During Thurston County winters, as yet another rainy day passes by, a particular type of cabin fever often takes hold. Despite the rain, we find ourselves desperate to get out, even if it is just for the afternoon. Pull out the water proof jacket, lace up your hiking shoes and pack the snacks. Here are four hikes to scratch that itch.
1. Priest Point Park
A local gem, Priest Point Park is a 314-acre regional nature park offering numerous forest trails as well as the lovely Ellis Cove trail leading to the beach. The Ellis Cove trail offers a peaceful walk through the woods and access to a long strip of gravely beach. Priest Point Park trails often lead to scenic outlooks, so don’t forget your camera.
The land surrounding Priest Point Park first served as a site for missionary work done by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. This mission was established in 1848 and provided schooling to many Native American children. The mission closed in 1860, and the land was donated to the city to form a park in 1905. As well as trails, Priest Point Park also contains a recently renovated playground as well as several shelters and many picnic tables.
2. Millersylvania State Park
Just south of Tumwater sits Millersylvania State Park, consisting of 813 acres. Deep Lake is the focal point of the park, providing endless entertainment during warmer months. But during the rainy months, the vastly overlooked and underappreciated trail system is an excellent way to spend an afternoon. Ryan Knight, an avid runner states that “almost every day last summer I ran here, and almost every day I found something new.”
The land Millersylvania sits on was donated to the state in 1921 by the Miller family. In 1935, the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed most of the buildings in the park and established several trails. Scattered throughout the park are many old growth timbers as well as 3300 feet of beach access. There are also two smaller lakes within the park that can be fun to try to locate, an adventure sure to cure your rainy day cabin fever. A Discover Pass is required.
3. McLane Nature Trail
Just off of Delphi Road is McLane Creek Nature Trail. Once an old logging area, McLane was long ago renovated into an excellent trail traversing through wetlands and hemlock forests. McLane has two walking loops. One is 1.5 miles and the other slightly only longer at around 2 miles. Much of the trail is an elevated walkway, especially over the marshy areas, giving you a clear view into the surrounding wetland.
The lack of mileage is made up for in scenery, including a gorgeous array of flora and fauna, particularly wildfowl. Catherine Wertjes, a passionate nature walker shared, “My favorite thing about McLane Creek Nature Trail is seeing some of the regeneration going on. The older trees dying yet in their decay supporting the growth of new trees, for example.” Little ones delight in the hemlock tunnel and wildlife sightings at the beaver pond are almost a sure bet. A Discover Pass is required.
4. Skokomish Lower South Fork Trail
The only trail, in this list, outside of Thurston County, the Skokomish Lower South Fork Trail is a moderate to easy hike, perfect for someone looking for a transition from winter hibernation to summer summits. The trail is located in the southern stretches of the Olympic Mountains and begins with a few switchbacks as you ascend to a wide, well-maintained trail. The trail is a 8.5 mile roundtrip and features old growth, lush scenery, and you guessed it, the Lower South Fork of the Skokomish River.
This trail is a bit off the radar, yet still in good condition. The chance of crowds, especially in the rainy months, is small, making this a sanctuary of solitude for those looking to get back to nature. The gentle nature of this trail makes it accessible for those looking to introduce children to the great outdoors beyond local park trails. As with all trails, be sure to check recent trail reviews to make sure that the trail, and its access road, is accessible for your vehicle during wet, winter months. A Recreation Pass is required.