What’s to Love: The hike to Tamanawas Falls is a relatively short (3.8 miles round trip) and easy hike, and the reward is a striking waterfall in a beautiful, amphitheater-like setting. There are several bridges to cross, and your kids will get a kick out of crossing them. As you get close to the falls, you’ll have to walk through a large rock/scree slide, which my son loved! This was one of the best parts of the hike for us.
Caveats: The great thing about waterfalls is your kids can often play near the plunge-pool safely – wading, looking for waterbugs, throwing rocks and sticks, etc. However, Tamanawas is not a good waterfall for this type of activity. It’s beautiful to look at, but kids don’t always share the same enthusiasm for aesthetics. Be careful over the bridges – while very sturdy, they are not kid friendly. In the beginning of the hike, you’re walking close enough to highway 35 to see and hear the noise.
Website: Check-out the Oregon Wild website, or Sullivan’s book 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon.
Recommended Ages: While many books and site rate this as an easy hike, I think there are way better options for toddlers/early walkers. For newborns, who will be carried the whole time, it’s a good option due to the short length. I saw older kids (8 and up) hiking the trail without complaining, so it may be a good option if you’re a hiking family.
Parental Stress Factor: Low. It’s just a hike! If you bring snacks and a way to carry a tired kid, you should be fine. This distance is often at the threshold for many young hikers. Luckily, the terrain varies enough to keep kids interested.
Physical Difficulty: Although rated “easy” in a Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon, for young walkers, I would rate it more difficult. Children up to age 5 will struggle with some of the hills, rocks and roots in the trail.
Family Fun Factor : Low/Medium. We are a hiking family. From a very early age, my son has been actively hiking trails. Even at age 4, he has done some pretty impressive mileage. For the most part, we have a great time on our hikes, but this wasn’t one of the better hikes for family fun.
Insider Info: The parking area isn’t marked that well, and isn’t really a parking area as much as a pull-out section. Most likely, you’ll see the cars pulled-off the side of the road. If your family is up for it, you can extend the loop hike to a more adventurous 5.6 miles.
Family Tips: As you can see in the photos, we are pretty aggressive with our Bob Ironman Jogger. We made it about halfway pushing our son, but eventually, we had to ditch it by the side of the trail. Therefore, your child carrier of choice should probably be a backpack. The trail is narrow in most places, and there are a limited number of suitable picnic spots. Brings snacks, but you may want to save your main meal for nearby Hood River, or eat near the parking area.
Other Posts of Interest...
Jackson Bottom Wetlands on February 1st, 2011
Wahclella Falls on August 4th, 2008
Tualatin River Wildlife Refuge on March 7th, 2008