5 Best Portland Area Hikes with Kids

Article Contributer Paper Trail Design

The Pacific Northwest has so many amazing hikes to offer. These five are a great jumping point to get kids out there on the trail.

1. Wahclella Falls

This hike is just too perfect. It is less than one mile each direction (just under two miles total). The hike is gorgeous. There is a perfect spot just beyond the bridge at the falls to stop, eat lunch, and let the kids throw rocks into the water. Kids LOVE to do this. 

Things to consider:

There are many portions of this hike with large drop offs on the side of the trail. If you don’t think you can trust your kids to stay on the trail it might be best to pick a different hike from this list.

It cost $5 to park at Wahclella Falls. There is a pay station in the parking lot. On weekends and holidays the parking lot fills up fast. You might have to park at the fish hatchery across the freeway. Do not try inventing a parking space. You will get a ticket. 

Getting there:

Take I-84 to Exit 40/Bonneville Dam Exit. Turn south and drive to the end of the road to the parking lot.

2. Bridal Veil Falls

It’s only .3 miles each direction making a .6 mile round trip.  Its included  in this list because that is the very thing that makes it so kid friendly. I’m well aware This hike gets you to a nice waterfall in a short time. There is also a .5 mile loop hike up above that includes some picnic tables and a great veiw of the gorge although you will be overlooking the freeway and have some freeway noise so don’t expect it to be serene and peaceful. This is a great spot for a picnic after the hike. 

Getting there:

From Portland take I-84 to the Bridal Veil Exit and drive for about 1/4 mile to the Columbia River Highway. Turn right on the highway and the Bridal Veil exit will be on your right in another 1/3 mile. From Hood River take Exit 35 and follow the Columbia River highway about 7 miles to the parking lot.

3. Falls Creek Falls

 This is one of those falls that you just can’t do justice on film. You’ve got to go see it up close. It’s an easy hike. The mileage is 3.4 miles total round trip. The only drawback to this hike is that it is a bit of a drive. But the hike is worth the drive.

Things to consider:

Falls Creek Falls is located near the Mt. St. Helens wilderness. During winter months the roads might not be accessible due to snow cover.

Getting there:

Take I-84 to the Cascade Locks Exit and pay $1 to cross the toll bridge (Bridge of the Gods). Go East on highway 14 for about 6 miles and turn North on highway 30 through Carson for 14.5 miles.Turn right on Wind River Road for .8 miles and take another right onto gravel Road 3062 for 2 miles. Fork right onto Road 057 for another .5 miles to the parking lot.

4. Latorelle Falls

Latourelle Falls is a short 2.3 mile loop. One of the best things about Latourelle Falls is that it is the closest Gorge hike to Portland so if you are short on time, this is the hike for you. The hike climbs a lot in the first 1/4 mile but it’s easier to get kids to do some climbing in the beginning and the whole climb you get gorgeous views of the falls. Then follow the trail along the river to the upper falls. Cross the river here. On the way back down there is a junction. It looks like you should go right but the answer is left. The trail eventually comes down to the road a few hundred feet from the parking lot. Don’t be tempted to take the shortcut and follow the highway back to your car. If you cross the street and follow the trail down under the bridge it brings you to the base of Latourelle Falls for the most stunning views of the hike.

Getting there:

From Portland take I-84 to the Bridal Veil Exit and drive for about 1/4 mile to the Columbia River Highway. Turn right on the highway and drive just shy of 3 miles to the Latourelle Falls Parking area on your left. From Hood River take Exit 35 and follow the Columbia River highway about 10 miles to the parking lot.

5. Tamanawas Falls

Mirror Lake is arguably the most popular hike on Mt. Hood but often overlooked is Tamanawas Falls. This hike is a little longer but has slightly less elevation gain. Just a little less climbing can make or break kids on a hike. Tamanawas Falls is 3.8 miles round trip and takes you to a dramatic amphitheater where Tamanawas falls empties. It’s definitely worth the drive.

Things to consider:

Tamanawas (say that 5 time fast) Falls is located on Mt. Hood. In the winter months and often into the spring snow will cover the trail. I would not advise taking kids on this hike if there is snow on the trail.

You will need a Northwest Forest Pass to Park at the Tamanawas Trailhead. 

Getting there:

Take Highway 35 either from Hood River or Mt Hood to the Sherwoon Trailhead just north of the Sherwood Campground near milepost 72.