Five Fantastic Mother’s Day Hikes around Thurston County

olympia hiking
Head into the Olympics to experience the Staircase Loop. Photo credit: Douglas Scott.


By Douglas Scott

oly ortho logoFinding the perfect gift for Mother’s Day can be tough. If you get chocolate, it will be gone quickly. If you buy flowers, they will wilt and end up in the trash. You could always make something, but if you are like me, that never goes well. Instead of buying material goods, this Mother’s Day, why not spend some time with your mom out in the beautiful wilderness and natural areas around Thurston County?

Within a one-hour drive of Thurston County, we have access to numerous state and national parks plus other natural areas, making a destination into nature a fun and easily accessible gift for moms around the region. Ranging from easy treks for moms of all ages to hiking trails for active mothers, the following five destinations are sure to leave your mom happy and glad to have raised such a thoughtful, caring and nature-loving child.

Woodard Bay

hiking olympia
An expansive view awaits you at Woodard Bay. Photo credit: Douglas Scott.

If you love seeing and hearing seals, watching eagles and blue herons fly overhead or just like to walk a simple trail to a beautiful watery view, Washington State Department of Natural Resources own Woodard Bay is just eight miles north of Olympia, making it the the perfect local destination. Recently remodeled, this short trail leads from a well maintained parking lot to a gorgeous overlook area.

Once the end of the railroad line, the area today is home to deer, birds, and sea life. During the months of April to August, the Woodard Bay region sees an influx of Blue Herons, as they have a rookery near the park. Watch and listen as these giant birds land in trees, squawk to communicate and occasionally battle in the trees and air for the perfect nesting spot.

Read more about a family visit to Woodard Bay in this article.

For the perfect ending to Mother’s Day, stop in at Bonjour Cupcakes in Olympia for a tasty treat.


Millersylvania State Park

olympia hiking
Millersylvania Park is just 11 miles south of Olympia. Photo credit: Douglas Scott.

Eleven short miles south of Olympia, Millersylvania State Park sits, awaiting your Mother’s Day adventure. What makes Millersylvania such nice place is that it offers a wide range of activities for mothers of all ages.

Whether you are interested in fishing along the shore of Deep Lake, hiking the 8.6 miles of trails, biking the 7.6 miles of bike friendly paths, or just enjoying a picnic lunch at any of the numerous picnic spots, spending a day at Millersylvania is a great getaway.

Built in 1935, the region has historical information spread throughout the park, as well as hikes along boardwalks and through old growth forests. If you are looking for a calm walk with mom in the beauty of Thurston County, Millersylvania State Park is perfect.

After the day of exploring nature, stop by Eastside Big Tom’s Burgers for the best milkshakes in town.


Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

nisqually wildlife refuge
The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge hosts weekly walks at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday mornings. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is a classic destination for any time of the year, but during the month of May, it is a great place to see stunning views of the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier all while watching migratory birds flying north for the summer.

Bald eagles, seals, blue heron, shorebirds and more are awaiting you if you hike the flat, five mile round trip trek to to the end of the boardwalk. Birding at Nisqually this time of the year is great, and bringing mom out here is sure to be a memorable experience. Watch for owls, peregrine falcons and the extremely rare glimpse of orcas as they swim along the Puget Sound.

With a visitor center, gift shop and benches spread throughout the refuge, moms of all ages will enjoy this scenic, wildlife filled destination.

For a great post-adventure snack, visit Norma’s Burgers on the east side of the freeway. With 43 flavors of shakes on their menu, you can’t go wrong here.


Paradise and Reflection Lake at Mount Rainier National Park

mount rainier
Check out this view from Spray Park in Mount Rainier National Park. Photo credit: Douglas Scott.

Those looking for a memorable trip on Mother’s Day should really consider taking a trip to Mount Rainier. Just 1.5 hours from Olympia, Mount Rainier’s Paradise region is close and offers jaw-dropping views, great hikes and fantastic opportunities to reconnect with the beauty of our mountain.

Thanks to the low snowpack, the roads around Mount Rainier are open, allowing for more serious adventurers to hit up trails and drive around the mountain.

Whether you choose to hike one of the nine incredible roadside hikes around Mount Rainier, or decide to take the short trails around Paradise, you can’t go wrong. Make sure you do stop at Reflection Lake below Paradise, if the weather is clear, the view is incredible.

If you do head out this way, also be aware that the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad is having Mother’s Day train ride. More information an be found on their website.


Staircase Loop in Olympic National Park

olympia hiking
Head into the Olympics to experience the Staircase Loop. Photo credit: Douglas Scott.

Ninety minutes from downtown Olympia, Olympic National Park’s Staircase Loop Trail is waiting for you and your mom to explore the path.

At two miles in length, this short trail is one of the best loop trails in the state, taking those who hike it next to the Skokomish River, through old growth forests and across a picturesque bridge before looping back to the ranger station.

For those looking for a tougher Mother’s Day hike, Staircase has numerous great hikes and fantastic views of the wilderness of the Olympic Peninsula. With wildflowers blooming in the forest and along the riverbank, taking a trip to Staircase is sure to help reconnect you and your mom with both nature and each other.

For an added bonus stop by Hoodsport Coffee Company for delicious ice cream and great coffee.

Find more Mother’s Day activities and events on our calendar.

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