On Friday, my kids and I set out to hike in the morning because there was no rain in the forecast for the first time in awhile. We were dog sitting for our friends so we loaded the pup in the car to hike with us.
I needed a spot that welcomes dogs and would be safe and fun to let my two kids walk themselves (at least some of the way for my youngest).
Mary S. Young Park is a favorite hiking spot for that very reason. There’s a dog park and dogs are welcome on the trails. The trails are level and I feel comfortable letting my two little ones walk and explore without fear.** There’s a wide paved trail down to the river that goes through the forest. A stroller would do well on that trail no problem. Down on the beach we’ve seen tiny fish in the shallows and you might see boats or birds. There’s an unpaved loop parallel to the beach you can take back to the main paved path or just head back the way you came down. It’s a bit of a hill going back up but hey it’s a decent workout. *
*NOTE: **There is one spot in the north west corner of the park with some wooden stairs with big gaps that I would not recommend for small kids (roughly 5 & under although hey you know your kid best) especially with more than one kid in your group. If you head down the main paved path from the main parking lot and after walking a few minutes, see on your left a wooden bridge and a little water fall flowing under that bridge, that is the direction of the unsafe stair area. There are also a couple other hilly spots that even my BOB stroller can’t handle in the northwest corner. As with any new spot, please be cautious and don’t let your kids run ahead. Be prepared to turn around if you find a spot you can’t navigate with your kids on their own feet or with a stroller.
The other direction you can take from the main parking lot is to walk toward highway 43. This section is forest with wood chip (and mud) paths. My BOB stroller can fit and handle these paths when it isn’t too muddy. I brought my Tula carrier instead on this day. There is a small stream which is just beautiful as you cross on a little foot bridge. This is one of those hiking spots within a city where I can feel for a moment as if I am deep within a forest and surrounded by natural beauty. It’s peaceful, relatively quiet, smells like a forest, and the trees and plant life make it so wonderfully lush and green.
Yesterday we stuck to the forested paths on the highway side of the park. My daughter was a rock star and walked the whole time no complaints. She even helped with the dog when I needed an extra hand and helped talk her little brother into walking nearly the whole way too. He ended up falling in mud hands first and then butt first, but he brushed it off and carried on. He loves finding good sticks to carry and play with and my daughter joined in finding sticks too. We were keeping an eye out for frogs, newts and other wildlife. In all, we heard and saw tons of birds and saw a big spider crossing the path.
I can tell the volunteers have been fixing the park up because it looks great even after all the winter storms that knocked so many trees and branches down recently. There are wetland areas that have been spruced up since we last visited. I’m so grateful to people who work and volunteer to keep our parks so lovely and accessible for the public to enjoy as well as healthy and inhabitable for wildlife.
About three quarters of the way, my son didn’t want to cooperate any longer. He’s 2.5 years old and let’s be real, we were lucky he lasted as long as he did! I put him in the Tula carrier on my back and we finished the hike. I snapped a few photos while herding my crew. These don’t encompass the whole park, but they at least give you a glimpse.
When I want a good workout and don’t have to go toddler- paced, I walk both the path down and back to the river and the forested loop.
I enjoyed our hike very much. My daughter asked to go here more often and I agreed. Getting out and being active in fresh air and nature is just what we need as frequently as we are able.
Have you been to Mary S. Young Park? What do you enjoy about the park? Do you know of other PNW parks that similarly are great for hiking with kids and dogs? Do you have any other tips? Please share, and thanks for reading!