Earlier this week, Washington’s Gov. Inslee announced he is easing the restrictions surrounding Washington’s many of the state’s parks, beaches, fishing destinations, and more – all beginning early next week at the end of the current stay-home order. While it’s yet to be announced whether the stay-home order will actually be extended or not, the prospect of opening beaches and hiking trails has us unbelievably excited, especially since this is our last summer at JBLM, and we want to explore. It felt like a good time to round out some of the best family-friendly hikes around JBLM.
I want to caveat this post and say that, while we love hiking and exploring, we are not professional hikers by any means. We are, however, passionate about exploring our duty stations and the surrounding areas. And, regardless of how we feel about JBLM as a duty station, there’s no denying that the PNW is stunning, and we’ve had the opportunity to explore some of the most beautiful areas surrounding JBLM with the kids. But which of these hikes are the best for littles? Well, let’s take a peek.
The Best Family-Friendly Hikes Around JBLM
1 // Sequalitchew Creek Trail
If you’ve been following my blog for a while now, this is actually one of the first hikes we did when we moved to JBLM, and we’ve visited the Sequalitchew Creek Trail a few times! Mieke got to visit it for the first time with us a few months back, and it will always remain a favorite of ours. It’s a combination of a paved and gravel trail, and the combined distance down and back from the fire station in DuPont is right around three miles. We love it, and seeing the water, walking through the tunnel, and finding baby crabs never fails to delight.
2 // Tolmie State Park – Four Cedars Trail
Tolmie State Park is a favorite of ours, and the trailheads there are amazing. Possibly the best one is the Four Cedars Trail, which is a 1.98 mile loop. If you have littler ones with you, you can cut out early on the Twin Creeks Trail, lessening the distance to about one mile. You’ll wander along the shoreline, pass through petite creeks, and explore the beauty of the local wetlands. The moss on the trees in the sun of summer is nothing short of spectacular.
3 // Little Mashel Falls
Located about 45 minutes to an hour from JBLM, Little Mashel Falls is one of our new favorites and a veritable hidden gem around JBLM. There are three waterfalls, aptly referred to as the Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls. The best trail to access the falls is the Bud Blancher Trail, which will lead you to the three-way junction leading to the falls. Or, you could be crazy like us, cut through the Pack Forest without knowing, make your way across the raised train tracks, and hike down. Either one works!
4 // Nisqually Wildlife Refuge
Okay, I’ll be honest. This isn’t really a “hike” per se. Rather, it’s an extensive series of trails and paths running through the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge where you’ll explore the diversity of the wetlands, walk through the forest, and check out the twin barns onsite. The maze of trails is about five miles total if you walk the full-length roundtrip, and it’s both stroller and wheelchair accessible. You cannot, however, bring dogs, as this is a protected wildlife area.
5 // Gold Creek Pond
This beauty is a favorite of ours, which we discovered last summer while Ryan was deployed. Only about an hour from JBLM, Gold Creek Pond Trail is short – about a mile and a half around the entire pond – and it’s paved the whole way. While swimming isn’t allowed here (bummer!), it’s the perfect place for picnics and a lazy family day in the sun. Or, you could go in the winter like we did, as it’s one of the best places to play in the snow around JBLM, too. Lots of people snowshoe, hike, and sled around Gold Creek Pond, so it’s a hit all year long.
6 // Mary E. E Theler Wetlands Nature Preserve
Right about an hour(ish) from JBLM, the Theler Wetlands consist of more than three miles of accessible walking trails, all nestled within 129 acres of salt marsh and estuary wetlands. There’s a beautiful combination of learning centers here (like the Pacific Northwest Salmon Center), and a series of easily accessible boardwalks where viewing platforms overlook the Union River. If you’re looking for simple and easy – but also fun – this is it.
7 // Twanoh State Park
Located on Washington’s Hood Canal just over an hour from JBLM, Twanoh State Park is a 2.3-mile roundtrip hike with a slight elevation gain of just 375 feet. I wouldn’t recommend strollers, as it’s not a paved or gravel path, but it is well-defined. Young kids, families, and beginner hikers will step back in time seeing evidence of when the land was logged back in the 1890s. You can also walk along the saltwater shoreline, explore old buildings, or lose yourself in the dense forest.
8 // Porter Falls
About an hour from JBLM, Porter Falls lies in Capitol State Forest, and is a 2.2-mile hiking trail that leads from a dedicated parking area through a series of switchbacks, which ultimately lead to Porter Falls. The gentle falls are rushing in springtime, and the fall colors are to die for in the fall. The gradual elevation gain is only about 450 feet, making it ideal for both novices and kids – or all those just getting started.
We have a lot more hikes on our bucket list before we PCS next summer, but these are some of the best family-friendly hikes around JBLM the families with young kids – or those just starting out – will love!
Tell me: do you like hiking? Are you excited to explore once quarantine and stay-home restrictions are lifted?