Stuff a daypack with snacks, fill up some water bottles, and explore local trails as a clan. Here are eight of our favorite family-friendly hikes in the West.
One of the most iconic trails in San Francisco is the pedestrian sidewalk along the Golden Gate Bridge. From the south end of the bridge, the out-and-back tromp is about three and a half miles. Tote a picnic lunch to enjoy from Vista Point on the north end. Even on warm days, bring layers; strong winds can get downright chilly.
Just north of Santa Cruz, Wilder Ranch State Park is a great spot to spend an afternoon. The easy, two-and-a-half-mile loop that connects Old Cove Landing Trail to Ohlone Bluff Trail visits Wilder Beach, a preserve for the snowy plover shorebird. At 1 p.m. on weekends, rangers offer guided tours of the circa 1897-ranch buildings and introduce visitors to farm animals and local history.
The best ocean views in Los Angeles are found on the Strand, a 22-mile paved path that winds its way past the Santa Monica Pier and through the sands of Santa Monica State Beach. Technically, it’s for bicycles—the formal name is the Marvin Braude Bike Trail—but there’s a special lane for walkers, too. Tip: Save little legs by bringing along a tike bike.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in La Jolla, north of San Diego, boasts maritime chaparral, the rare Torrey pine, and a lagoon that is a popular resting spot for migrating seabirds. The Guy Fleming Trail, an easy .75-mile-long loop, offers scenic ocean vistas and wildflowers galore in the spring.
The views of Mount Hood are spectacular from the flat and easy two-mile trail that rings Trillium Lake, about an hour east of Portland. Along the way, boardwalks meander through cedar woods with spruce, fir, and hemlock, while spur trails lead right up to the boggy shores of the lake itself.
Portland’s Forest Park is one of the country’s largest urban parks, and the Lower Macleay Trail is a great introduction. An easy two-mile out-and-back stretch connects a handful of attractions, including a 242-foot fir tree and the mossy remains of a circa 1930s Works Progress Administration stone building.
The three-mile loop hike to Silver Falls in Mount Rainier National Park may be difficult for families with young kids, but the falls themselves are a sight to behold. Here, the Ohanapecosh River cascades over a series of ledges before plunging 40 feet into a deep blue pool. Bring rain gear; it’s often misty.
Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest near North Bend is a hiker’s paradise, and the 3.5-mile Lodge Lake Trail is one of the most popular in the region. The hike is relatively easy, winding through spruce forests and alongside creeks before ending at the eponymous lake. It’s also dog-friendly.
Mind-boggling sandstone rock formations are the reward for the easy one-mile hike on Hole-in-the-Wall Trail in Papago Park outside Phoenix. From the top, kids can marvel at the views of Tempe through the perfectly eroded hole. Be sure to bring water; especially in summer, this short hike gets hot.
The duo of red rock walls and lush forests make West Fork Trail, located just north of Sedona in Oak Creek Canyon, memorable. Families enjoy out-and-back tromps on the first three miles of trail, a section that crosses the creek at several points. The route gets steep and treacherous from there.