Five Hikes for Kids Near Sunriver

Our favorite hikes with kids in Central Oregon offer trails that are manageable for kids, and have some adventure or learning experiences along the way!

1. Stop for a Swim at Lucky Lake

Distance: 2.9 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 423 feet
Fees: Northwest Forest Pass or $5 Day Use Permit
Season: Open spring - fall, but we prefer the warmest summer days for swimming!
Drive from Sunriver: 45 Minutes (36 Miles from Sunriver Sports)

Lucky Lake has rocks and moss growing in shallow areas, so younger kids who want to wade might want water shoes. 

This short hike with only a few small climbs takes you to a pretty little high alpine lake, which is swimmable on hot days.  This is an out and back hike, about 1.5 miles each way.  It's a little farther from Sunriver than some of our other hikes (the trailhead is on the Cascade Lakes Highway, a few miles past Elk Lake) but totally worth the drive! 

Bring: Pack swimsuits, towels and water shoes if you'd like to go for a swim!  This lake also has some great spots for a picnic or a family backpacking adventure! 

2. Todd Lake & Tadpoles

Distance: 1.7 mile loop
Fees: Northwest Forest Pass or $5 Day Use Permit
Season: June-October, depending on snow levels
Drive from Sunriver: 35 minutes (22 miles from Sunriver Sports)

The north end of Todd Lake is quite scenic, but also prone to mud, but the kids don't mind.

Just past Mt. Bachelor, this short, mostly flat loop trail goes around a beautiful alpine lake.  The trail is fun and easy enough for even the smallest kids.  Most kids find this lake too cold to swim in, even on the hottest of days, but it offers plenty of wading fun in July as thousands of tadpoles swarm the shallow areas.  July is also a great time of year for the abundant wildflowers that grace the meadows around the lake.  

This hike has a very small parking area, so arriving early is key, and we suggest avoiding weekends if possible. 

Notes: Todd Lake's ecosystem has faced damage due to increased use in recent years, please make an effort to stay on the trail, and do not remove tadpoles from the lake. 

3. Hike to the Spring at Fall River

Look for lots of fish and signs of beaver activity along this hike! 

Distance: about 2 miles round trip
Fees: Northwest Forest Pass or $5 Day Use Permit
Season: Open year round, depending on snow conditions
Drive from Sunriver: 20 Minutes (14 Miles from Sunriver Sports)

The Fall River Trail parallels South Century a little ways past Big River Bridge.  The first access to Fall River is at the Fish Hatchery, which makes a fun stop for kids who love fish.  Parking down the road at the Fall River Campground offers up a good kid-friendly hike to the springs at the head of the river.  This hike is available most of the year, except when there's a lot of snow on the ground. 

Since this river is spring fed, the water remains crystal clear and cold year-round.  Kids love to see the water appearing from underground at the head of the river, as well as tons of wildflowers and signs of beavers and other wildlife.  As you head upriver, the lower hike closer to the river is a fishing path and eventually peters out, while the hike further up the hill is more developed and easier for younger kiddos.  You'll also be tempted to cross the bridge, but if your goal is the springs, say on the campground side of the river! 


4. Explore the Waterfalls at Paulina Creek

Distance: 3 miles round trip
Season: Summer-Fall
Fees: Northwest Forest Pass or $5 Day Use Permit

Paulina Creek at Newberry National Volcanic Monument offers several opportunities for hiking with kids, from the majestic Paulina Falls, to the smaller "natural waterslides" further down the creek. 

This pretty creekside hike follows the Peter Skene Ogden Trail, which in full is 5.3 Miles along Paulina Creek, but has several access points that get you to the best parts.   We like to start at McKay Crossing Campground.  This creek has lots of pretty cascades and small waterfalls, and after about a 1.5 mile hike, you'll find some natural waterslides (you'll know you're there by the squealing kids which you can usually hear before you arrive).  The trail continues to Paulina Falls and Paulina Lake, which can also be accessed by vehicle. 

Parking Note:  the parking at the McKay Crossing trailhead is not designed for the volume of cars that use it, and it's often best to park before the entrance to the campground and take the short stroll through the campground to the trailhead. 

Bring: We recommend water shoes and a life vest for short kids.  The larger of these two "waterslides" has some undertow.  Be sure to bring water, snacks, sunscreen and bug spray as well - and we recommend some dry clothes and socks to avoid chafing on the return trip. 


McKay Falls is a pretty hidden gem right in the campground! 

McKay Falls - within the campground there's a small, pretty waterfall that's worth the quick extra jaunt.  Look for the sign that says "waterfall 500 feet" as you pass through the campground. 

The spectacular Paulina Falls are just 1/4 mile from the parking lot, and worth the walk!

Paulina Falls - continue up the road to Newberry National Monument for some cool sights, including a spectacular waterfall that's just a few feet from the parking area.  A small side trail also takes you down to the base of the falls. 


5. Bag a Peak at Tumalo Mountain

Beautiful views on the Tumalo Mountain Trail

Distance: 3.7 Miles Round Trip
Elevation Gain: 1,400 Feet
Fees: Northwest Forest Pass or $5 Day Use Permit
Drive from Sunriver: 29 Minutes (19 Miles from Sunriver Sports)

For the kids ready to up the level of their hiking experience, Tumalo Mountain offers a challenging grade, but short mileage, and a very rewarding view.  Kids will love that they climbed the whole mountain (though they might whine a bit on the way up!) and the panoramic views of the Sisters and Mt. Bachelor will make it all worth it! 

Bring: This is a more serious hike, so be sure your kids are equipped with good hiking shoes, and all of the essentials - a backpack, snacks, sunscreen and water.

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