Your votes are in and the winner is MT. BALDY! (If you're wondering which vote you missed out on, head over to Instagram and follow us at @gomomgohike for even more hiking fun.) Growing up here, I have heard of this trail, and just never figured out where it was. When I finally went looking for the trailhead, I couldn’t believe how easy it was. What took me so long?! Also – I love exploring new places in my hometown and seeing how everything is connected. I had to go home and GoogleMaps a satellite view to figure out how it all wound together.
How to Get There:
Drive south on Hilyard. Turn left onto E. Amazon as if you were driving to Mazzi’s/Hideaway Bakery. Turn left onto Dillard Road. Drive up Dillard Rd for about 2.5 miles – turn left onto Hidden Meadow Rd. Turn left again immediately into the small parking lot.
This is a very versatile trail that you can make what you need it to be. I was given insider tips from a friend who lives within walking distance and runs this trail frequently. I will walk you through what we did and then explain what else you can do. From what I can tell, there are three options.
Option #1: Mt. Baldy
This is the shortest loop that is offered. It’s right about a mile round trip. The beginning of this trail is groomed gravel/packed dirt with beautiful views of the city and large, sprawling estates. This part of the trail is the steepest. It is a pretty steady climb. Thinking about carrying a little, it would definitely make you breathe a little harder, but it’s short and the perfect distance to see what you are capable of with littles.
There is a bench near the top that you can sit and look out over the city in a new way.
Just beyond this bench, you will see a fork in the trail. At this point, we went left. (I cannot speak to what happens if you go right – if any of you explore this direction, let me know in the comments below!) By going left, the trail turns to bark and you can loop back around and head back to the car. Turning around here, you will have hiked just about a mile and been rewarded with beautiful views.
Option #2: Spring Creek Blvd.
If you continue down the barked trail, it begins to wind around a bit downhill, becoming more woodsy and covered, until you reach the end of Spring Blvd. (This is the part that BLEW. MY. MIND. How the heck did we get here? Clearly I know nothing about this town.) At this point, you will see another trailhead and the path leads back into the wooded area.
Technically, you could just turn around and head right back up the way you came, but I love exploring and loops. So off we went. This trail quickly becomes narrowed and ungroomed and at this time of year, muddy. We did our best to walk on each edge of the trail to avoid as much as we could.
We followed this until it reaches a clearing and followed an even less marked trail to the left. It did look as if the trail we were on continued ahead (another area we did not explore). This wound through the meadow and then connected back with the bark trail. At this point, we were walking parallel to and just up above Dillard Rd. This quickly joined back with the gravel trail and dropped us back at the car.
Option 3: Dillard Rd.
From what I can tell, if you continued straight on the meadow trail, you will connect with Dillard Rd. My assumption at this point is that you would walk along Dillard Rd. back to your car.
Here’s what we loved:
Close to home. Easy to get to/find. Versatile. Accessible to all levels. Views. Kids loved that the "hard part" was right near the beginning and the rest was easy going, downhill/flat.
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Well marked parking lot
Passes Needed: NONE
Distance: .92 - 2.2 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 300 ft
Trail: Gravel and bark paths
Cell Service: Yes
Potential Dangers: None
Safe to Hike Alone: YES
Animals: Dogs must be on a leash
Carrier: Ergo or light carrier
Shoes: Running Shoes
Kid Shoes: Running Shoes
Backpack: Small/Something for water
In the pack: Bare necessities
While I stated that there weren’t any potential dangers and that it is safe to do alone, PLEASE do what feels safe and comfortable for you. As I said, my friend runs this trail often and has never had any issues. There are, however, signs at the beginning of each end of the trail to warn of cougars and bears. As is true of any uninhabited area, there are things you should watch out for and be aware of. Also – when we were in the meadow area, we began to hear an odd sound which later turned out to be a man, partially hidden in the brush, using a metal detector. This gave us pause and definitely startled us. While there were 5 of us and we were fine, this was a good reminder that you should always be cautious and aware of your surroundings whenever venturing out – alone or otherwise.
Jenna Eads is a full-time Special Education teacher, wife to a photographer, and mom to two kids ages 10 and 6. Their life is anything but slow or boring. She loves going on adventures with her kids and listening to them as they see and experience new things and new places. See all of her hike posts here.
There’s a new trail in town, Friends! I saw a few others post about it on social media, and we just had to check it out for ourselves. It did not disappoint. This trail is for everyone and if you are new to hiking or apprehensive about trying a hike by yourself or with your littles, this is the perfect place to start.
Willamalane Parks and Rec knows what’s up. They recently purchased 665 acres of land that they are now developing into a myriad of trails for hiking and mountain biking and they have done a spectacular job. We hiked this trail the week before the official grand opening celebration. While Phase 1 was already open, it may be that more has been added in the last month or so.
I’m going to give you the textbook information first and then I will tell you what we actually did and how we turned what we thought was going to be a 2 mile hike into a 7.5 mile hike and were so incredibly happy that we did. Grab your shoes and favorite hiking companions – you won’t want to miss this.
We brought friends along for this new adventure so there were 5 kids (10, 9, 7, 6, and 4). This trail was easily doable by all and we saw others ranging from toddlers to the grandmotherly all successfully traversing the trail.
Thurston Hills Natural Area
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Large parking lot right at the base of the trail
Parking Fee: FREE
Distance: 4.0 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: unclear
Bathrooms: CLEAN, Full flushing, running water
Trail: Well-groomed, compacted gravel
Cell Service: Yes
Potential Dangers: None
Safe to Hike Alone: YES
Carrier: Ergo or Hiking pack
Shoes: Trail runners
Kid Shoes: Hiking shoes
Backpack: Only for snacks if needed
DO NOT GOOGLEMAPS THIS ROUTE. Since it is new, GoogleMaps doesn’t quite have the trailhead right and we were nowhere we should have been and awkwardly had to turn around in someone’s driveway waaaaay off the beaten path. Don’t be us.
Instead, Take Hwy 126 east toward Springfield. Turn left onto Main Street. Go down to 75th Street. Turn right into the parking lot. It's seriously that easy. Berean Assembly of God will be on your left at 75th Street and you will see a big sign indicating Thurston Hills Natural Area on your right. You can’t miss it. The parking lot has ample parking and two clean, full-flushing bathrooms. The start of the trail is directly in front of you. It is clearly marked and just right there.
The trail then continues into a wooded area much like Spencer Butte. The morning we went was incredibly foggy and added an eerie beauty to it. The trail contains constant switchbacks throughout, tricking you into forgetting that you are actually climbing and keeping you wondering what’s around every corner.
Because the entire area is still under construction, the trail just ends right around the 2 mile mark. There’s no hill top experience, gorgeous vista, or shocking sight. There’s just more semi-blazed trails that are not complete or groomed. So if you are the kind of person who feels satisfied by this, perfect! Turn around now and head back the way you came and congratulate yourself for a job well done. Four miles! With littles! You did it!!
Now, If you are slightly (er, completely) obsessive about seeing a trail to its end or you simply want to explore the UNGROOMED area, then by all means, keep going. Just know that it is very, completely, unimaginably muddy. Oh so muddy. Squishy squashy - lose your shoes in it - muddy. But if you have kids able to walk their own like we did? It’s worth every single step.
At the juncture where the groomed North Access trail “ends”, and the ungroomed trails begin, you will see a sign that looks like this:
Stay with me. It gets a little confusing. The trail marker in that above picture says SPINE TRAIL. But at this point, we just kept going straight up. It leads you up and up towards what I’m thinking someday will be a summit. This way gets steeper and muddier and after 20 minutes or so we decided it wasn’t safe to continue because getting down was going to be a slippy-sloppy mess. (Plus we ran into a guy on the trail that said it continued for another 20-30 minutes of slow-going mud and never gets you to a definite destination.) So we turned back to the aforementioned juncture pictured above.
The SPINE TRAIL leads you down another 1.3 mile ungroomed, muddy trail that takes you to a small plateau. The youngers made it most of the way and could have pressed on, but there had been too many shoes lost, slips, falls, and rescuing out of sinking mud. One adult turned back with the smalls while I continued to the end with the bigs. As mentioned, it was very foggy, so I’m not sure what the views (if any) there would be from here.
There are signs for more trails and another large trail map.
We then trudged back through the trail, found the rest of the party, and made it back to the car way muddier and later and with many more miles in than we had planned.
To sum up:
We LOVED this hike. Loved. I am so so glad we took the time to slop through the mud and explore a beautiful area right so close to us. The kids loved getting muddy and being allowed to just get dirty and explore. If continuing on through the mud is available to you, do it. But GO PREPARED. Bring extra clothes, extra shoes, towels, blankets, boxes for muddy clothes in your car, etc. And maybe don’t wear your favorite clothing….or white.
If you are just starting out, have littler littles, don’t have time or desire to explore, you will STILL love it. There was a steady flow of people on the graveled path to make you feel safe, the trail is easy to traverse, and the elevation not too hard. We can’t wait to get back on this trail when it’s a bit drier and explore all the unseen things.
Have you tried this trail?
Do have some tips to add about hiking in mud?
Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
Jenna Eads is a full-time Special Education teacher, wife to a photographer, and mom to two kids ages 10 and 6. Their life is anything but slow or boring. She loves going on adventures with her kids and listening to them as they see and experience new things and new places. See all of her posts here.
Hi Mamas – I hope you are enjoying 2018 thus far and are looking for a good, fun way to meet those New Years’ Resolutions. Haven’t come up with any? Try hiking … or getting outside more … or at least reading about others hiking. We all have to start somewhere, right?
We started this little corner of the GoMomGo universe three years ago so this may be familiar to some of you long-timers. Because it HAS been awhile and some of you may not know me, I’m Jenna to some and Jenn to others and will respond to either. I’m the mom to two kids ages 10 and 6. I love going on adventures together and listening to them as we see and experience new things and new places.
So why a hiking section on this website? Because guidebooks weren’t written by moms and no matter how “kid-friendly” the author tells me the hike is or could be, it is not the same as when I ask other Mamas what it was like. So with that, I hope to share with you all the hikes I take my kids on and how I would rate them from a Mom’s point of view.
We’ll talk safety, cell service, bathrooms, terrain, and whether you’ll need a full backpack or just your favorite kid-carrier. We’ll cover mileage, fitness levels, and age limits. Each hike will be done with my kids and will give their opinion as well. I will start with those in and around town and as we get closer to summer, we will venture a bit further out. Let me know if there’s any trails you’ve been dying to try and I will do my best to get on those!