Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

hiking teens Jillian O'Connor photo

All photos by Jillian O'Connor

How to hike with a surly tween and teen

You’ll get outside, and they’ll enjoy it more than they’ll ever admit.

“Why are you doing this?!” 

On a weekday just before New Year’s Eve, we decided that our kids could not stay indoors for one more minute, and they were not happy with us. 

We wrestled them out of their COVID cocoons, put the dog into the car and just drove on I-90, landing on a trail leading to Coal Creek Falls. (The Washington Trails Association says it’s in Issaquah, while Google Maps maintains it’s in Bellevue.) 

The dog is a very big fan of hiking.

My only complaint would be the tween and teen initially crowing about how deranged we are for making them walk for 3 miles, some of it uphill! Three miles uphill without Minecraft and Fortnite.

Regardless, we had a good time on the wide, easy King County trails, with mostly masked people going by, and there weren’t too many people around anyway. It was almost crowd-free and the trails were well-maintained. 

And we got to see a waterfall! 

As a native of Boston, I had an upbringing that was high on subway rides and extremely low on waterfalls and “hiking.” My West Coast-born children, on the other hand, are jaded — and 11 and 14 — and make a point of not oohing and aahing when they see waterfalls. (Even if Trapper Keepers were still in wide use, I do not think either would be choosing the waterfall print I picked at age 11.)

In fact, they scoff. (Was that a scoff I heard? Of course it was!)

Survival items for hiking with teens and tweens:

  • A full water bottle for each plus a water bottle and tiny plastic container for a dog, if you bring one.
  • A hoodie and a jacket layer for each kid. With most Pacific Northwest kids, you will have to carry either the jackets or the hoodies into the car yourself. Trust me on that. 
  • A mask or more per person, just in case you lose one.
  • Hand sanitizer in the car, in case something icks you out and/or you need to use a portable toilet. 
  • Music from your own teenage years so parents are happy, even if you drive the kids mad on the car ride. (Hey, it’s something to talk about! For instance, my teenage son is very deeply offended by Robert Smith from The Cure’s vocals.)
  • A bribe of your choosing. (Yes, we are straying into a morally gray area here. But you do want to hike, right?) For us, it was the promise of curbside pickup that night from a burger place that one child has been asking about for a month. What takeout food is your surly teen or tween most craving most during quarantine? Boba? A poke bowl? A Dick’s hamburger? Plan ahead and use the dinner or snack scheduling to your advantage. 
  • We saw other families on the trail, mostly with kids under 10 who were not yet too cool to show they were kind of, sort of, having fun. However, they were wearing masks, so it was a little tough to be sure. They were not actively sulking as they passed our kids, who had stopped pouting and were now in neutral face. 

Pro tip on hiking with teens and tweens: If your kids are protesting hikes, it’s always a good idea to bring a dog along, if you have access to one. Even the sulkiest, most gamer-y teens enjoy walking a happy dog up a trail. (Note: There are no unhappy dogs on hikes.)

photo by Jillian O'Connor

“Why are you doing this?!”

The path we took to Coal Creek Falls

Red Town Trail 

to Cave Hole Trail

to Coal Creek Falls Trail 

More Outdoor Fun

Washington State Parks are free on these 12 days in 2021

Parent review: Hidden fun at Whidbey’s Price Sculpture Forest

Parent review: A hiking day trip at Ebey’s Landing


About the Author

Jillian O'Connor

Jillian O’Connor is managing editor of the Seattle's Child print magazine. She lives in Seattle with her husband, two sons and a dog named after the Loch Ness Monster.