Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

short hikes

6 short hikes for short legs

Hikes that are quick, easy and have big payoffs

Editor’s note: It’s the winter season. Before heading out, please check the WTA website for hiking closures and road conditions.

We’ve rounded up six of the best local short hikes (under 2 miles) for little legs. It is great for beginners and a lovely start for families aiming to hike more.

Hike #1 – Snoqualmie Falls

Photo: stevbach1/flickr

Over 1.5 million visitors take in the wonders of Snoqualmie Falls every year. The short hike down a wide gravel trail is a beautiful way to get close to the majestic Snoqualmie Falls. The interpretive trail starts at the Upper Falls viewpoints and continues to the Lower Falls viewpoint for a great family- and pet-friendly hike.

Start at the railed Falls Viewpoint and head down the walkway. Make a right and then a left turn to head behind the gift shop and visitor center. Just across the map kiosk is the trail start. You’ll descend approximately 250 feet for about 0.4 miles. This steep section provides a short challenge on the way back. Adults and kids alike will enjoy the interpretive plaques, which teach the basics of the flora and fauna along the trail, along with information about the local Native American culture. The Snoqualmie Tribe considers the falls to be humanity’s place of origin.

Once at the bottom of the hill, the trail heads past the lower parking lot to a boardwalk along the river. The final, flat 0.3 miles provides a stunning view of the 1000 cubic feet of water per second that flows from the Snoqualmie River into the 268-foot drop of Snoqualmie Falls. This massive amount of water energy provides electricity for Puget Sound Energy from the hydroelectric plant, in place since 1898. The cool mists that float up from the falls are appreciated by hikers on hot, summer days.

Distance: 1.5 miles round-trip

Parking/Fees: free parking lot

Best for: Babies in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids; leashed dogs

Additional information: Head into the historic town of Snoqualmie to explore the train museum.


Hike #2 – Franklin Falls – TRAIL CLOSED

Located in Snoqualmie Pass, Franklin Falls is a fantastic short hike for families with young children. The short but gentle climb provides lots of scenery with a fantastic waterfall at the trail’s end. The trail starts just outside of Denny Creek Campground. Make a quick pit stop at the restrooms located just to the side of the trail head before following the South Fork Snoqualmie River to Franklin Falls. The extensive trail work done by the WTA means that the trail is pretty safe for even the littlest hikers. Children will need help on the last rocky, narrow trail gouged into the side of the rock, beneath the falls where the stones can get slippery.

The thick canopy of coniferous trees covering most of the trails means this is a cool hike on even the warmest days so pack a rain jacket! The falls are three separate tiers with a total drop of 135 feet, but only the last drop can be seen from the trail. At 70 feet, the last tier of Franklin Falls is a beautiful sight.

Distance: 2 miles round-trip with 400 foot elevation gain

Parking/Fees: Small parking lot for around 15 cars with overflow parking on the road. A National Forest Pass is required.

Best for: Babies in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids. Not recommended for strollers; Leashed dogs are welcome

Directions: Interstate 90 east to Denny Creek Exit #47; Follow the signs to Franklin Falls

Additional Information: Denny Creek Campground is nearby and provides a great place to enjoy a longer stay in the area.

NOTE: Due to construction in order to expand the parking space to 72 spaces, the entirety of Forest Road 58, the Denny Creek Campground, Denny Creek trailhead, Franklin Falls Trailhead, the Franklin Falls Trail, and the Wagon Road Trail are closed as of May 30, 2023. The closure may last as late as November, but the area is expected to be open during the summer of 2024.

Hike #3  – Tiger Mountain

Photo: j brew/flickr

Tiger Mountain has easy, family-friendly trails and hosts more than 15 miles of available forest exploration. Heading out from the High Point Trailhead are two perfect short hikes for short legs. For the littlest of kids, the first hike is the Bus Trail. The wide, flat trail is roomy enough for kids to burn off some energy and is wheelchair accessible and stroller-friendly.  The trail loops around to the wreckage of an old bus, perfect for exploration. Hikers with more energy to burn will enjoy the Around the Lake Trail, which loops around Tradition Lake. The flat trail is packed with lush forest foliage and fauna at one and a half miles. This trail is perfect for wildlife spotting. For a more educational hike, check out the interpretive signs describing the Pacific Northwest plants and animals you may spot.

The determined can continue onto Poo Poo Point for a 7.2-mile roundtrip hike. Bring that baby carrier if carrying on to this trail as little legs are sure to tucker out. This trail is not wheelchair/stroller accessible but provides some amazing views. There are two tables and a restroom at the point, providing a nice pit stop before returning to the car.

Distance: 1-2 miles round-trip, less than 100 feet elevation

Parking/Fees: You’ll need a Discover Pass to park in the main parking lot.

Best for: Strollers, Babies in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids; Leashed dogs are welcome

Directions: Interstate 90 east to Exit #20; Turn right and right again onto the frontage road.

Additional information: Most of the lower trails are shared by hikers, bikers and equestrians.


Hike #4  – Carkeek Park

photo: alvin smith/flickr

Carkeek Park is ideal for mini hikers who can amble along portions of the over 6 miles of kid-friendly trails while checking out the restored salmon spawning population, urban streams and beach. Most of the trails are ADA accessible which means they are stroller friendly. Carkeek Park also features a salmon-themed play area, and an easy-to-access beach area with a bridge over the train tracks, which will delight the little ones.

Start at the Environmental Learning Center and head to Piper’s Creek Trail to see the restored Piper Fruit Orchard featuring over 29 fruit varieties from Dutch Mignone Apples, Rhode Island Greening Apples to pear, cherry and chestnut trees. Sitting just above Piper Creek, Piper Orchard is an ideal location for summer picnics and the annual Festival of Fruit in September is not to be missed. Little foragers will enjoy finding salmonberries, stinging nettle and many other types of berries within the park. Naturalists in the environmental learning center can help identify which berries are safe to eat and where they can be found.

Head over the pedestrian bridge, which goes over the BNSF Railway tracks for a stroll along the beach. On lower tide days, you can walk two miles south to Golden Gardens or north 4 miles to Richmond Beach. Beach Naturalists from the Seattle Aquarium are often on hand during low tides to provide education about Puget Sound’s multitude of marine plants and animals.

Distance: 0.6 to 6 miles round-trip, minimal elevation

Parking/Fees: Parking is free and plentiful

Best for: Strollers, Babies in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids; Leashed dogs are welcome

Additional Information: Carkeek Park includes a playground, beach and miles of trails


Hike #5  – Schmitz Preserve Park

The 53.1 acre Schmitz Preserve Park is home to old-growth trees, lush foliage and wide hiking trails for an afternoon stroll. Little legs will appreciate the room to roam. Located just off Admiral way toward Alki Beach, the park can be easy to miss. There are a few entrances to the preserve just off the bridge with plenty of parking nearby.

Formed from land donated to the city between 1908 and 1912, the preserve’s land was preserved before being completely logged by German immigrants Ferdinand and Emma Schmitz. The 1.7 miles of hiking trails make for great exploration. Head out on an adventure to find the alligator carved from fallen old-growth wood. Wander along the mostly maintained trails but more adventurous explorers might enjoy finding the smaller trails.

Distance: 1.7 miles round-trip, 220 feet in elevation

Parking/Fees: Parking is free

Best for: Babies in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids; Leashed dogs are welcome

Additional Information: The park does not have any trail signs so you may want to print or download a trail map in advance.


Hike #6  – Mount Rainier – Nisqually Vista Trail

Photo: Jerry briix/flickr

The Nisqually Vista Trail affords spectacular views of our crown jewel of mountains in the Northwest –  Mount Rainier. The only catch, of course, is that it’s about two-hour drive to get to the park from Seattle, so if this is a day trip, you need to be prepared for a long day of travel.

This path is fully paved up to the overlook. The trail starts with a climb up stone stairs to the asphalt path above. Ambitious hikers can carry their stroller up the stairs for use on the path. Head in either direction to start walking among the loop trail.

The farthest point provides the best and final viewpoint with signage describing the Nisqually Glacier, which has significantly receded in recent years. On foggy days, you’ll be able to walk amidst the clouds. Cloud cover can be disappointing, but patience pays off as morning clouds often dissipate by afternoon. Fairy Pond will entice young hikers; if you are lucky, there may still be a few wildflowers to be spotted if you go in the summer or fall.

The Nisqually Vista Trail features Pacific silver fir, subalpine fir, mountain hemlock, and gorgeous views of Mount Rainier.

Distance: 1.2 miles round-trip, 200 feet elevation

Parking/Fees: Park entrance fees apply

Best for: Babies in carriers, energetic preschoolers and older kids; No Pets allowed

Additional Information: Relax in the historic Paradise Inn after your explorations. The massive lobby with couches and a fireplace is busy during the day and offers a full-service dining room and small cafe. A note on using GPS from the National Park Service: The street address for Mount Rainier National Park (55210 238th Avenue East) leads to the Mount Rainier Administration Building in Ashford, Washington, NOT to the Nisqually entrance of the park. To reach the Nisqually entrance using GPS use the address 39000 State Route 706 E, Ashford, WA 98304. This will take you on SR 706 east past the Administration Building to the Nisqually Entrance.

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About the Author

Rebecca Mongrain