We are fortunate to have a wide variety of resources to help us get our kids out on the trails and into nature. Following are some of my favorites.
While I look at many books to find hikes, I always return to Joan Burton‘s classic Best Hikes with Kids: Western Washington and the Cascades. The current edition is in one book; older printings came out in two volumes. I like this book because she looks at trail difficulty from a child’s perspective, and warns parents about possible hazards that adult guidebooks might not think to mention.
Other books I use for planning our trips are:
Winter Hikes of Western Washington by Craig Romano. Pick a card for a lower elevation hike.
Nature Walks in and Around Seattle: All-Season Exploring in Parks, Forests and Wetlands by Cathy M. McDonald and Stephen Whitney. This book might be out of print, but if you can find a copy, it will give great descriptions, trail maps, and info about the flora and fauna of many parks in the Seattle area.
The Washington Trails Association has a comprehensive website with a hike finder guide, trail news, hike descriptions, and recent trip reports. They also have a newsletter called Families Go Hiking that delivers to your inbox tips and encouragement for hiking with your kids. There is a whole page devoted to hiking and camping with kiddos. In addition, trip reports can be searched by whether folks hiked them with children, and they have a database of kid-friendly hikes.
Richard Louv’s Children in Nature Network is a place to go for information and inspiration about the whys and hows of getting out into nature.
Nwhikers.net is a forum with categories about general trail information, gear, food, photography, history and stewardship. The heart of the site is the Trip Report page, where you can read reports and see fabulous photos of all the adventures people go on. Spend some time exploring the site and you’ll get a taste for the culture and various attitudes you’ll find. It’s a gold mine of wide-ranging information.
Hike It Baby has local groups you can join to get out with other families year-round. Peruse their website for writing and gear info.
Hike Like a Woman is a supportive and inspirational community focused on getting women outdoors, whatever your stage of life. I enjoy their online magazine, blog, and fitness challenges.
Outdoor Families Magazine is a new online publication encouraging families to get outside.
Information About Parking Passes:
For Washington State Parks Discover Pass: http://www.discoverpass.wa.gov/
For Federal Forest Lands, the Northwest Forest Pass: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r6/passes-permits/recreation/?cid=fsbdev2_027010
If you are going to be visiting Forest Service trailheads and National Parks, it might be cheaper to get the Interagency Annual Pass: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r6/passes-permits/recreation/?cid=fsbdev2_027020
For a more thorough treatment of how to determine which pass you need, visit the WTA website’s post about this topic.
If you’re snowshoeing or doing other snow play in the winter, you’re most likely going to need a Sno-Park Pass.