We didn't hike the whole loop system- 9 miles round trip - as that is just too long for the kids at this point. We hiked Entry Road and part of Vista Loop Rd up to the power lines on the hill, then we veered off the designated trail, wound up making our own path down the hill, and then met up and followed a trail back down on the opposite side of the creek and waterfall. Our kiddos handled that just fine, we were just extra cautious since it was very rocky.
We'll have to go back another time and explore more of the Loop. Maybe in the next couple of years Timothy will be old enough for us to feel comfortable enough to do the whole Crawford Oaks Loop. Perhaps Sam and I will have to go do it by ourselves!
We started out by having a snack at the picnic tables by the parking lot. The trail head starts right after the bathrooms and is more of a gravel path than a trail....which makes sense as it's called Entry Road. We paused to read the story of the Missoula Floods and pick apples from a nearby apple tree. Further up the trail we also found a few pair trees and couldn't resist picking a snack.
If you're looking to just make it to the top of Eightmile Creek Falls (which you can see from the parking lot), it's only a short distance from the parking lot. Quiet doable without investing a whole heck of a lot of time and energy. Even from this point, the views of the Columbia and surrounding area is gorgeous.
If you continue on up from the waterfall on Entry Road, the gravel path eventually opens to a field on the right. This was my favorite part of our hike! I loved the fluffy clouds, rolling hills, and crickets chirping everywhere.
Vista Loop Rd continues on past the power lines, and from what I've read and understand, meets up with Military Road at a junction that continues to bring you through the loops. Instead of continuing on, however, we paused to take a rest at the top of the hill by the power lines, take in the spectacular views, and then decided we wouldn't hike any more of the Loop.
Instead of turning back and retracing our steps through the field, back across the creek and then to walk the other field, we decided to be trail blazers and made our own way down the hill! This wasn't hard at all....just make sure to hold onto little hands since there isn't a clear path down.
At the base of the hill we could see a trail on your left that leads you back towards the waterfall and parking lot. This trail winds back and forth and is rocky at times: the kids were careful and loved it! We just went slow. They especially loved crossing the creek...which, this time, you do just a short while before the creek drops into the waterfall. From here you take Entry Road back to the parking lot and there you go, hike complete!