This summer we took a trip down the West Coast with our young family. We choose budget-friendly destinations that would be interesting and feasible for young kids to enjoy. We enjoyed forest hikes and picnic lunches, walked along fern-lined canyons and deserted beaches, and visited several gorgeous vineyards. Here are some of our favorite stops in Washington and Oregon that were fun, inexpensive, and memorable for us to visit with kids.
Ape Cave Hike
We had a lot of fun exploring the Ape Cave in Washington State and the Mount St. Helens lava tubes. You can choose from upper and lower passage hikes in Ape Cave, each with its own natural features. We made it as far as the big rock pile along the Ape Cave upper passage hike and our kids enjoyed wearing headlamps and walking through the cave’s pitch dark caverns. This underground hike is ideal for families with older kids because there are many places where you have to climb, scramble over piles of rock, or crawl along narrow cave passages. Bring flashlights and wear protective footwear.
Tree Trunk Lava Tubes
The Mount St. Helens lava tubes are found along the Trail of Two Forests and surrounded by boardwalks which create an easy walking path alongside huge tubes in the ground. These lava tubes were formed by tree trunks that were buried in lava from a past Mount St. Helens volcanic eruption and later rotted away, leaving tunnels under the rock. You can even climb down one lava tube and crawl underground a fair way to the exit; a fun adventure if you aren’t claustrophobic!
See our full Lava Tube & Ape Cave Family Adventure here »
Forested Camping Sites
Camping at picturesque forested camp sites with amenities is a great way to save money while traveling with kids. I would have a hard time tent camping in the woods with young children but we can totally swing a few nights stay at a forested park in our RV motor home. We bought the RV to make traveling with kids that much easier, so we can explore rivers and mountains and the kids can still sleep in their own beds at night. Even if we didn’t have an RV, a pretty camp site with bathrooms and shower access makes camping with kids a whole lot easier. You can also pick up a generously sized family tent (some even come with separate rooms) so kids can have their own space to nap during the day and everyone sleeps safe and snug during the night. We found many pretty and forested camping sites all the way down the West Coast.
It’s super easy to find camping locations using RV Trip Wizard!
Related Post: Best RV Trip Planning Resources »
Family Owned Vineyards
During our trip planning we stumbled across a hospitality network called Harvest Hosts, a group of people who offer free overnight trailer parking at their vineyards for travelers. We visited two separate Harvest Host vineyards, each with beautiful grounds and walking paths for us to explore. Our favorite overnight vineyard stay was at Emerson Vineyards where we enjoyed a long family walk through the vineyard and watched a session of Goat Yoga. The kids had fun riding around on some push carts inside the spacious wine processing center while we sipped delicious Emerson wine and snacked on pistachios. Emerson Vineyards is a family owned business and the owners were very friendly; we enjoyed chatting with them about the ins and outs of grape harvesting and wine production.
We had the opportunity to try each of the Emerson Vineyards wines. My favorite is the Emerson Vineyards Pinot Noir Willamette Valley red wine featuring aromas of chocolate, cherry raspberry and lychee. Overall I love sweet red wines; I’m sipping some now as I write this!
The Enchanted Forest Storybook Attractions
We passed through Salem Oregon and stopped at The Enchanted Forest. Our kids loved the vintage storybook lane filled with animatronic storybook characters within fairy tale-inspired scenes. The whimsical attractions have hardly changed since my husband visited The Enchanted Forest as a child 20+ years ago. Our favorite attractions included the cave walk through of Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs working in their treasure mine, the cleverly designed Crooked House and the Old Shoe slide (which the kids slid down on mats at least 8 times).
Related Post: Family Adventures with Joovy »
Sliding down the Enchanted Forest shoe slide on the provided mats is super fun!
Crater Lake in Oregon
Our West Coast travels brought us to Crater Lake just in time for the Forth of July. We drove around the huge crystal-clear lake that is inside the crater of a volcano and stopped at several overlooks. The kids always like exploring new places and they were amazed to find snow around the lake in July! Crater Lake is a memorable and gorgeous place to visit and you can stop at many of the information booths to learn more about the creation and conservation of this volcanic landmark.
Diamond Lake Resort
We also found a local Forth of July celebration at Diamond Lake Resort. It wasn’t too overcrowded and the live music and spectacular fireworks display from a barge in the lake was the perfect way to spend the holiday with our family!
The Diamond Lake Resort offers a variety of lakeside accommodations; vintage cabins, cabins for multiple guests, Jacuzzi suites and a gorgeous 5 bedroom retreat cabin. This picturesque small town lake setting offers easy access to Diamond Lake for swimming and boating beneath a majestic view of Mount Bailey.
Rogue River Gorge Hike
We went on several kid-friendly hikes that were flat enough to take a stroller too! This easy hike took us alongside the Rogue River and spectacular river gorge with subterranean lava tubes and underground rapids. We camped right next to this trail which was easy for young kids, with plenty of railings along the trail and lots of scenic photo opps.
Water rushes down Rogue Gorge in Oregon and creates rapids as it flows over rocks and through several underground lava tubes.
Next on our itinerary is California, where we hope to explore the rocky coastal beaches, visit some tide pools, and have lunch at our favorite fast food stop, In-N-Out!
Katie enjoys all things creative; DIY projects, photography, decorating and family adventures. She feels blessed to be a stay-at-home mom with 3 kids and many artistic outlets.