On the eve of back to school times for many, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of new schedules and all the extras that brings in to family life. Even many of us with only the youngest of children are getting sucked in to the same timelines as we enroll toddlers into weekly activities and preschoolers into their 2 days a week of daycare or preschool. But even when all of these things start to take over, it will still be important to take some time away, do something a little unscheduled, and spend quality time with the whole family. Where else to do that but outdoors, in the beautiful surroundings we have here in the Pacific Northwest. This summer has been hot and very sunny, and the fall will likely remain warm and bright, and even if the fall rains come, there is still plenty to enjoy, and many places with great tree cover to prevent a full soaking. And really it is a different yet still useful form of education for your kids. You are teaching them to enjoy and pay attention to their surroundings, to nature, and to learn about the value of spending quality family time outside the home and being physically active.
Ever since moving here 5 years ago, I have always been amazed at the sheer quality and quantity of hiking options so close to the main cities. I have also found some great resources that people really do update well and often. My main go-to’s are Washington Trails & Red Tricycle (for all kid events but also best outdoor places at best times of year), @ http://www.wta.org/hiking-info/children and http://redtri.com/seattle-kids/ respectively. Tips for hiking with kiddos: Don’t think they can’t do it, or that you can’t do it because at any level, you can and its great fun. Pack snacks, but not a ton, water, and maybe a small favorite toy. Pack an extra pair of pants in case the cooler shade of a carried baby gets them a little chilly. Have patience, the goal is not to reach the top in a timely manner anymore, its about exploring!!
Depending on your child’s age, you can get away with a few different things. If they are still 1 year old or less, you will likely just strap them in a comfortable carrier or backpack. If you are looking for a proper hiking backpack, there are some recommendations, but also with the popularity around here, check out craigslist or mom-to-mom sales before buying new. With backpacked kids you can still pretty well do any hikes you would normally, though we always found our limitation was distance due to the extra weight of the pack, or also working around naps and time in the car with cranky child. There are still a number of places within a 45 min drive of the Bellevue area that can satisfy your needs for a good hike without overdoing the length of time for your younger child.
For toddlers, the new thing now becomes finding hikes that they can walk on their own for at least part if not the entire way. This means hikes with little elevation gain or atleast decent breaks between switchbacks, and more interesting things to see the entire route instead of just the promise of a nice view at the very end (which may not rock their world). Eventually, they’ll get into it enough to enjoy the walk regardless, but its nice for them to see plenty on the way, a good idea is paths with streams or waterfalls close by. Some of my recent personal suggestions include; Big Finn Hill Park in Kirkland, Bellevue Botanical Garden (with new bouncy suspension bridge and trail that ends at the nearby playground), Paradise Valley Conservation Area near Woodinville, Franklin Falls at Snoqualmie Pass, and Coal Creek Park in Issaquah. Each of these can be found by searching the www.wta.org site where you can see the length of hike, description, recent trip reports and how to get there.
So be sure to not give up on the joys of the outdoors just because summer is at an end, extend the fun and experiences for your family and your child by continuing with hikes throughout the year. Fall is a beautiful time to see leaves change forests busy with the scurry of animals preparing for colder weather. I myself will have a period of no major hikes towards the end of this pregnancy and the early weeks of baby boy’s arrival, but we plan to keep up the hiking or leisurely walking as soon as recovery is over. I will be happy to post our outings and location choices for any who are interested in ideas or even just the boost of getting out there! This is OUR Village, so feel free to post on the FB page if you feel like having company on your next hike, and maybe we can start a fun hiking share within the group!