For the second hike in my “Hiking with Kids in Washington” series, I wanted to share the Icicle Gorge Loop Trail near Leavenworth, Washington. Some of my favorite hikes involve walking next to raging rivers and crossing bridges over these wild waters. I don’t know why, but I just love it and, apparently, my kids do, too.
Located in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, the Icicle Gorge Loop Trail provides excellent views of Icicle Creek. It is a very scenic, easy hike that just about anyone can do. It’s just a matter of how long it will take you to complete it. It’s 3.9 miles total and, if you hike the whole way it will take you right back to where you started (hence the fact that it’s a “loop” trail). To put things into perspective difficulty-wise, we did this hike with our then 4-year-old, 2-year-old, and 9-month-old. The younger two were in the kids backpacks the whole way and our 4-year-old hitched a ride with daddy a few times along the way.
The terrain is pretty smooth. There are no giant boulders that you have to navigate over or around and there are no lengthy flights of stairs to go up and down. As you start, there will be a gentle descent all the way down to the bridge that crosses the river, which is approximately the halfway point. You may barely even realize that the whole first part of the hike is downhill. However, when you start working your way back to the parking lot, you will definitely begin to notice that you are hiking uphill. That would probably explain why I felt so good the first half of the hike! Again, it’s pretty gentle but with a 30lb child on my back the whole way, I definitely noticed that I was a little out of breath at times on the way back.
For me, the wooded side (left side as you head downstream) of the hike that goes right along the river was the best part. I don’t know if it was because we were going downhill at this point but the second half of the hike wanders away from the water and goes deeper into the woods. It wasn’t quite as scenic and it started to feel a little long. Also, it didn’t help that the kids were getting hungry and tired. 🙂
Important things worth mentioning:
1. There is no fence or guardrail on the trail. So, keep a close eye on little ones as it is possible they could get too close to the edge. It’s a big fall down into the river below. The path is wide enough but, you know, curious kids do like to wander.
2. There are no restrooms or port-a-potties on this hike so pee before you go or be prepared to go in the woods. Also, if you have a poopy diaper to change mid-hike, you will need to pack it out with you as there are no trash cans either.
3. I do not recall seeing any picnic spots along the hike. At one point, we intersected a gravel road (about a mile from the end of the loop) and decided to stop there to eat lunch. It worked okay but that was the only spot I remember seeing where you could spread out a little and have a picnic.
4. Just because it’s an “easy” hike doesn’t always mean it’s easy or quick. If it were just my husband and I, we could have easily finished in under 2 hours, and that’s if we went at a leisurely pace. With kids, it’s a totally different story. Because our kids are so young, our rule of thumb is plan on averaging 1 mile/hour. It’s a killer knowing we will move that slow but it’s almost right on target every time. Inevitably, you will have cranky kids that need to be dealt with. They will get hungry, thirsty, tired, and poopy, and all of that requires stopping for several minutes every time. So, plan on it taking you at least 3-4 hours.
5. Because it will take you a while to do this hike, definitely bring water and snacks. It can go south for everyone real fast if the kids get thirsty and hungry and you have another 2 miles to go.
Overall, this is an absolutely wonderful hike to do with kids, especially if you are visiting the Leavenworth, Washington, area for the weekend.
From Leavenworth, follow Icicle Road for about 16.5 miles to Chatter Creek Campground. 3/4 of a mile past Chatter Creek Campground turn left into the large parking lot (you will see a well marked sign for the Icicle Gorge Trail). For more detailed directions, click HERE.