Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

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Ridgefield Wildlife RefugeWhat’s to Love:  As stated on their website, “The Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge was established (along with 3 other refuges in the Willamette Valley of Oregon) in 1965, in response to a need to establish vital winter habitat for wintering waterfowl with an emphasis on the dusky Canada goose whose nesting areas in Alaska were severely impacted by the violent earthquake of 1964. Ridgefield Refuge is currently approximately 5,300 acres of marshes, grasslands and woodlands.” This Refuge is a must do for young hikers who might enjoy bird watching.

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Beacon Rock State Park

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Beacon Rock State ParkWhat’s to Love:  Being a climber, I’ve always been fascinated, and a bit intimidated, by the 848 foot high monolith – “Beacon Rock.” So intimidated that my first trip to the top was along the mile-long paved walkway and not roped-up hanging off the side of the rock. While the hike (1.8 miles round trip) to the top and back is exhilerating, the volcanic core is just a small piece of the whole picture.  Upon further exploration, you’ll see that Beacon Rock has much to offer the whole family.

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Washougal River Access

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Washougal River - Near Dougan Creek FallsWhat’s to Love:  I was looking for the perfect swimming hole on our way back from a bouldering adventure in Washington.  Our plan was to check-out Dougan Creek Falls, which looks visually stunning and lots of fun. However, on our way to the falls, another access point (about 1 mile short of the falls) caught my eye while rounding a curve.

After noticing this beautiful spot, we parked at a pullout along the Washougal River (literally 30 seconds down a steep bank), and I could hardly believe my eyes!  This spot (see distance from Portland below) on the Washougal is one of the nicest river access points I’ve ever seen in my life.  Perfect for the whole family!

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Horsethief Lake State Park

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Horsethief ButteWhat’s to Love:  Horsethief Lake State Park and Horsethief Butte provide a nice one-two-punch for a full-day family outing.  Located about 90 miles east (via WA 14 or OR 84), you might try these two destinations for an adventurous combination of camping, technical rock climbing, rock scrambling, bouldering, hiking, boating, and fishing. For reviews on outdoor gear, visit GearWeAre.com. This link covers family tents.

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Great Wolf Lodge

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This Trip Powered by Zipcar – Read More About Car Sharing

Great Wolf LodgeGreat Wolf LodgeWhat’s to Love:  Rest assured, when I visit places like the Great Wolf Lodge (GWL), I talk with as many parents as possible – gathering valuable feedback to pass along to my readers.  On this visit, I spoke to at least 15 parents, and not one person had a negative thing to say about their experience at the GWL.  I even fed them some criticisms I had read online, and they all looked at me like I was crazy.  I think that says a lot right there!  The reality at the GWL is that parents and kids absolutely love this place.  If you bring your family, I’m confident that you’ll all have the time of your lives.

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Great Wolf Lodge – revisited

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The Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, WA is a great destination for Portland-area families. Bear Track Landing is an incredible, HUGE, indoor waterpark featuring a wave pool, kiddie area with slides, many exciting waterslides including the “Howling Tornado.” This is a full-service resort with theme rooms, restaurants, spa, kid areas, teen space, and much more!

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Leavenworth, Washington

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Leavenworth, WAWhat’s to Love:  Located about 2 hours east of Seattle with less rain, more sunshine, and a lifetime-worth of outdoor recreation, the small town of Leavenworth is the “Bend, Oregon” of Washington state.  If that were not enough, Leavenworth is one of the most family-friendly towns I’ve ever visited.  While gas is cheap, I highly recommend taking the family on a 5-hour drive for some exciting winter fun including (depending on your experience): snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing, ice climbing, alpine climbing, downhill skiing, sledding, sleigh rides, snowmobiling, and some of the wildest tubing you’ll ever experience!

Downtown Leavenworth, WA has a nice Bavarian-style villageSure, you could just drive up to Mt. Hood; however, Leavenworth provides a small, Bavarian-style village that will make you feel like you’re on a trip in the alps (well…almost!).  All the winter activities can be had right in town or within a 45 minute drive.  This town provides a cozy, winter wonderland that you just can’t experience at larger destinations.

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