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If you’re moving to Washington State, you’re going to love the local hikes. “Washington state is by far one of the most beautiful states we have ever lived in. During your station here you’ll want to make sure and do some hiking to see some of the gorgeous sights this state offers” recommends Military Spouse Olivia Michelle, “Plus, you can ofcourse access these hikes from any military instillation you might be assigned to. So be sure to share this list with your military spouse friends!”

Getting outside is a great idea after the COVID-19 pandemic. You can hike, walk, eat lunch, relax under a tree or even create art or read books while outside. Bring a ball to play with, create a scavenger hunt, or even bring some bikes. Whatever you choose, you’ll for sure have a blast.

Washington is home to the following military bases:

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Two main passes will get you into most hikes in the state: America the Beautiful and the Discover Pass. America the Beautiful is a National Parks Pass which will get you into every National Park in the United States. This is completely FREE for Active Duty Service members. At the gate to the National Park, simply present your Military ID to the Park Ranger and they will provide the pass to you. 

The Discover Pass will get you into all of the Washington State Parks. This pass is $30 per year and is worth it. You can pay for a one day pass at $12 but the pass pays for itself after three visits. Another option is to check out the Discover Pass at your local Pierce County library. This is FREE for library card holders.

Family and kid friendly hikes in Washington

Naches Peak Loop
Moderate, 3.3 Miles
Approximately 2 hrs from JBLM
America the Beautiful Pass

Naches Peak Loop Trail is actually right outside of Mount Rainier National Park. This gorgeous trail is a loop so you can choose to go either direction at the trailhead. Naches Peak is very popular so plan ahead to arrive early and secure a parking spot. Restrooms, picnic tables and trash cans are available at the parking lot, but not anywhere on the trail.

You’ll pass several small lakes perfect for splashing around in during the summer months. We also like to pack a lunch and eat it during our hike. Some wildlife you may see are birds, chipmunks, and even bears. During the months of July and August the mountains are full of colorful wildflowers.

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Staircase Rapids Loop
Easy, 2.1 miles
Approximately 2 hrs from JBLM
America the Beautiful Pass
Dog Friendly

Staircase Rapids Loop is easily in my top two favorite hikes in our state. Staircase Rapids has some of the most beautiful views and is at the very bottom of Olympic National Park. Port-o-potty type restrooms are located by the parking lot but there are no trash cans or picnic tables here. Almost the entire hike you’ll go through a lush forest full of moss and woods following along the river. There are several shallow spots for the kids to play in the water including at the very beginning. At the middle of the hike you’ll cross over the river on a large suspension bridge.

Towards the end of the hike make sure to walk off the main trail to the viewpoints and take in the river overlook. Be very careful with small children in this area due to the drop off below. After your hike as you drive back to the highway you will pass right by Lake Cushman, “this is one of our favorite lakes to swim in as a family. It’s absolutely gorgeous and there are several pull off areas with picnic tables for a fun lunch” says Michelle.

Little Si
Moderate, 3.6 miles

Approximately 1.5 hrs from JBLM
Discover Pass
Dog Friendly

Little Si is the most challenging hike on this list, mainly because of the elevation gain. This hike is also pretty rocky so make sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring lots of water and snacks. Restrooms are available at the parking lot. 

This hike is uphill almost the entire way but offers stunning views of surrounding mountains and valleys around North Bend.There are several viewpoints at the middle and top of the trail so make sure to explore them all. This hike is also a great one to pack a lunch for a picnic at the top.

Little Mashel Falls
Easy, 5 miles
Approximately 1 hr from JBLM
No Pass Needed
Dog Friendly

Your family will love Little Mashel Falls. “This is one of my favorite hikes as far as waterfalls go in Washington. There are three different viewpoints of the falls and in the middle you can actually walk back behind the waterfall for a really cool cave adventure. The trail is flat almost the entire time so it’s great for small children. You can swim at the falls and there are lots of spots to set up a picnic on the rocks” recommends Michelle.

This hike is beautiful in the fall season with all the changing colored leaves. There is a port-o-potty at the trailhead but no trash cans or picnic tables.

Mount Saint Helens
Johnston Ridge Observatory
Easy, 1.1 miles

Approximately 2 hrs from JBLM
America the Beautiful Pass

Mount Saint Helens holds an important part of history for this state. It erupted back in March of 1980 and completely changed its surroundings and appearance. There are two visitor’s centers in the park with lots of information and exhibits about the history of the volcano. Be sure to also stop at every viewpoint (there are four) to take in different views of the monument on your way in or out. 

The hike itself is very short and easy and there are lots of chipmunks around.There are also several other trails in the area you can take if you’d like to hike longer, including Harry’s Ridge and Coldwater Lake.

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Enjoy your hikes responsibly

If heading outdoors please enjoy your beautiful hikes responsibly! The following can make a huge difference keeping our parks clean, beautiful and safe for all to enjoy.

  • Carry plenty of water, food, first aid, and protection from the elements. Keep additional items and back ups in your car for any other hikers you may encounter that may need help.
  • Never hike alone and learn these “14 Essential Hiking Safety Tips You Should Always Follow” from Self Magazine.
  • Make sure you know your route and how to navigate it. Know your limits. Learn and utilize the “ten essentials”.
  • Practice leave no trace principles. Stick to trails so as not to damage vegetation. Observe animal regulations (dogs on leash or not allowed). Pack out ALL trash. Toilet paper is trash, please pack it all out. For #2, you either need to dig a deep enough hole far enough from water, or yep, pack that out too.

Other fun things to do while stationed in Washington State

If you find yourself in the middle of a rainy day, and hiking isn’t on the agenda there’s other great things to do in Washington. You can check out the museums on your military post, as a fun activity away from the rain, or try one of these 12 museums all over the state. There are also tons of fun activities near JBLM, in nearby Lakewood.

PCS’ing to Washington State? Contact our team to take advantage of your VA Loan Entitlement.

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