There is nothing quite like getting out and enjoying the beauty and splendor of nature around Clark County on a warm, summer day. As the sunny season starts to close across Southwest Washington, we find ourselves longing to get out with our family and explore the majestic corners of the area. While the greater Clark County region has some amazing local parks and playgrounds, it is good to introduce our kids into a more wild and rugged setting. Whether you are hoping to get your kids to a cool cave, up a giant rock to sweeping views of the Columbia River or sticking to the lowlands, exploring the lakes and waterfalls of the region, we have a handful of perfect hikes for families of all ages and hiking abilities. Choose one or hike them all and have a blast making memories and spending time together in the family-friendly wilds around Clark County.
Salmon Creek Regional Park and Klineline Pond
As a kid-friendly destination, it is hard to beat the accessibility and ease of hiking along Salmon Creek and playing in the water park at Klineline Pond. For hiking, there is a 3-mile long paved path along a greenway, showing off wetlands, forests and even gorgeous mountain views. Kids will like this hike for the flowers, butterflies and birds, as well as the safe and easy to walk trails. Once you have finished taking your kids on the hike, make sure you let them cool off by playing in the water feature at Klineline Pond or taking a dip in the swimming area!
Battleground Lake’s Lower Lake Trail
At just under a mile in length, taking your kids out on the Lower Lake Trail at Battle Ground Lake State Park makes for the perfect day out. While close to Vancouver, Battle Ground Lake’s popularity should not dissuade your adventurous spirit. Even on the hottest of summer days, you’ll still be able to find a place of relative silence where you can watch your child engage with the beauty of nature along the lakeshore. The trail is perfectly groomed and is mostly flat, giving you ample opportunity to explore the forest and lake at your own pace. With ducks, moss-covered rocks, fallen trees and awesome views, both you and your child will enjoy this leisurely stroll.
The Ape Caves
Nearly every hiking list we have includes the Ape Caves, and for good reason. This is a family favorite and local classic hike, perfect for almost all ages and abilities of nature lovers. Following the old lava tubes near Mount Saint Helens, the Ape Caves offer two trails, one easy and family-friendly trail at 3/4 of a mile in length and one much harder, requiring scrambling and squeezing, at a mile and a half in length, the caves are perfect for any weather. If you go here, make sure you remember that the caves are at a consistent temperature of 42 degrees Fahrenheit, with water dripping from the cave ceiling, so bring a raincoat, hat, good shoes, flashlights and extra batteries!
Along the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, one of the more scenic, family-friendly hikes can be found. Standing tall above the waters below, Beacon Rock offers breathtaking views and memorable experiences for hikers who take in the vistas from the dizzying heights. For less than a mile, the trail climbs up this geological beauty, starting on a rock path and paved sections before climbing up on a series of wooden bridges, many of which seem to precariously cling to the rock. If you hike here with little ones, make sure to hold onto them, as the drops are big. While this may be daunting, the views from the top are breathtaking and worth the slight vertigo some might experience.
Bridal Veil and Multnomah Falls
On the Oregon side of the Columbia, we strongly encourage families of Clark County to “do go chasing waterfalls.” While there are dozens of great destinations along the scenic Columbia River Gorge, two family-friendly stops will not only reward you with a fun hike and stunning beauty but will also help lay the groundwork for future road trips to amazing outdoor adventures. The two “must-stop” areas on the Columbia Gorge are Bridal Veil Falls and Multnomah Falls. Bridal Veil is a fun, family-friendly hike and at just 1.4 miles round trip, it is extremely easy to a stunning waterfall. After Bridal Veil, head to Multnomah for great views, ice cream and another chance to hike. If you have the time and energy, take the 2.4-mile round trip Multnomah Falls hike, which climbs nearly 900 feet up and gives off amazing views.
Trillium Lake Loop Trail
Finally, we stay in Oregon for the always scenic and amazing Trillium Lake Loop Trail. Perfect for kids of all ages, the views along the 3-mile round trip look are amazing, the trail is extremely well-maintained and the experiences are world class. This hike is perfect for families who are just getting into more serious hiking, or for those looking for a ridiculously gorgeous day in the shadow of Mount Hood. With beaches to relax on, picnic areas to eat at and occasional wildlife to watch, Trillium Lake is one of the Pacific Northwest’s best family hiking destinations.