Nothing strikes fear into the heart of even the most hardened Seattle parent than winter in the Pacific Northwest. Long stretches of gray days and, good grief, that rain. Let’s be honest… there are only so many indoor play areas a mom can visit and keep her sanity. So on a day that is more gray than rainy, bundle up the wiggly wee ones and take a hike on Tiger Mountain.

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The Scoop on Tiger Mountain:
Tiger Mountain in Issaquah is just under an hour’s drive from Seattle and if you can put up with the “are we there yet?” cries from the backseat, this outdoor adventure is sure to please everyone in your brood. Even on a gray Pacific Northwest day, the green of the old growth forest plus the long trails will tame your wildlings and help you get your nature on.

Where to Park
When you arrive at Tiger Mountain, don’t be put off by the number of cars parked along the frontage road. Tiger Mountain is a popular destination so its main parking lot fills up fast. If you have to park along the road, there is a trail that starts next to the Tiger Mountain Tradition Plateau entrance sign and leads to the parking lot at the High Point Trailhead so you and the kiddos won’t have to walk against traffic.

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Which Trail to Choose?
Starting at the High Point Trailhead there are two hikes, perfectly suited for little legs and patient parents. With littles in tow, a not-too-taxing hike is the Bus Trail. It’s wide and flat with room for kiddos to run ahead and burn off some of that cooped up energy. Playing a couple of “I spy” games and a bit of wildlife spotting will keep kiddos engaged. This trail will take you past a hulking wreckage of an old bus, the perfect place for a photo opp, a little exploration and a quick break. From there it’s easy enough to turn around and head back to the trailhead.

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A longer hike but still flat is the Around the Lake Trail. At the High Point Trailhead either take the Puget Power Trail or the Around the Lake Trail which will loop you around Tradition Lake. It’s about one and a half miles, but it is flat and surrounded by ferns and lush moss-covered trees, perfect for wildlife spotting and communing with nature.

For experienced hikers or for those moms and dads who regularly attend Crossfit, the West Tiger #3 hike offers spectacular views but keep in mind… on a really grey day there might be more clouds than skyline. Fair warning, the hike is more than six miles round trip and strenuous so you might want to bring along that baby backpack that’s been collecting dust all winter.

And while it’s not really a summit, older kids will get a kick out of being able to boast with likely a few giggles that they hiked to Poo Poo Point. From the trailhead take the Bus Trail, south on the Gas Line Trail and then southeast on the Poo Poo Point Trail.

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Even if you and the kiddos don’t make it to the end of the trail, the good news is everyone will likely be tuckered out and it will be a peaceful ride home. For those youngsters who have worked up a ravenous appetite, downtown Issaquah is only 15 minutes from Tiger Mountain on the drive back to Seattle. Here, you will find several restaurants to choose from and even an old fashioned drive-in known for its root beer floats.

Helpful Hints:

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1. To get to Tiger Mountain, drive east on I-90, take Exit 20, turn right and right again onto the frontage road.

2. To park in the main parking lot at the trailhead you will need a Discover Pass. If you plan on future hikes with the Littles it’s worth it to purchase an annual pass for $30 or you can just go with the one-day pass for $10. Discover Passes can be purchased online.

3. There is a map of the trails at the High Point Trailhead, but you can also download the map before you go.

4. Make sure to bundle the Littles in layers. It will likely be chilly when you get out of the car, but after hiking and running they will shed coats, hats, gloves, and scarves and you-know-who will end up carrying them.

For more information about hiking with kids and to learn how to make the hike easier on everyone involved, especially moms and dads, visit the Washington Trails Association website.

What is your family’s favorite winter hike to get the wiggles out? Let us know in a comment below. 

-Natalia Dotto, words and photos