Getting kids out into the wild can be an adventure in itself, but the importance of giving them the chance to enjoy all that nature offers is vitally important. Not only will they be getting some fresh air and exercise, they will carry with them memories that will last a lifetime. My son still complains about a hike I drug him on 3 years ago. That’s staying power!
The important thing to remember with kids is that they usually don’t see the forest through the trees. It’s the little things along the way that captivate them. While you may remember the sweeping vistas, it was the chance to walk on that log over the creek, or climbing up that boulder that was on the side of the trail that sticks with them. So, take your time, plan on something fairly short so they don’t get bored, and help make little nature lovers out of all of them.
Little Three Creek Lake is located in a glacial cirque beneath beautiful Tam McArthur Rim. This short and relatively flat hike, high in the mountains, makes for a perfect family adventure to one of the more scenic vistas in the Cascades. And when it is all said and done, Three Creek Lake is waiting right there for you, daring you to take a quick dip in its chilly waters.
On the trail, kids will be hiking along on of the middle tributary of Three Creek. The small stream offers plenty of opportunity to get your feet wet and splash around. Little Three Creek Lake itself is also very memorable, with cliff lined Tam McArthur Tim rising behind hit and skeletons of trees growing right out of the water. The loop around the lake offers even more excitement, with the opportunity to see some springs bubbling right out of the ground and the chance to rock hop across a creek.
Tumalo Falls is probably the tallest, easily viewable waterfall near Bend, and the view of the spectacular falls from the lower viewpoint makes the drive up Skyliner Road and the effort trying to find somewhere to park worth it all by itself. However, there is so much more to see beyond the falls and few people take full advantage of it. While there are many more falls further up the trail, this short hike to the viewpoint above the falls and on to Double Falls will allow your little ones to see three of them on a relatively easy stroll.
Beyond the initial viewpoint at the trailhead, kids will love the chance to look down on the waterfall from right above the drop. A little ways beyond that, there are some wonderful gravel bars along the creek which make for a great spot to stop and play in the water. And the two additional falls at the end of the hike put a nice cap on this adventure.
Todd Lake is a beautiful lake that occupies the bottom of a glacial cirque which formed over 13,000 years ago when the glaciers occupying the area melted. This carved depression is now filled with 45 acres of water, with some spots reaching 60 feet deep. Broken Top can be seen rising above a ridge on one side of the lake and Mt Bachelor dominates the skyline from the other.
The easy loop is a great place to get the kids out for a quick excursion in the mountains. You are right along the lake for almost the whole hike, making a quick dip an ever-present option. The far side of the lake is very swampy, dominated with wildflowers in the early summer and full of little boardwalks and bridges to walk across. There is a nice picnic area, complete with tables and a bathroom, near the trailhead as well. Just be sure to get your permit. And don’t pet the frogs. They are endangered!
The Ray Atkeson Memorial Trail will take you to one of the most well known and photographed sites in Oregon. This trail was dedicated to Ray Atkeson, a man who many claim introduced Oregon’s natural beauty to the nation. The trail will take you past one of his favorite areas, a spot on the lava flows overlooking Sparks Lake, with South Sister in the distance. If you’ve ever seen a nationally published picture of South Sister, it was likely taken from here.
Kids can have quite the adventure on this hike without ever noticing the beautiful scenery in the distance. The lava which dominates this area has cracked and folded and broke apart into lots of cool features. Small fissures in the rocks look like dark, foreboding caverns where sunlight never reaches the bottom. You can even walk through one if you take the Devils Canyon Loop option. And if the 2.5 miles is too long, you can cut it in half by taking the shortcut trail. Options abound! Plus, you will be at one of the coolest lakes in the Cascades, if you just happen to have a kayak or SUP with you.
Tenas Lakes is a group of at least eleven small lakes and ponds located in the Mt Washington Wilderness just below Scott Mountain. Tenas is a Chinook term meaning small, which is very appropriate giving that the largest of the lakes is only 15 acres in size and less than 20 feet deep. What these little lakes lack in stature, they more than make up for in tranquility and picturesque-ity (I just made that a word).
While this hike is on the longer side for kids, the climbing is fairly gradual and the shear amount of exploring that is possible makes the effort worth it. Halfway up the trail, you come to beautiful Benson Lake, a worthwhile destination in itself. Further along the trail, if you time your trip for later in the summer, blueberries and huckleberries will line the path, making snacking and hiking a simultaneous treat. And the Tenas Lakes themselves are a basin full of wonder. There are beautiful little lakes all over, making exploring and swimming the goal of the day!