When one thinks of Ireland, the mind drifts toward natural landscapes full of green, breath-taking stretches of coast and waterways that capture the imagination. Sounds like the Pacific Northwest, right? One may also think of beer while contemplating The Emerald Isle, thanks largely to the culture that has sprung up around St. Patrick’s Day. While many of us wish we could travel to Ireland and experience their green landscapes and tasty brews in person, the South Puget Sound can help you easily combine the two activities. Full of history, natural beauty and incredible bars and brew pubs, this area encourages you on St. Patrick’s Day to take a page from the Irish: celebrate the beauty of life at the base of the Puget Sound with brews, views and walking adventures.
1. Tumwater Falls Park
It should come as no surprise that Tumwater Falls Park is on the top of our list for best walks on St. Patrick’s Day. For over a century, the water from the Deschutes River was used to brew beer in the South Puget Sound, highlighted by world famous Olympia Beer. The logo for Olympia showcases the bridge at Tumwater Falls and celebrates the quality of water from the river, all apparent from the trail around Tumwater Falls Park. In the shadow of the old Olympia Brewery, this short, half-mile loop walk is the perfect place for a person to wander, taking in the many shades of green that line both sides of the trail. Make sure you look for rainbows coming from both waterfalls. Once you have explored the park and the history of the now-closed brewery, head downtown to Three Magnets Brewery and revel in the deliciousness of one ofOlympia’s newest beers.
2. Priest Point Park
North of Olympia, offering views of the city, the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, Priest Point Park is another local favorite that holds over five miles of trails showcasing intense green forests, bluffs, ravines and beaches. Ferns, moss, trees and local plants fill every inch of the park easily explored through the well-marked and gorgeously maintained trails. The park, created in 1905, was the first one in the city of Olympia, and it makes for the perfect after-work or weekend jaunt. Those hoping for a fully forested route can explore the upper loops, while anyone wanting more water views and beach access can head across the bridge to the Ellis Cove Trail. Either way, you will see huge ferns, tons of large trees and more hues of green than you thought were possible.
After exploring the park, head downtown to dine and drink at the Fish Tale Brew Pub, another of Olympia’s cornerstone locations to relish a tall one.
3. Millersylvania State Park
South of Olympia, near the valleys where elk occasionally roam, Millersylvania State Park makes for a great St. Patrick’s Day destination. With towering trees rising to the heavens, the tops of which can only be seen looking straight up, this area might make you feel a bit like a leprechaun, wandering around the fern-filled forest floor. Offering 8.6 miles of hiking trails and over half-a-mile of freshwater shoreline, this destination will refuel your wanderlust spirit and help you work up an appetite and a thirst. The park has been around since the 1930s with the trails providing a look back at the history of the region.
After your Millersylvania adventure, head west across Interstate 5 and check out the Little Rock Saloon. A friendly staff and delicious food have made this a must-stop destination when in south Thurston County. Their beer selection will hit the spot, hopefully transforming this often-passed pub into your local favorite.
4. Tolmie State Park
Offering incredible views of Mount Rainier and the Puget Sound as well as providing a seemingly endless forest trail system, Tolmie State Park is yet another gem for those hoping to find beautiful, emerald green vistas. With three miles of trails to explore and 1,800 feet of salt water shoreline right on the Puget Sound, Tolmie is the ideal place to get out, stretch your legs and enjoy the splendor that is life in the Pacific Northwest. As eagles fly overhead and blue herons stand stoically along the shore, Tolmie will captivate your adventurous side and help encourage further exploration of South Puget Sound’s natural wonders.
No St. Patrick’s Day adventure around Lacey is complete without a stop at O’Blarney’s Irish Pub. Serving incredible food and a wide variety of brews, this place needs to be your stop after exploring Tolmie State Park. The staff there is awesome, the atmosphere is great and the St Patrick’s Day celebration will be entertaining and enjoyable.
5. Big Creek Trail
While a bit out of town, the Big Creek Trail near Lake Cushman on the Hood Canal is a perfect destination for a walk in the woods. Complete with numerous wooden bridges over swollen, fast-running creeks, Big Creek’s 4.3 mile loop trail is a wonderland of adventures in lush forests. Well-marked and maintained, Big Creek is a perfect introduction to family-friendly, dog-friendly hiking on the Olympic Peninsula. In the spring, with the creeks flowing high, this trail is breathtaking and perfectly encapsulates the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
On the way back to Thurston County, swing by the Alderbrook Resort just off of Highway 101 along the Hood Canal, for a dining and drinking experience at a gorgeous resort. Offering local food as well as some of the best brews around, the atmosphere there will fit perfectly with your post-hike desires.