Boy in green fleece running on dirt trail in lush green forest.

Hiking the Big Creek Loop Trail with Kids

If you’re in the area, you’ve likely already hiked (or are planning on hiking) the nearby Staircase Rapids Loop.

The Big Creek trail is a shorter alternative for families, and it also avoids some of the crowds that flock to Staircase, the steep per vehicle fee of Staircase, and the long, dusty, dirt road to the Staircase entrance.

We’re a semi-local family.  I spent a lot of my childhood on the Olympic Peninsula – and now I bring my three boys here each summer. 

I’ll walk you through:

  • Why you’ll enjoy walking the Big Creek Loop with kids
  • Entering the park
  • The parking and toilet situation
  • The hike, including terrain and scenery
  • A must-do extension
  • Tips for visiting with kids

Big Creek Loop – A Quick Look

Location: Olympic National Forest on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula; just northeast of Lake Cushman

Length: 1.1 miles (with an optional and recommended out-and-back)

Trail Type: dirt and gravel trail; 0-ft elevation gain

Cost: $5/private vehicle, free with pass (like the NPS Senior Pass)

Official Website: USFS

Why the Big Creek Loop Works Well for Families

Our family makes our way to the Big Creek Loop because:

We love hiking the Staircase Rapids loop because:

  • It’s well-marked and easy to follow
  • It’s short enough that everyone can do it (and enjoy it!)
  • It’s inexpensive and not crowded (especially on weekdays)
  • It can be combined with an out-and-back of part of the Upper Big Creek Loop, which has gorgeous forest scenery

Good To Know: If you’ve got older kids who like to hike and don’t mind elevation gain, skip the Big Creek Loop and do the Upper Big Creek Loop. The Big Creek Loop is great for little kids (like toddlers).

Getting to the Big Creek Loop Trailhead

You’ll likely arrive from Hoodsport (from the south).  Highway 119 leads you along the eastern side of Lake Cushman to a T-intersection.  Shortly after you make your left turn, look to the right for the entrance to Big Creek Campground – Olympic National Forest.

Enter the campground and drive straight until you reach the day use parking lot on the left.

To get to the trailhead to begin your walk, walk out of the parking lot back the way you came (toward the main road) and turn right onto the dirt trailhead at the small crosswalk. A wooden sign points toward TRAIL NO. 827.

To leave the campground, exit the same way you came.

Parking at Big Creek

Trail info board with road and forest behind it.
Payment envelopes (red, in the upper right part of the info board) go into the metal box on the right

Park in the day-use lot. Place your $5 in the envelope and insert it into one of the metal payment boxes. Place the ticket stub on your car’s dashboard.

The Toilet Situation for the Big Creek Loop

Large gravel parking lot with seven cars, a small toilet building, and towering trees.
Toilets are in the grey building in the day-use parking lot

There are pit toilets in a small building in the parking lot.

There are no toilet facilities on the trail.

Big Creek Loop with Kids – On the Trail

Dirt and gravel trail in the forest with ferns and bushes in Olympic National Forest in Washington State.

The Big Creek Loop is a 1.1 mile loop that makes its way around the Big Creek Campground. It’s flat, gravel/dirt, and it’s smooth and wide enough that you could even bring a jogging stroller on it.

It’s really close to the campground (you can see it from the trail), so don’t expect a quiet, secluded forest walk.

It’s well-signed and easy to follow.

It just took me about 40 minutes with a 3-year-old, with some play time at the creek. We extended our hike with the out-and-back below.

Recommended Out-and-Back Extension

The Big Creek Loop around the campground is an easy trail to walk with kids, but I don’t find the scenery to be mind-blowing. If you have time, start the loop again and when you get to the intersection with the Upper Big Creek Loop trail (you’ll see the wooden bridge on the left), turn left onto it and follow the trail until you get tired and feel like flipping back around.

This trail is more shaded, much greener (moss, ferns, large coniferous trees) and has fun stuff for kids like bridges and creeks. There aren’t any epic views but it’s a quiet, gorgeous forest walk.

It starts to climb (for around 2 miles) and then makes its way back down to the campground. As you’re climbing, just flip back around when you feel like it.

I just did this with my 3-year old and we did about 1.5 miles uphill before turning back around. We spent about two hours on this part of the trail, including plenty of snack breaks, looking at bugs and slugs, and playing at the creek.

Highlights for our family are:

  • Big Creek
  • Wooden bridges
  • Moss and ferns
  • Trees (red cedar, western hemlock, douglas fir, and more)
  • Slugs

There aren’t any major drop offs, but there are a few sections to keep kids close.

Big Creek Loop with Kids – Basic Info

Boy walking across wooden bridge in a green forested area.
My son on the Upper Big Creek Loop extension

Toilets – in the parking lot

Water – there’s a fountain with potable water in the parking lot

Strollers – you could bring a jogging on the loop, but not on the Upper Big Creek Loop extension (which I highly recommend doing)

Snacks – bring your own for the trail; you can buy them at the grocery store in Hoodsport or even at the Lake Cushman Market (on North Lake Cushman Road); there are benches on the Upper Big Creek Loop; there are picnic tables next to the parking lot

Cougars – Olympic National Forest is cougar country

What to Do with Kids Near the Big Creek Loop

Three boys walk across wooden suspension bridge on the Staircase Rapids Loop in Olympic National Park. Dense forest on other side of bridge.
My boys on the Staircase Rapids Loop

If you’re looking to hike some more, definitely check out Staircase Rapids Loop. The short Hoodsport Storybook Loop trail is great for young kids.

Hoodsport is nearby and has great ice cream at Hoodsport Coffee Company and a small waterfront area.

Bring the entire family to Hama Hama Oyster Saloon for oysters (and other seafood) on the Hood Canal.

Take a dip in Lake Cushman (enter at Skokomish Park).

Be sure to check out my Tips for Visiting Hood Canal with Kids!

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