The Pacific Northwest gets a lot of rain. From mid-October to late April, the Puget Sound sky turns every shade of gray, allowing endless precipitation to fall from the sky.
While many shake their fists in anger and frustration at the seemingly endless deluge, the daily drizzle is the reason we have rainforests, huge trees and some of the most lush wilderness in the world. Without the rain, the Pacific Northwest wouldn’t be as beautiful. It wouldn’t give us endless green destinations to explore in every corner of western Cascadia, and it couldn’t provide the stunning beauty we have grown accustomed to as residents of the region. The rain is what makes this place home. After the rain clears and the gray disappears, there are miles upon miles of incredible hikes to enjoy the lush beauty of the Evergreen State.
1. Lower Lena Lake, Olympic National Forest
Ninety minutes from downtown Olympia, Lower Lena Lake is one of the classic hikes on the Olympic Peninsula. At roughly five miles round trip and gaining just 1,300 feet of elevation, the Lower Lena Lake hike takes you through gorgeous forests, next to moss and fern-covered boulders, crossing over picturesque wooden bridges before arriving at the always-stunning lake. The greenery here remains year round, making it the perfect day trip for you and your family. Yes, the trail is a bit longer than some like, and a bit steep, but the rewards for hiking this trail are numerous. This trail is also dog-friendly, making it an awesome way to see the beautiful result of a winter’s worth of rain with your two and four-legged friends. While many will be dissuaded by the distance and elevation gain, this trail is meticulously taken care of by the Washington Trails Association and is frequented by groups of hikers with children. If you love lakes, wilderness, ferns and views, hike here and enjoy the lush vegetation along the Hood Canal.
2. Colonel Bob Wilderness, Olympic National Forest
A few hours west of Olympia, in the wet and sodden Southwest corner of the Olympic Peninsula, the Colonel Bob Wilderness trail is yet another fine example of Pacific Northwest greenery at its best. Located along the southeastern edge of the Quinault Rainforest, this wilderness area is known for dense underbrush, Sasquatch sightings and some of the best hiking in the state. Your two best hiking options are Colonel Bob Peak and Fletcher Canyon, each offering a distinctly different view of the immense beauty of the region. Colonel Bob Peak is an eight-mile round trip hike from Pete’s Creek, weaving though forests and ferns before rising above the tree line. From the top of Colonel Bob, the entire Olympic Mountain Range can be seen, though your attention will mostly be focused on standing high above Lake Quinault and the entire Quinault Rainforest. For something easier and more family-friendly, consider heading out to Fletcher Canyon. Rumored to be the home of Bigfoot, few trails are as green and lush as this trail. While sweeping views don’t exist, lovers of moss, ferns and huge trees will immediately fall in love with this wilderness wonderland.
3. Millersylvania State Park, Washington State Parks
Closer to Olympia, Millersylvania State Park offers a glimpse of the green beauty of nature without the need to drive for hours. Located 15 minutes drive south of Olympia, Millersylvania gives nature lovers of all levels a great glimpse of second-growth forests, frog-filled wetlands, a stunning lake and over eight miles of hiking trails. While not as remote as some other locations, this beautiful state park has an excellent trail system to give you silence and solitude in the woods of south Thurston County. This park is also an amazing place for picnics, and is both dog and kid-friendly. Millersylvania isn’t pristine wilderness and is located close enough to Interstate 5 that you won’t have complete silence. However, it does work in a pinch, and the proximity to town can’t be beat. Millersylvania is fantastic, beautiful and family-friendly; it is the perfect place to visit after a long day at work, letting you escape into the ferns and forests of the Pacific Northwest.
4. Carbon River Rainforest, Mount Rainier National Park
While everyone knows about the rainforests of Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier has its own rainforest region in the northwestern corner of the park. An hour and a half from Olympia, at the end of the Carbon River Road, the Carbon Rainforest is one of the few temperate rainforests located far from the coast. In the Carbon, humongous cedars and firs stand tall, while millions of ferns and mossy rocks provide a home to tree frogs and other amphibians. Mostly snow-free even in the winter, the Carbon region of Mount Rainier National Park is mostly ignored by the masses who flock to Washington’s iconic mountain. While most will take the half-mile, family-friendly Carbon River Rainforest Trail, your best bet for awesome views and ridiculously lush forest experiences is the Chenuis Falls Trail. Crossing rivers on wooden bridges, weaving through ancient forests in the shadow of Mount Rainier, life in the Pacific Northwest doesn’t get much better than exploring the rainforest of Mount Rainier.
Thrifty Thurston highlights inexpensive family fun in Thurston County. The weekly series focuses on family-friendly activities throughout our community. If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at email@example.com. For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, visit our complete event calendar.