Is this the Fraser Valley’s best hike for kids?

A dad-to-dad talks about what makes a good hike for kids, and why one Chilliwack trail is particularly perfect for youngsters.

By Tyler Olsen | July 4, 2022 |5:00 am

It’s maybe no surprise that when it came to pick a perfect family-friendly hike in the Fraser Valley, Stephen Hui chose one named after a children’s story.

Perched midway up a north-facing mountainside, the Chilliwack Community Forest has been a hit with hikers, bikers, and families since it opened in 2016. The forest is now one of the top hiking spots in Chilliwack, with a dozen-plus kilometres of trails. And author Stephen Hui says there’s a reason its Pi:txel Trail and the Three Bears loop it links up with are so popular with families.

Hui, the author of a series of hiking books, has recently released a new one specifically about hikes well-suited for kids. The Chilliwack Community Forest hike features prominently in the book.

Current Editor Tyler Olsen talks with Hui, dad-to-dad, about what makes Three Bears so good, and what makes a good kids hike in general. (Tyler then asked his own kids for their input.)

Continues below


Join more than 25,000 other Fraser Valley residents by subscribing to our newsletter. Every weekday morning you’ll get a new feature story and other stories, news, and events from Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Langley, Mission and the rest of the valley. See a recent newsletter here.

Get FV Current in your inbox.

Plug in to the news that matters in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, and the rest of the Fraser Valley.

By filling out the form above, you consent to receive emails from Fraser Valley Current. You can unsubscribe at any time. View our privacy policy here.

Having trouble with the form? Contact us at contact@fvcurrent.com.


Trees, seats, and water

Tyler Olsen: Three Bears is one of 55 hikes in your new book. What makes it particularly good for parents and kids?

Stephen Hui: It’s a relatively gentle grade, but has lots of fun aspects for children. There’s a little face on a tree, there’s a bell on a stump, I mean, it’s called Three Bears too, so it brings to mind the children’s stories. There’s lots of places to sit, you know, log seats, picnic tables, beautiful trees and berries and interesting plants to look at. I also love that in the forest that a lot of the trails have Halq’eméylem names, the language of the Stó:lō people, which is great for informing kids about the culture and history of the area.

TO: You mention the good places to sit. We’ve been up there a bunch and one of the places my kids really like are the three carved tree-stump seats about halfway up. It’s a good spot to take a break and my kids always like to top there for a snack.

SH: Yeah, and it just makes me think: is that where the Three Bears are supposed to sit and where’s Goldilocks?

I mean, I never had much use for park benches and picnic tables until I started hiking with my son. And he stops at all of them. Now I understand how valuable those are.

TO: There are a couple along that trail, one where my kids stopped and found this caterpillar and spent 10 minutes watching this caterpillar make its way across the bench, and then another place where you can get the kids moving by saying ‘OK, let’s get to the next bench, then we can have a snack.’

SH: Yeah, motivating a child to go hiking and then to continue hiking can be a challenging thing. My son, for the first half-an-hour, is: ‘Let’s go home Dad,’ and then after that he’s having a blast. If you can motivate them by telling them there’s a suspension bridge coming up, there’s a hollow tree, there’s a waterfall—that helps a lot.

And then of course having lots of snacks and junk food that maybe they don’t always get to eat at home helps. For my son, the big thing is I told him on his first hike there was ice cream at the end, and so now he always thinks there’s ice cream at the end—well, I guess, there always is ice cream at the end! That helps a lot too.

Continues below

A good hiking trail for younger kids requires more than a couple places to stop in order to rest, eat, drink, or inspect caterpillars. 📷 Tyler Olsen
A good hiking trail for younger kids requires more than a couple places to stop in order to rest, eat, drink, or inspect caterpillars. 📷 Tyler Olsen

Get FV Current in your inbox.

Plug in to the news that matters in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, and the rest of the Fraser Valley.

By filling out the form above, you consent to receive emails from Fraser Valley Current. You can unsubscribe at any time. View our privacy policy here.

Having trouble with the form? Contact us at contact@fvcurrent.com.

TO: It’s interesting talking about things that keep kids motivated along the way. Have you been to the Spirit Trail outside of Harrison?

SH: No, I haven’t.

TO: That’s one, that’s a very gentle loop, it’s a lot shorter, but it has masks on trees and keeps kids looking at things on the sides of trees.

SH: Yeah, I find the big thing that really attracts kidss on hikes is water, any kind of water: if they can splash in it, touch it, hear it. My son was just wowed by the roar of Lynn Creek in North Vancouver the first time he heard it. Waves on the beach, beaver lodges, anything to do with water is a huge hit. That’s also why you need to pack a full change of clothes because they’re going to get wet.

TO: Yeah, the suspension bridge at Mission’s Cascade Falls is good for that. It’s pretty short too and it’s a little bit of an uphill hike for a younger kid, but if you’re going up towards a waterfall, it’s always better than having to up away from a waterfall.

SH: Yeah. The important thing to remember too is that with kids, especially young kids, you might not make it to the waterfall. So you have to be ready for that and be flexible about the destination. It’s the journey, right? The Lower Falls Trail in Golden Ears Park is the first hike I ever did. With a kid you might just make it to the beach part way there, and that’s a beautiful spot too. You have to just take it easy.

TO: Yeah, the Three Bears hike back at the Community Forest is pretty useful because it’s like an add-on to the easiest loop trail they have up there. So you can hopefully gauge by the time the turnoff [comes] whether your kids can do the extra, I think it’s a kilometre or something, or whether you’ve got to take the short route.

SH: Yeah. In the book I have the Thalatel Trail from Lexw Qwo:m Park and that, for a young kid, would be a major add-on to that trip, and it’s steep. So there’s lots of different options in the forest, which makes it great for kids because you can do steep trails, longer routes, or short routes. And it’s just a really pleasant piece of forest.
TO: Yeah, they did a good job too in moderating the elevation changes on that one too. because it’s on the side of the hill and is not necessarily easy.

Is there anything else that you think is particularly helpful to make a good hike for kids?

SH: Well, I think you have to be mindful that trails that experienced hikers might find easy are harder for kids who are new to hiking and have shorter legs. So picking the right trail, picking a trail with a minimal grade and less-rough surface to start; it doesn’t really matter the age, you just want to start with those easy hikes and then work up.

Picking a trail that appeals to your child’s interest as well: If they’re into beavers, beaver lodges and wildlife settings then you can go to a trail in a wetland and with beaver lodges and dams. My son loves to see old-growth trees—he calls them all grandpa trees because the first old-growth tree he saw was Grandpa Capilano in Capilano River Regional Park in North Vancouver. And he loves trails where he sees horses.

And then of course suspension brides are always a hit. A lot of kids are into trains so trails where you can hear trains, see trains and vestiges of old railways are cool. Hollow trees are always fun for photo-ops and hiding in. And beaches and tide pools, because you can go beachcombing and look at anemones. Trails that have many of these attractions are definitely crowd-pleasers for kids. That factors into the quality ratings I have for hikes in the book is based on the fun factor.

TO: I’ve found any boardwalks or bridges are useful too.

SH: Yes! My son loves running on boardwalks and any bridges. They’re just the simple things: boardwalks, bridges, puddles.

TO: The funny thing is, as we go through this, I’m like: ‘Oh, I like that! I like that! I like boardwalks, I like bridges.’ These are all things that make it better for an adult too, often.

Finally: Do you think trail builders need to pay more attention to any specific aspects to help families?

SH: Yeah, I mean, there’s a balance. You still want some trails to be rather… you don’t want to overdo it with the infrastructure on a lot of trails. I do think there are some good trails out there for kids, but there could be more trails that are less city-park-type trails and more in the woods that have more benches and picnic tables for kids. And more informative and engaging interpretive panels so when kids are ready to talk about things and learn about nature and culture, you can engage them with those. A lot of the interpretive panels and places here and there are fairly out of date and maybe don’t reflect how we see the land today.

Hui’s new book, Best Hikes and Nature Walks with Kids In and Around Southwestern British Columbia, is now available in bookstores, and on Hui’s website. We spoke to Hui last year about the climb to Eaton Lake, outside of Hope, when he published Destination Hikes, a guide to 55 BC hikes.

• • • • •

So was Hui right? Tyler asked his own kids recently what made the Chilliwack Community Forest such a good place to go for a hike. Their verdict:

Sophia, 9: “Well, there’s some easy trails and a lot of places to stop for a break.”

Konrad, 6: “You can see lots of animals. Like birds and bugs and caterpillars. And you don’t see them very often, but worms!”


Join more than 25,000 other Fraser Valley residents by subscribing to our newsletter. Every weekday morning you’ll get a new feature story and other stories, news, and events from Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Langley, Mission and the rest of the valley. See a recent newsletter here.

Get FV Current in your inbox.

Plug in to the news that matters in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, and the rest of the Fraser Valley.

By filling out the form above, you consent to receive emails from Fraser Valley Current. You can unsubscribe at any time. View our privacy policy here.

Having trouble with the form? Contact us at contact@fvcurrent.com.

Tyler Olsen

Managing Editor at Fraser Valley Current

Tags in this Article

Latest Articles

The key news happening in the Fraser Valley.

Community Profile

August 16, 2022

Cool treats and warm hearts: Chilliwack’s newest ice cream man

Darrell Ralph has spent the summer out with his vintage ice cream cart in Chilliwack, selling cool treats and making warm memories.

Environment

August 15, 2022

Our favourite hikes and trails for kids

From Teapot Hill to Cascade Falls, these are some of the best hikes for kids in the Fraser Valley, as chosen by staff and readers.