Gwen (15 months) loves going down the slide. She says “weeeee” whenever she’s sliding down and articulates that she wants to go to the playground by saying “weeeee” 😂 Since summer is in full swing, I thought it’ll be fun to bring her to an outdoor playground — with a twist.
A playground in the great outdoors with smooth, flat rocks that act as natural water slides!
We tried to pack light because our friend told us the hike is upslope and takes about an hour each way, especially with babywearing and occasionally letting the little one toddle up the steps 😂
These are essentials I would recommend you to pack:
- Bottle of drinking water
- Change of clothes especially for the little one
- Babywearing carrier
- Waterproof bag for wet clothes
- Energy boosting snacks
- Discover pass tag for your car because you need to show proof of entry to visit (If you don’t have one, you can easily purchase one from the park ranger tent at the entrance of the parking space. One-off day pass is $5.00, while annual passes can also be purchased for $80.00 on the spot.)
- Sunscreen and headgear (The natural water slides are flanked by tall trees but the trees don’t cast enough of a shadow over them so you’ll be bathed in quite a bit of sunlight.)
- Swim suit for the little one (I would recommend you to put your child in it before commencing the hike instead of trying to change her at the destination)
- Waterproof flip flops or footwear for yourself and little one (I recommend going barefoot for better grip, the rocks are pretty slippery)
- Change of clothes for the grownups (I put this as optional because your clothes will either naturally dry on your hike back or be sodden with perspiration so they’ll stay wet anyway 😂)
As with any hike, wear good comfortable shoes and lightweight clothing that’s easy to dry. Make it long-sleeved if you’re a magnet for bugs and flies.
Hiking Experience with Young Toddler
It’s not easy. I don’t want to sugar coat it. But the reward at the end of the hike is amazing for the little one and that was the thought that kept me going as I trudged uphill, putting my foot one before the other a million times and wondering when we’ll get there with every step 😂
I had told Gwen that it’ll be a long walk to get to the “playground” and “slides” and to be patient with Mummy. I think all that nagging actually helped because she said “weeee” the whole time we hiked uphill, amusing fellow hikers on the trail. She was also content to stay in the baby carrier for three quarter of the hike, examining rocks that I pick along the way to show to her.
I was fortunate to bump into many hikers who smiled encouragingly and said friendly “hellos”. They also provided pretty accurate estimates of how long more the hike is to the natural waterslides, “Not long more, perhaps 15 minutes more.” That was reassuring and motivating for me.
A good two thirds of the trail was a relatively flat dirt path littered with pebbles, at times with tree roots sticking out (beware of those tripping hazards.) The rest were man-made steps. The trail was pretty manageable to walk even with a 10kg load, just that the ascension made it physically draining. Keeping your mind on the prize does wonders though. Mind over body!
The Natural Waterslides
When you reach, you have to pick your way across a small stream so getting water on your feet is pretty unavoidable unless you choose to use the stepping rocks and log (which can be difficult with a young one strapped to you.)
Even in summer the water can feel uncomfortably cold so you might want to check on your little one to make sure they’re alright after a long playtime in the water. Little ones don’t regulate their body temperatures as well as grownups.
I saw little kids sitting in the stream and trying to push themselves forward, sliding off bigger rocks, just like how they would on a water slide. It was really nice to see how nature provided au naturale and fun playground. They also put all sort of things in the stream to watch them float downstream, like leaves and twigs.
Since Gwen wasn’t going to be swimming and only her hands and feet would come into contact with water, I folded her sleeves and pants to elbow and knee and took off her socks and shoes. We brought a change of clothes for her so we weren’t worried as long as she didn’t get her entire body soaking wet.
Gwen was too young for sliding off the rocks without assistance and the water felt too cold so we didn’t do any sliding. She loved to sit by the edge of the stream and touch the water, picking rocks out of the stream and throwing them back to create splashes and ripples. But fact she spent 20 minutes in the same spot throwing rocks into the stream (gather a bundle of them) and wouldn’t budge even when I offered a snack.
She also explored the crevices of the large rock boulders and put her hands in to displace any water pooling there.
Occasionally a squirrel hopping across the rocks could be spotted. It felt wonderful to be surrounded by nature. The only downside was that there were houseflies hovering about.
We played for 45 minutes and then I had to bounce Gwen to nap in the baby carrier as she had used up her wake period. I’m strict about nap timings. I’m sure we could have gone longer (trust nature to keep a child occupied!) if she didn’t have to nap. When she was soundly asleep in my baby carrier, we began the hike down.
I moved slow so I constantly had to move to the side for other hikers to overtake me. Everyone was friendly and accommodating so that was really nice.
This is one hike that I would recommend to families seeking outdoor activities for their children. Older children should have no problem covering the distance and steepness of the hike. To carry up younger ones, make sure to bring some form of carrier!
- Parking: Slots were very limited and mostly reserved for handicapped drivers so either go at an off-peak hour of the day or weekday to avoid crowds. Alternatively you could park a distance away from the start of the trail by the side of the roads, near the camping grounds and walk in.
Trailhead address: 12032 Holmes Point Dr NE, Kirkland, WA 98034
Refer to map and directions by <a href-"https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/denny-creek">Washington Trails Association.
Follow #gweninnature on Instagram for my chronicles of traipsing North America with a toddler and seeing nature through her eyes.
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Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.