Whether you’re new to hiking with your baby or toddler, or you’re looking for a new trail to explore, the Hike it Baby community is a valuable resource for finding family hiking trails around the country. In this article, we share three beautiful hikes in Oregon to explore with babies and young children.
Hiking with young children (under 5 years old) is different from hiking with school-age children. These three hikes in Oregon offer families of young children beautiful trails to explore while considering the unique ways young children hike, wander, discover and explore.
SMITH ROCK STATE PARK (TERREBONNE, OR)
The Oregon State Parks System features many exceptional hiking opportunities for young children, and Smith Rock State Park is truly a gem. It is about 35 minutes outside the city of Bend, OR, and is sometimes overlooked as the hiking haven that it is because it is most well known for its plentiful rock climbing routes. There are numerous trail options from longer loops (up to about 8 miles) to a short jaunt to stroll along the winding river. The helpful rangers in the visitor yurt will point you toward what will best meet your needs. There is plentiful wildlife (otters, marmots, bald eagles and peregrine falcons) to spot, lots of little nooks to play in along the trail and fascinating rock climbers to watch around every corner. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the famous “Monkey Face” rock!
- There is a steep descent to get down to the river and a sturdy bridge to cross, but a hardy all-terrain stroller could handle it and continue along the river trail. If you want to get on top of the rock, then a carrier would be best.
- There are bathrooms available near the parking area, but it is recommended you bring your own drinking water.
- There is camping at the park if you want more time to enjoy the gorgeous high desert scenery.
- Although the park is open year-round, check the website for seasonal visitor center hours.
- Keep an eye out along the SW portion of the River Trail for a giant bald eagle nest and the nesting pair that frequents it.
- There is a scaled down version of the “Monkey Face” rock near the bathrooms for kiddos to try their hand at climbing!
SILVER FALLS STATE PARK NATURE PLAY AREA (SUBLIMITY, OR)
Located about 30 minutes from Salem, OR, and a little over an hour south of Portland, OR, Silver Falls State Park Nature Play Area is another wonderful state park. There is an abundance of waterfalls – 10 to be exact – which can be strung together on the Trail of Ten Falls or accessed by numerous trailheads along the way. Some of them are stroller-friendly and some require a carrier due to the terrain. There is a large camping area and the highlight is an awesome nature play area. The nature play area is three separate play stations, each dedicated to an animal (bird, bear and cougar), spread out along a short hiking loop through the forest. Children of all ages will love this short hike and learn about each of the animals through informational signs and interactive activities. Ensure you have plenty of time to play!
- The park offers a visitor center, multiple parking areas, hiking trails, a campground and a nature play area. Everything is spread out, so stop by the visitor center first for a map and directions.
- Several of the parking areas have restrooms.
- The park offers activities for year-round fun from cooling off on a hot summer day to bundling up for a chilly winter hike.
- Don’t miss the opportunity to hike behind a waterfall!
LATOURELL FALLS TRAIL (COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE, OR)
What hiking list in Oregon would be complete without a Columbia River Gorge hike? Latourell Falls is one of the most accessible in the gorge for little legs. It is about 2.5 miles long and has some steep terrain, but enough to provide more of a challenge and less of an obstacle. The loop starts with a climb, but then levels out to a beautiful and thrilling hike to two stunning waterfalls. There are also many streams, hollow trees and dirt patches to stop for a snack break and some play time. Bonus: Even after the 2017 fire, this trail is one of the few that remain open!
- If you are going to do the loop, skip the stroller and bring a carrier in case your little one needs a lift. On the other hand, if you are feeling less ambitious, then your stroller can easily get you down to the main falls for a quick view.
- If possible, a weekday visit will give you more solitude.
- There are some steep drop-offs and a road to cross, so be aware you may have to hold little hands.
- There are compost toilets available at the parking area. If parking is full, be patient because many visitors are just there for a quick 10-minute stop to see the falls.
- In low water conditions, you can sneak behind the upper falls for an up-close view behind a waterfall.
Photos by Kirby Crawford.
More Resources for Families with Young Children
Oregon offers an abundance of trails for families with young children. For more family hike ideas, see:
- Hike it Baby calendar (or connect with the local branch)
- Oregon Hikers
- Hike it Baby: 100 Awesome Outdoor Adventures with Babies and Toddlers – New Book by Hike it Baby Founder Shanti Hodges
- 3 Beautiful hikes in Washington state for young children
- 3 Gorgeous hikes in New York for young children
- 3 Beautiful hikes in Ohio for young children
What are your favorite hikes in Oregon for families with babies, toddlers and young children? Leave a comment below!