We took a break and chose to go to the river’s shore. Watch for rough and suddenly changing currents. We threw rocks and stomped around the beach. Then, we headed across the bridge to learn about the historic hydroelectric plant. You’ll be able to walk through a tunnel of turbine skeletons, look way up high to the water pumps, and peek into the large building that is powering the turbine that takes in the water and powers the town with electricity.

Walk down the steps to the lower observation platform. This is a nice place to take pictures with views of the waterfall behind you. Then get ready for the 250-foot incline back up to the parking lot.

Bonus: There is a gift shop and restaurant adjacent to the Salish Lodge & Spa that offers refreshments and food.

Marymere Falls

Location: Located on the Olympic Peninsula, off Highway 101, near Port Angeles
Trail length: 1.7-mile easy out-and-back hike with several vantage points
Parking: Available at the Storm King Ranger Station
Stroller-friendly? No
Restrooms: Flush toilets located at the Storm King Ranger Station. Drinking water also available here.

Field notes: The trail is level and starts off on a paved path. At the junction, continue onto the trail to the left, into the old-growth forest. Follow the trail to Marymere Falls and reach your destination, after walking down a ravine. As you get closer to the falls, you’ll gain about 200 feet of elevation.

There are two bridges that cross over creeks that might be slick, so be careful walking across. The second bridge is narrow and made from a felled tree. Just after you cross that bridge, you will see a small vista without a guardrail. Hold on to your child’s hand to avoid running or walking off. Then, immediately following are switchback stairs. My toddler wasn’t a fan of climbing up these stairs until he got to the hollowed tree. Stop and take a look. It’s a good distraction from the work it took to get to the falls.

This heavily trafficked trail gets crowded on weekends and peak season (spring and summer).

Bonus: Finish the hike with a great photo at the small boat launch overlooking Lake Crescent near the ranger station. Or, make it a weekend away and stay at Lake Crescent Lodge.

[ Read also: Family guide to an Olympic National Park getaway ]

Sol Duc Falls

Location: 12076 Sol Duc-Hot Springs Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98363 (the trail is located beyond the Hot Springs Resort at the end of the road)
Trail length: 1.6 miles out and back
Parking: There is a lot at the end of the road. National park pass required.
Stroller-friendly? No
Restrooms: Drop toilets are available year-round

Field Notes: Sol Duc Falls is not your typical 90-degree plunge waterfall and it’s the most unique one we have experienced. You might get lucky, depending on water levels, and see four channels cascade into the moss-lined rocky canyon below. This easy trail starts under the dense forest canopy. We crossed a few streams and several short wooden bridges. When we reached the historic shelter, once the original Sol Duc Hotel, we could hear the 50-foot triple-channeled waterfall. There were signs to help direct us and we appreciated not having to follow a map.

The trail continues past the falls. If you want to return to the parking lot, you will need to double back. In April, portions of the trail were covered in roots and slick from the snow. Watch little ones on the stairs and near the cliffs, closer to the falls since minimal guarding exists. Signs were also posted, warning of possible cougars in the area.

Bonus: When there’s snow on the ground it’s a perfect time to take a break on the hike and have a snowball fight!

Murhut Falls

Location: Hood Canal Ranger District, east side of the Olympics (about 3 hours from Seattle)
Trail length: 1.4 miles, out and back
Parking: Free parking at the trailhead. The gravel road leading to the parking lot is riddled with pot holes.
Stroller-friendly? No
Restrooms: Closest vault toilet at the Ranger Hole trail just before Duckabush Road

Field Notes: The Murhut Falls trail is well-kept and greeted us with large ferns that opened into an old-growth forest. Although classified as an easy hike, the trail proved to be challenging for my toddler. I needed to keep a keen eye on him while holding his hand. The trail begins with a gradual ascent, flattens out for some time, and finally heads into its final ascent to the waterfalls. Be extra cautious with kids in this final ascent because of steep dropoffs on the side of the narrow trail. There are minimal guardrails, so be sure to watch little ones.

There are two vantage points to see the 130-foot tiered waterfall. The lower vantage point is steep and leads to the riverbank, while the second one takes you higher. Enjoy the bench overlooking the impressive falls at the top.

Bonus: Go during the summer when the trails are lined with Pacific pink rhododendrons.

Published May 6, 2022

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About the Author

Michelle Kuhns

When I am not hitting the trails, I am a part-time respite caregiver for individuals with developmental disabilities, working on obtaining a master's degree in social work through Fordham University, and a full-time hot-mess mom to a toddler. My goal is to introduce an appreciation for the outdoors and motivate others to get out and explore the Pacific Northwest. I hope I can empower you to find your moment in the sun with your little ones.