k. Maybe not a dime, but definitely on the cheap!
Over the last 14 years that we have lived here, finances have been up and they’ve been down. Like many families during the lean times we always cut where we can. How do you do that and not go stir crazy sitting at home? I like to turn to hikes or “hikes” in a park.
Hiking in Washington is just amazing, however, many trails are not accessible or attainable when you have young kids or older adults. The hikes listed here are ones I have done with my family, including my mom. They can also be for when the avid hiker just wants to get out without all the gear because face it, I love to hike, but some days I just want to get outdoors.
I’ve included links to each park. Review them before going. Be aware of weather. I love going on snowy days and sunny days and everything between, but you may not 🙂 Depending on where you live, you may also have many large local parks that are big enough to be considered “hiking” for you on any given day. Explore the areas around you, you never know what you will find.
Washington Park and Arboretum in Seattle. Beautiful in the Fall. Parking can be tricky on the weekends, but it’s a great walk and there are a variety of flora. I love picnicking in the overlook, but plan to trek your lunch there depending on where you park. There is no fee for the park. Click here for more info!
Japanese Garden in Seattle. This is such a peaceful garden walk. There is a beautiful pond with koi and turtles. I love it in Spring when the trees are in bloom. While there is a fee for entering the garden, but there isn’t for parking. They also have First Thursdays Free. Click here for more info!
Mount Erie Park in Anacortes. With its amazing view and no fee parking. There are way too many trails and you can easily get lost if you start at the trailhead, especially without a map. You can also park at the top and do a little “hiking” via the road you took up to the top or hike down a trail for a little bit and then hike back up, have a picnic lunch, and then climb a few boulders. Make sure to watch the littles closely at the top because there are steep cliffs in spots. I recommend keeping to the trails if your littles tend to wander. PS there is a port a potty at the top. Click here for more info!
Big Four Ice Caves in the North Cascades is an easy hike, but remember do not go near the caves. Bring extra clothing as it does get colder as you get closer to the top. It’s 1.1 miles from trailhead to the caves and easy to navigate. You’ll see that my 78 year old mother trekked with us. PS there is no porta-potty at the end of the trail only at the beginning. Northwest Forest Pass required. It’s $10 for the day, but only $30 for the year. Since I live here that’s what I get. Click here for more info!
Whatcom Falls Park in Bellingham Easy to find just off I-5 (with a stop at my favorite Woods Coffee) this park surrounds water. You’ll cross over a river at least twice if you make the full loop. There are several picturesque areas and play stops for kids. I couldn’t get my hubby away from the fishing. And my favorite spot is the amazing bridge. No parking fee. Click here for more info!
Gas Works Park and the Fremont Troll Under the Bridge in Seattle. Adventure through old mechanisms, lookout over the Lake Union to the city, fly a kite at the top of the hill. There are so many places to adventure and parking is free. Then head over to the Troll Under the Bridge, walk there or drive, but be aware that parking near the troll is tricky and depending on when you go, hard to find. I’d advise to do Gas Works first, picnic lunch there, then you can drive to the troll and the kiddos will have energy to “hike” from the car. You can find pay for park spots, but there is also street parking for free if you don’t mind a little wait or a walk. Click here for more info!
Seattle Center Fountain and Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. Both are free and accessible, but you will have to pay to park at both. You can walk from one to the other, but depending on who you have with you it is a steep uphill trek from the sculpture park to the fountain. Check out a festival (there are too many to list!) or art in the park.
There is plenty of food options at the Armory, but we’ve also packed lunches to save $$ too. If it’s a gorgeous day then kids can have fun in the fountain, then change and hit the playground near the MOPOP or you can opt for the sculpture park. There are refillable water stations at the playground and near the fountain, so save some bucks and bring a water bottle for everyone!
We’ve done a photo scavenger hunt on this trip also. You can preprint business card sized photos of different things they will see and make a little book. They can put a sticker on the photo when they find it and then I always had a treat bag of small items from the dollar store or Target what they could pick out of if they behaved and also found everything. Click here for more info!
Bellevue Botanical Gardens in Bellevue is another city park where parking is free and costs nothing to visit. There is a Hobbit Door, suspension bridge, Asian area and loads of easy trails and lots of plants to see. Sculpted gardens, woodlands and wetlands, you’ll find lots to explore in the 53 acres. Click here for more info!
Washington Park in Anacortes We park explore, park explore around the loop. There is a field for sitting and having a picnic with spectacular view of Puget Sound. You can sit and watch the ferry come and go. Next, you can take a staircase down to the water and some tide pools. Last, you can climb an amazing tree or sit in an overlook of the islands. Finally, if you have kids there is always plenty of porta-pottys and a fantastic playground after exploring.
We often leave out of here to hit the San Juan Islands on our boat or via the ferry. There are camping sites as well. Both of these require fees, but parking is free unless you park overnight. Click here for more info!
Little Mountain Park in Mount Vernon. I found this little gem by accident last year. There are 10 miles of trails that are easy to follow. Some are harder than others, so choose wisely. There are two overlook areas at the top with picnic tables and stunning views. There are no fees to enter or to park and its easy to find just off I-5. Again, you can park at the bottom at a trailhead and hike up, catch a hike part way up or park at the top and hike a little down and back up. Click here for more info!
Keep watching me on Facebook and Instagram for many more places to adventure. There are lots to explore! I can’t wait for my next Adventure Day!
Do you have any places to suggest? I’d love to add your favorites to my growing list!