Seattle's Child

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Five family-friendly and very PNW day trips near Seattle

Find your next favorite day trip. From crystal-hunting hikes to idyllic lake paddle boarding, here are 5 options close to Seattle.

When it comes to Seattle-area day trip options, the Pacific Northwest doesn’t come up short. From sandy beaches to mountain peaks, and all the forests, lakes, and trails in between, it’s easy to keep things interesting when you’re looking for an adventure.

Lake Easton seattle area day trip

Lake Easton (photo: Terumi Pong)

As always, being prepared (plenty of water, snacks, first aid kit, and weather-appropriate clothing) will help ensure that our day trips aren’t only survivable, but also awesome for everyone involved. So pack up the family, set your destination, and hit the road. Here are 5 family-friendly and quintessentially Pacific Northwest day trips near the Seattle area:

Take a weekend ride on the Pacific Crest chairlift  

Sometimes getting to the top of a hike is a daunting task for the smallest feet. Solution? The Summit at Snoqualmie Pass has opened the Pacific Crest chairlift on Fridays-Sundays during the summer season, where you can take in all the hiking views sans the long trek (unless, of course, you want to). Hiking up the mountain would take about an hour and a half (roundtrip) with small kiddos, but coming down is easier (about 30 minutes). There are no trees or shade along the trail — so sunscreen and hats are a must— but you’ll walk past lots of wildflowers, so keep your camera handy!

Kids 5 and under are free, and daily tickets range from $12-18, and include as many round-trip rides as your hearts desire. Find more details on the Summit at Snoqualmie Website, as well as what (and what not) to bring on the chairlift (like bikes and strollers).

Snack break: The Big Air BBQ near the lift and The Commonwealth Restaurant (a short drive away) offer lots of outdoor seating and delicious food (but a home-packed picnic is just as good).

Pacific crest chairlift seattle day trip

Pacific Crest Chairlift (photo: Terumi Pong)

Hunt for crystals at Hansen Creek

This is the perfect kind of hike for your treasure-hunting kid. About an hour east of Seattle near Snoqualmie Pass, Hansen Creek is a rockhound’s dream— bring your shovels and sifters to dig for quartz crystals and amethyst. You can find the trailhead and more information using Alltrails and Washington Trails, plus the directions on this rockhounding site. Tip: we always screenshot the route and trip details just in case cellular reception isn’t great.

Hansen Creek

Hansen Creek (photo: Terumi Pong)

The trail is about 2-3 miles roundtrip. Bring bug spray, water, and sturdy shoes — word is that the best crystals can be found a mile uphill (two miles from the trailhead), buried in the soil. We spent a good 3 hours on this day trip and found a handful of crystals closer to the base of the hill. For rookie rockhounds, even just getting out and trying to find a crystal or two (plus chatting with some of the experts) can make for a pretty fun and very unique day.

Keep in mind, this trail can feel quite remote, so if this is your first hike experience with your family, or if you have very young children, it might be best to try easier routes like Gold Creek Pond or Franklin Falls.

Snack break: On your way home, stop by the North Bend Bakery Cafe or Twede’s Cafe for cherry pie. And Red Mountain Coffee near the Summit at Snoqualmie Pass (about 20 minutes away from the trailhead) has public bathrooms if you need a stop before you head out into the woods.

Hansen Creek Seattle day trip

Digging for quartz crystals at Hansen Creek (photo: Terumi Pong)

Rent a Surrey at Point Ruston in Tacoma

If you haven’t yet rented a Surrey bike in Tacoma, it’s something you should try at least once. Rent one at Point Ruston (a Surrey for 3 people plus 2 small children starts at $29 an hour at Wheel Fun Rentals) and cycle along the waterfront. (Fun fact: from sunset until 10 pm, the bikes are lit up for night rides)!

Snack break: Stop for a scoop at Ice Cream Social, and a post-ride pit stop at the nearby playground. Or check out the Stairs and Slides at Dune Peninsula — just a short walk away. Need more day trip action? Make an entire day of it (or more!) and visit the Point Defiance Zoo.

Surrey bikes at tacoma

Surrey bikes for rent at Point Ruston in Tacoma (photo: Terumi Pong)

Take a ferry to Alki Beach and Back

If your family loves a ferry ride, you could spend a whole day exploring Bainbridge or Vashon Island. But there’s an option that’s closer to Seattle and also car-free — the walk-on ferry to Alki Beach. If you want to travel by wheels you can bring your bike on the ferry for no additional charge (just check for sizing restrictions before you go). Spend an afternoon at the beach, soaking in the sand, sun, and stellar views.

Snack break: Alki Beach has plenty of dining options, from grab-and-go to sit-down dinner. For a quick stop, Marination has delicious shave ice and other foods, and is located mere steps from where you get on and off the ferry.

Tips: Ferries typically arrive on the hour (just be sure to double check for current routes), so once you get to Alki Beach you’ll have a bit of time to explore. When heading home, it’s best to err on the side of caution and get in line early. As with everything these days, crowds can be really unpredictable (especially on sunny days, or if there’s an event in town).

Alki ferry seattle day trip

View from the Alki Ferry (photo: Terumi Pong)

Paddle board at Lake Easton

When summer arrives in Seattle, lakes become a magnet for kayakers, paddle boarders, and anyone else who appreciates getting out on the water. If you’re not up for a crowd, check out Lake Easton. About 1 hour and 30 minutes from Seattle, it’s a little further afield, but a great place for a float. Pack your Discover Pass (or purchase a day pass from the automated pay station), paddle boards, or floaties. The water is cold but refreshing, and there are bathrooms, picnic tables, and areas to get shade. Make sure you get here early if you want to snag a spot, and remember to bring life jackets if you head out to paddle. Also nearby the lake: a playground and plenty of forested trails.

Snack break: Pack a picnic and stay for the day. There’s also a designated swimming area and sandy beach entry for post-paddling play.

Take us along on your summer adventures! Tag @seattleschild in your social media. We can’t wait to see where you explore!

More from Seattle’s Child: 

50 ideas for outdoor fun all summer long

PNW day trip: Lime Kiln Point State Park

Parent Review: Blake Island Marine State Park 

Beach bucket list: 9 Seattle-area shores to check out

About the Author

Terumi Pong

Terumi Pong is a Seattle family travel writer and phone photographer who grew up in Vancouver, B.C. She is mom to twin boys and a yorkie poo pup named Scout and spends most weekends in the mountains with her family.