Joy and I used to be regular summer hikers, particularly before the kids arrived. In years past, we were hiking every weekend — not overnight hiking, not unproven trails, but a new destination and 10-15 kilometers at a time to regularly remind us how beautiful a part of the world we live in.
Once kids entered the picture, we definitely didn’t get out as often and for a time we found ourselves in that transitional stage between kids that need to be carried and kids that could walk on their own. But this summer, as our kids are both preschool aged, we were excited to whet their appetites for outdoor exploration.
Finding hikes that are enjoyable for the kids definitely brings with it different challenges than we used to encounter:
- Is it an interesting environment for the kids to explore?
- Is it a reasonable distance as an out-and-back or loop, given their stamina and walking speed?
- Is the terrain safe and fairly level for our young ones?
- Are there bathrooms near the trail head, or along the way?
And as with any outing, we have to be adequately armed with water, snacks, and changes of clothes.
Below are three hiking destinations we explored with our kids this summer, all short enough for preschoolers to enjoy and each with its own uniqueness in terrain or environment. West of us, east of us, and in our own backyard, we’re incredibly lucky to have so many options from which to choose.
Getting There: Horseshoe Bay-Nanaimo or Tsawassen-Duke Point ferry to Vancouver Island. South of Nanaimo, take the Cedar Road exit from Hwy 1, then turn onto Yellowpoint Road and follow the signs.
Starting with the furthest west of our hikes this summer, we begin a ferry ride from Vancouver just outside of Nanaimo, BC. We love meeting up with our friends on Vancouver Island, because their entire family is programmed to enjoy the great outdoors. For a second straight year, we took our kids on a hiking outing to Roberts Memorial trail, just south of the Duke Point ferry terminal.
The Roberts Memorial trail winds over tree roots through the forest for one kilometer to a wealth of waterfront sandstone ledges where tidal pools and driftwood logs occupy our kids for as long as we wish to stay (this time for a good hour and change). We love being able to let the kids explore the water-formed playground and with six kids and a dog in tow this year as we walked the path to the seaside, Roberts Memorial offered something for everyone to enjoy regardless of age, athleticism… or species.
Getting There: East along Dewdney Trunk Road in Maple Ridge, take a right (south) along 252nd Street and follow the signs.
Closer to home, we took our kids hiking in Maple Ridge along the Kanaka Creek trails in mid-July. At the parking lot trailhead was playground that tempted the kids, but with little shade and the continuous heat throughout July and August, we determined it would be more a grittle than a slide to play on.
Within minutes of starting our hike into the tree cover and shade, we were crossing the elevated suspension bridge high above the Cliff Falls of Kanaka Creek, with a beautiful view of the flowing water and moon-like rock bed below. Across the bridge, we had our pick of several picnic tables — and access to outhouses, if we’d needed them — but having just started our walk we opted against an early rest. In the end, we walked about three and a half kilometers with the kids in just under an hour, circling back along the Loop Trail for a change in scenery and a new set of wooden staircases, bridges, and boardwalks to keep the walk interesting.
As they get a little older and a little more stamina, we plan to add about 1-1.5 kilometers by walking a little further east to the Bell-Irving Kanaka Creek Fish Hatchery, along the Canyon Trail. Definitely more to explore.
Getting There: Take Hwy 1 east of Hope, to Exit #183
The most picturesque of the hikes we enjoyed this summer by a significant margin was the walk through Othello Tunnels in Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park outside of Hope, BC. For our kids, there was a bit of everything: the awesome structure of the tunnels themselves, interspersed with fantastic views of the falls and river below, coupled with a history lesson on how access to coastal BC was achieved a hundred years ago and a pinch of danger (both in terms of the heights of the walkways and in the large stretches of darkness as we made our way through the longest of the tunnels).
As hikes go, the 3.5 km round trip distance was just right for our three- and four-year-old to enjoy, and the path itself was flat throughout. There are also outhouses at the trail-head (next to the parking lot), which are maintained by Parks Services.
BONUS: On the way back toward Hope, we chose to follow Tunnel Road, rather than work our way back to the highway. Taking this alternate route, we pulled over at Kawkawa Lake, just two kilometers east of Hope. What a fantastic find, this quiet lake had an amazing beach and picnic space, buoyed off swimming area, and a playground for the kids.