Hiking with kids: Staircase Loop Hike


Staircase Loop Hike is truly one of our family favorites. It’s one of the few hikes that we can complete in its entirety, which is saying a lot! When you have very young children, it’s rare that you actually complete an entire hike, particularly if the children are of the age where they no longer want to cruise along in the backpack and want to do everything themselves.

We’ve determined that we must assume we will only hike about an average of 1 mile/hour (yes, you read that correctly), so doing anything longer that 3 miles is usually just asking for trouble. As our kids all get a little older, I’m sure we’ll be able to do more in less time but for now, when we still have 2- and 3-year-olds who want to hike themselves, and stop for frequent snack/drink breaks, our treks are limited.

So, why do we love Staircase Loop Trail so much, you may be wondering? Well, below are four reasons why it’s the PERFECT family hike! It’s well worth the long drive and the dirt road you have to take to get to this slightly hidden gem.

1. It’s a short hike

As I mentioned above, we don’t get to go for very long hikes with our kids these days before they all dissolve into sobbing, miserable messes. So, this short, 2 mile roundtrip hike is the perfect length! Plus, there is very little elevation change, so children (and parents) can easily hike the whole trail.

That being said, there are a few inclines along the way but nothing long or super intense (though you may want to carry the smaller toddlers up one or two small hills).

2. It’s a loop trail

Why does this matter? Well, our little ones get bored pretty quickly, so it’s nice that everything on the hike is new and exciting. Click HERE to take a look at the trail map.

3.  There’s a lot to see and explore

staircase loop hike
There are several cool spots worth exploring along the trail including gigantic fallen trees, a rock overhang, and a log crossing over the stream. Plus, a good portion of the hike goes right next to the stream with several opportunities to check out the rapids.

4. There’s a suspension bridge!

staircase loop hike

My absolute favorite part of the whole hike is the very large suspension bridge that goes across the water. It’s pretty much exactly at the halfway point and we love to stop here for our big break and have a picnic lunch. Our kids love running back and forth across the bridge and looking at the water below. It really is awesome.

Overall, Staircase Loop Hike is a great hike that gets the whole family out exploring nature. As with all hikes it’s important to always be safe. Don’t go splashing around in the fast moving water as you could easily get swept down stream. There are a few calm spots above the suspension bridge where you can get down close to the water but it’s never a good idea to go out on rocks in the middle of rapids.

Also, when we last hiked the trail, there were one or two spots near the higher elevation section of the trail that had trails that led to very treacherous spots. Do not let your kids wander off on these trails as they can have sharp drop offs.

Finally, plan your trip accordingly. Always check the the NPS website for important messages and be aware that the road to Staircase is closed from November to May.

Just a little side note: we used to never buy hiking shoes for our kids because, honestly, they ain’t cheap and the kids quickly outgrow them. Well, we ultimately caved with our then 6-year-old (and oldest) and bought him a pair and his hiking experience completely changed. He didn’t slip or trip and his feet weren’t sore after our hikes because he had the support he needed (there’s a really reason why hiking shoes are a bit stiff…to protect our ankles and support our feet on uneven terrain). So, if you are considering getting hiking shoes for your kids, here are some KEEN hiking shoes that are great for kids of all ages.

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