It is surprisingly difficult to find good hikes to do with kids. Google search “family-friendly hikes” for any location, and the assumption seems to be you want simple short-distance strolls on flat land that your kids can do by themselves. That may be helpful for families with kids of a certain independent age, but it’s a frustrating “catch-all.” At first I kind of viewed it as a fault of parents, thinking, “Psssh, we can do so much better than this target audience.” But the more I continued to get lackluster results, the more frustrated I got at how it pigeonholed all parents – that the expectations were lowered for us because our abilities were less, thanks to our kids. (Never mind my annoyances that the authors of these “family-friendly” articles and lists do nothing to combat this “less than” stereotype; I’ll save that tirade for another time.)
I should’ve practiced my own Librarian preaching and searched with specificity. “Family-friendly” is subjective; it’s going to mean different things to different people, so perhaps this was a futile search to begin with. What I should’ve searched for – what means a “family-friendly hike” to us – is a moderate/intermediate hike under four miles, not too much elevation change, but enough for a nice view, but also without any dangerous steep drop-offs, because I do have a kid now to think of, right?
Suddenly, this search becomes much less straightforward, and I combed through internet lists and friend recommendations for hours. Ultimately, it was the AllTrails app that led us to our destination: Heybrook Ridge, a 3ish-mile out-and-back through the forest with panoramic views at the top. Just an hour outside Seattle, in the small town of Index, it fit all my criteria because that’s the beauty of AllTrails – results can be filtered with the exact kind of criteria for which I was searching. It’s like the Goodreads of the outdoors, full of glorious, crowd-sourced, updated information.
Our day one in Seattle was rainy; day two was absurdly clear and sunny. For our day three hike, it was perfectly Pacific Northwest; rainy and foggy and absolutely autumnal. Being a Monday morning, the trail head was deserted. Looks like we’d have this hike to ourselves.
The first mile is a steady switch-back climb through the forest. The fog lent an ethereal tone, and I questioned whether we were actually hiking through the fictional Forbidden Forest. Wet, fallen leaves padded our steps, though even the smallest slopes became slightly more treacherous because of the rain. For the last half mile, you can tell you’re running along the ridge – fewer bends in the trail, a sparser tree line. Just before the view opens up, you cross a primitive road, most likely leading to the electrical lines seen in the distance. Just beyond, though, is a vista that shows no reminder of civilization.
On a clear day, you’d find yourself tucked among the endless peaks of the Cascade Mountains. Our view was blanketed in fog, with peaks in the distance just jutting out from the cover. The country’s most famous “smoky mountains” are 2,600 miles back East, but these were no less majestic.