5 Short, Fun, and Safe Family Road Trips


Social Distancing with Kids

As social distancing settles into the forefront of our collective thoughts, words, and actions, you’re likely joining many parents in seeking safe ways for your kids to get out of the house and play. Fortunately, with some extra awareness, planning, and creativity, you and your family can safely venture outside, explore, and enjoy a change of scenery. Remember that regulations are constantly changing, so be sure to check the websites of any attractions you’re wanting to visit.

From one-hour jaunts to all-day getaways, here are 5 short, fun, and safe family road trips to enjoy around Vancouver during social distancing.

1. Cascade Locks, OR

With beautiful natural scenery and outdoor recreational opportunities, the Columbia River Gorge is a shared treasure between Washington and Oregon. You can enjoy many of the Gorge’s offerings within an hour of packing up the car with your family and a picnic.

One must-see sight that we hope will be open in the near future is Guy W. Talbot State Park, which features picnic benches, flush toilets, and hiking trails to the park’s iconic 224-foot waterfall, Latourell Falls. Make a note to also stop by and visit Herman the Sturgeon at Bonneville Hatchery. Over 45 years’ old and weighing over 500 pounds, Herman is one of the Columbia River Gorge’s resident white sturgeon. This species can reach 20 feet in length, weigh over 1000 pounds, and live for over 100 years.

After you’ve been amazed by a waterfall and wildlife, you’re less than 10 minutes away from the Bridge of the Gods, a toll bridge that crosses over the Columbia River between Cascade Locks, OR, and North Bonneville, WA. Walk across this cantilever bridge for breathtaking views of the Gorge, or drive across into Washington to enjoy a different route on your drive home.

2. Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge, WA

Less than two hours from Vancouver, Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge sits near the base of Mount Adams. It is home to diverse flora and fauna in its forests, prairies, streams, and seasonal marshes. The refuge was, and continues to be, an important resource for this area’s Native American community, who still gather plants for food and ceremony.

Along with plentiful elk and deer, the Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge is home to songbirds, waterfowl, and the rare Oregon spotted frog. In spring, the refuge is also the only home to nesting greater Sandhills cranes in Washington. You could encourage your kids to identify the types of animals they see, or document their experience of plants and wildlife through writing, drawing, or photography.

3. Mount Rainier, WA

At a towering 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier stands out as the most topographically prominent and glaciated mountain in the continental USA. (If your child likes to research, or if you want to teach some geoscience, Google what “topographically prominent” and “glaciated” mean).

Mount Rainier National Park is just over two hours from Vancouver and is currently open for self-guided auto-touring, hiking, and dispersed snowplay, such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. To support social distancing efforts, Mount Rainier National Park has temporarily closed the Longmire Museum, Paradise Jackson Visitor Center, and Paradise Snowplay area.

If a trip to Mount Rainier doesn’t currently work for your family’s needs, but you’d still like to see the mountain, you can get live footage through the park’s webcams.

4. Oregon Coast, OR

From Astoria to Brookings, driving along the Oregon Coast on Highway 101 is a magical and must-do PNW experience. Along with offering spectacular views of the Pacific and forested Coast Range, every beach on the Oregon Coast is public. And, as many of Oregon’s beaches are naturally spacious, social distancing was likely already happening in these places anyway! For wide open beaches within three hours of Vancouver, check out Newport, Lincoln City, Cannon Beach, and Seaside.

5. Painted Hills, OR

One of the 7 Wonders of Oregon and part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, the Painted Hills are a dramatic geological formation situated on the Journey through Time Scenic Byway. The defined layers of color—which range from yellow to red to black—were formed over 35 million years ago, as volcanic and organic materials mixed together through changing climates.

Around four hours from Vancouver, the Painted Hills is a full day trip that offers many opportunities for learning, exploration, and creativity in an area of Oregon that’s sparsely populated. Bring along art supplies for your kids to make their own rendition of the Painted Hills beauty, or have them write a haiku about this otherworldly landscape.

As we practice social distance in our daily lives and for an occasional outing, one fact remains the same: we are all in this together. From our Must Love Kids family to yours, we send you and your children our wishes for good physical, mental, and oral health as we navigate these changes.

If your child is experiencing a dental emergency or is overdue for a preventative or restorative treatment, contact our office to schedule an appointment.