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Hikes for Children in Washington State

Highway 530 Hiking - Boulder River Trail

The Boulder River Trail, located in the Boulder River Wilderness, begins just west of Darrington on Highway 530. If you like the scene of a mountain river, and like the vista of waterfalls -- and it's warm enough to jump in the water in one of the many pools among the rocks -- this is a beautiful hike and one you're sure to recommend to your friends.

Plus, it's a good hike to bring your children along and why it's one of the hikes for children we recommend that hikers in Washington State consider.

This is the first trail we've explored that we recommend for introducing your children to an extended hike. The trail is 4.5 miles in length both ways (8 miles total), and for the most part does not make any major elevation gains or descents. Not to say that the trail is flat, as much of it has gradual climbs and descents as the trail stretches alongside the Boulder River.



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The trail starts off at a trail head with limited parking (though there is plenty of parking alongside the gravel road leading up to the parking area). This is a popular trail and when I did this hike on a Saturday I bumped into a handful of people from the Seattle area. So, this trail has most likely been mentioned in a handful of places. What this means is that if you do this hike on a weekend, get started early so that you can be on the trail without coming across a lot of people on your way in. For the most solitude (if that's your thing), a weekday is most likely best.

There are a couple places along the trail where you're definitely going to want to hold your child's hand, as the trail narrows alongside a small cliff. Have a good talk with your children about the cliff, and this isn't a trail to simply let them run off ahead of you.

A brief distance after the hike begins is one of two or three places to camp. This first location is off to the right, and down a short trail (approximately 30 yards) where there are a couple fair-size clearings under the trees, and available fire pits. The trees loom peacefully overhead, with the sound of the Boulder River in the distance. This area sits well above the river, and making the climb down the slope among the trees, rocks, and bushes may not be an easy task.

Further into the hike (perhaps a couple miles in) is a barely visible side trail, that is about thirty yards long, and winds to the river, through the bush and over some fallen logs. In warm weather, this is a great place to take a dip in one of the pools formed by the large rocks that are found in parts of the river. It's also a great place to take some up close photos of mountain river white water. The sun was shining on the day I was there, and this was a beautiful spot to take a break and just enjoy the scenery and the experience of being on the Boulder River Trail.

I got the opportunity to do a "controlled-slide" down a scree slope of loose rock about a 1/4 of the way down the trail. My buddy and I had stopped to get a photo and somehow his hat got knocked off and I watched it tumble off the Boulder River Trail and toward the river, about forty yards below. Braving the angle of the slope, I went after it. On the way up I realized that a number of people might have some difficulty getting back up.

If you do feel like braving one of these slopes -- choose your path wisely -- some do drop off the trail and go to the river down below (when you're at a high point in the trail) -- just be sure you can get back up the slope before you go down. Loose rock can make climbing up difficult.

Further along the trail we came across two waterfalls, running down the cliffs not too far from each other. This looked like a great place to branch off and explore, but at this point we had already done some exploring and I felt like we were behind on the clock. Down below the waterfalls looked like potential places to camp. I don't know enough about the area though and would hate to have had a ton of water come down unexpectedly from over the falls and sweep away a campsite. Before camping here, I'd recommend that hikers do their research and talk to a forest ranger familiar with the trail and the falls.

Down the trail were unique vistas, with rock, and moss covered logs, and logs that had fallen and trees and small creeks, until the trail end, which is another place to set up camp. Here the river is broader and more at rest. I laid out under the sun, and appreciated the hike. Overall, I was surprised at just how nice a hike this was, and the unique features and vistas that I had come across. On the way back I passed a number of families with small children, and many of these kids seemed to be making the hike without any issues. Who's to say for sure of course just how long they lasted. But the 62 year old senior I had taken along with me made the hike ok, though a little sore at the end. This was his first real hike in many years apparently -- I found that not only does the Boulder River Trail seem to be a good hike for children, it may also be a good hike for seniors as well.


Find a Hike in the North Cascades

Primitive Camping in the North Cascades
Hikes for Children - The Boulder River Trail
Highway 20 Hiking
Mountain Loop Highway Hiking
Mt Baker Highway Hiking
Highway 2 Hiking

GoNorthCascades.com attempts to list hiking trails as we either trek them ourselves, have them recommended by friends or other readers, or read about them through other resources, such as books, news articles, and websites.

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