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Western Washington Day Hike and Camping Near Porter Creek Falls

Earlier this spring, my son won a book from the Wet Science Center. He entered a photo of a massive earthworm that he found in our driveway and received the book Urban Trails Olympia by Craig Romano.

Romano’s book details more than 155 miles of trails in the Olympia and surrounding areas. He provides GPS coordinates for the more challenging to locate trails. He describes the wildlife, various outdoors tips, and the difficulty of the 36 different trails.

We decided that we would start going through the book and completing the more accessible hikes for young children. Our first hike was in the Capitol State Forest on the Porter Falls Trail.

According to Romano, Porter Creek Falls trail is 1.6 miles round trip and located near Elma, Washington. It was easy for the kids and had a gentle elevation gain of 200 feet. All Trails differs slightly, stating the hike was a 1.8 mile out and back trail with an elevation gain of 354 feet.

Either way, the trail is easy, even for young children, and you’d hardly notice the difference.

This trail is dog friendly (on-leash) and does not allow for bikes or horses. A Discover Pass is required.

We parked across the street and down a little way from the trailhead. Besides another couple walking their dog down the road, we were the only people there. The trailhead is located right next to Porter Creek Campground. The campground itself was closed, but it looked like a great location, and most of the sites that we could see were located along a little creek.

Before we started our hike, the kids wanted to go see the water, and we found a fun swing that was hanging between the parking lot and river. They had a blast playing on the swing and throwing rocks in the river. They almost forgot why we were there!

The trail itself was immaculate and quite easy for little legs. The only thing that they needed to watch out for was some tree roots and a few areas where the trail got skinnier due to a bit of washout. For the most part, they did great, and I did not stress out.

The elevation gain was perfect! It was just enough to make them work a bit, but our two-year-old walked (or ran) most of the hike. This would be an excellent hike for a baby carrier, but not a stroller.

Along the way, we found some huge snails, tall ferns, giant beetles, moths, the biggest Skunk Cabbage leaf we have ever seen, and plenty of trees and waterfalls. Along the trail, there are areas that you can go off the path and get closer to the water. These areas are a little more challenging for kids, but if they like a little adventure- they will do better than you!

The very end of the trail is a tiny bit more intense with kids due to the rocks. The trail ends where two rivers meet with waterfalls on either side. Getting next to the water takes a bit of skill and care young children may not have. You can see the falls easily where the trail ends, but my husband definitely wanted to go down and explore. It does get a bit slippery closer to the riverbank. He just made the kids sit down and enjoy the view. Our two youngest were a little nervous at this point, and the 6-year old was mad that I did not let him follow his dad. Maybe next time, though!

The way back was much quicker. We already explored everything, and the kids were excited about playing on the swing one more time before we left. Down by the creek, we chased butterflies, whistled with grass, found a millipede, and relaxed in the sunshine. It was a perfect hike and close to home.

We will be putting this on our list for places to frequent, and I really want to camp there as well. If you have older kids or are going with adults, you can also try the Porter Trail that is 13-miles long one way and moderate difficulty level.


Written by Heather Dembeck

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