Earth Day Hikes for Your Family
Celebrate Earth Day with the whole family this year. Here are several tree-hugger hikes that will allow hikers of all ages to appreciate Washington's beauty.
Earth Day is right around the corner—Sunday, April 22 to be exact. There's no better way to celebrate than by getting outdoors and experiencing the wonders of the natural world. April 22 is also one of Washington State Parks fee-free days, even more reason to get outside!
But Earth Day is also a time to show the land how much you love it. Pick up some trash, volunteer on trail, or just give a nearby tree a hug. Here are several tree-hugger hikes to inspire you. If you can't reach these, use our Hiking Guide to find something near you.
Visit the Olympic Peninsula to discover one of the few old-growth temperate rainforests in America. Once claimed as the quietest place on earth, the Hoh Rainforest boasts an abundance of moss and lichens, ferns, trees and yes, endless amounts of rain.
On average the Hoh receives 127 inches of rain each year. Low elevations—between 394 and 2,500 feet—in combination with heavy doses of rain, create a thriving climate for dominant tree species like Sitka spruce and western hemlock. While visiting, don’t be surprised if you come across trees growing upwards of 300 feet tall and 20 feet in diameter.
For a great day in the woods with the family consider hiking the Hall of Mosses Trail. This wonderful trail is lined with educational signage and offers the opportunity to see wildlife and native plant species. If you can't get enough, pair Hall of Mosses with another easy 1.2-mile hike along the Spruce Nature Trail. Both of these trails are guaranteed to be a hit with the kids.
GINKGO PETRIFIED FOREST
If you're hoping to stay dry this Earth Day, you can almost guarantee sunny weather at the Gingko Petrified Forest Interpretive Trails. Located just off I-90 where it crosses the Columbia River in Central Washington, this is the perfect place to take your junior explorers.
These trails offer visitors an opportunity to take a trip through time and explore trees one might not think of for Earth Day. The Trees of Stone Interpretive Trails guide you through an ancient fossil bed with nearly two-dozen petrified gingkos, spruce, elm, walnut, and fir trees on the one-mile loop trail. Take a trip to Central Washington to learn what happened to these trees over time as they were consumed by lava and volcanic ash.
Shadow of the Sentinels
The Shadow of The Sentinels is a short interpretive trail that weaves through a forest of massive old-growth Douglas-firs, Western redcedars and other giants along the way. Some of these trees are estimated to be nearly 700 years old. Gazing up at these trees makes you feel ant-sized; people look minuscule among these behemoths. This 0.5 mile trail is perfect for visitors of all ages. A significant portion of the trail is a boardwalk, making it accessible for those visiting with strollers and wheelchairs.
Grove of the Patriarchs
If you're interested in massive old growth trees (we’re talking really old) head out to the Mount Rainier area to be captivated by the Grove of the Patriarchs. Here you will find yourself on an easy 1.5-mile lollipop loop trail that leads to a suspension bridge over the Ohanapecosh River and continues through some of Western Washington’s oldest forest.
Follow the boardwalk trail as it meanders through hemlocks, cedars, and Douglas Fir trees. At the end of the trail find a seat on one of the wooden benches surrounding the boardwalk and take time to immerse yourself with these ancient beauties, some of which are 1,000 years old. This trail is well maintained and regularly used making it a great option for trail users of all ages.
Seasonal Note: If you are planning to visit the Grove of the Patriarchs in early spring, be prepared for potential snow and cooler temperatures. It is always a good idea to check the weather report and WTA trip reports before heading out.
Don't forget your state parks! After all, entry is free on Earth Day. If you're looking for a casual stroll through the woods, a state park is a great stop.
Try the Pretzel Tree Trail, located in Squak Mountain State Park. it's a 0.3 mile trail perfect for nature-loving kids and adults. Along the trail kids will find illustrative storyboards that help explain the importance of ecosystems as they navigate their way through the forest in search of the Pretzel Tree.
Here are some other state parks that offer great trails and nature viewing opportunities for the whole family.
- Dosewallips State Park - Maple Valley Loop
Amble past waterfalls, through a valley lined with bigleaf maples and western redcedar. Give those trees a hug (if you can fit your arms around them) before switchbacking up to a ridgeline, then return to the campground via a gentle downhill grade
- Capitol State Forest - Porter Falls
The deep, dark Capitol State Forest is stuffed with big, imposing trees. Luckily, you won't have to go too far into the forest to wind your way along an old trail to lovely Porter Falls.
- Kopachuck State Park
This is an easy loop trail, wandering about a mile through a forest of bigleaf maple and cedars on the shores of Carr Inlet in Gig Harbor. With less than fifty feet of elevation gain and plenty of picnic tables, it makes the perfect destination for families with small children.
- Deception Pass State Park
Red madrona trees are Deception Pass's best feature for Earth Day. With beautiful peeling bark revealing vibrant red cambium and trunks just the right size for little arms, they make the best introduction to tree-hugging.
Looking for your nearest state park? Check out this great interactive map put together by the Washington State Park Foundation.
Leave No Trace
In the spirit of Earth Day, remember to practice leave no trace (LNT) with the entire family. One of the easiest ways to protect the trails and natural places you love is by leaving these places undisturbed. Whether you're walking an urban park or trekking in the backcountry, practice the following seven guidelines to reduce your impact. The important thing to remember is to be respectful to those around you and the natural environment. Happy trails!