One of the best things about living in Thurston County is the proximity to great hiking. Whether you are looking for a hike close to home for the whole family, or an all-day excursion to the Peninsula, you are sure to find something that suits you. Check out Thrifty Thurston’s five hikes under and over five miles.
Five Hikes Under Five Miles
McLane Creek Nature Trail– This old favorite is a favorite with good reason. A fairly short, approachable meander, McLane Creek Nature Trail highlights the gorgeous rainforest of the region, while providing a wealth of wildlife viewing opportunities. In the fall, the creek fills with spawning salmon, and in the spring birds flock to the pond and newt sightings are guaranteed. The 1¼ mile main loop is a great hike for the whole family. To add some distance and a few hills to your hike, check out the demonstration forest loop, an additional ¾ mile trail where you are likely to find solitude. Discover Pass required.
Tolmie State Park– With three miles of trails and 1,800 feet of Puget Sound shoreline, this state park in Northeast Thurston County has something for everyone. The trails are short but relatively steep, with several loops or a figure eight to choose from. Discover Pass required.
Spider Lake– This short but sweet hike is accessible year-round. About 1.5 hours from Olympia in the Skokomish River Valley, this two-mile trail loops around the small and beautiful Spider Lake and passes through lush old-growth forest. Pay close attention to the driving directions and bring a map, it’s a small trailhead and easy to drive by.
Scatter Creek Wildlife Area– This multiple-use area is 15 miles south of Olympia. With two parking lots off of Case Road, it is an excellent place for a sunset stroll. As the area is managed for upland bird hunting, do wear hunter orange if you go before 4:00 p.m. After 4:00 p.m., hunting is not allowed and it’s the perfect place to stroll through the fields, soaking up the last of the day’s sun and watching the sunset behind Mount Rainier.
Big Creek Loop– Big Creek Loop Trail is a perfect winter and spring hike as it accessible year-round. While much of the Olympic Peninsula trails are inaccessible head to Big Creek to shake off the dust and prepare for summer hiking. The trailhead at Big Creek Campground near Lake Cushman is a one hour drive from Olympia. The 4.5-mile loop rises consistently, gaining 900 feet in two miles. At the top of this loop, pause to watch the creeks roar underfoot as you cross a pair of wooden bridges. At the top, several side trails will take you to the confluence of Big Creek and Branch Creek. Northwest Forest Pass required.
Five Hikes Over Five Miles
Mima Falls Loop– This six-mile loop in Capitol Forest is a pleasant, close-to-town hike. The trail starts at Mima Campground, just off of Bordeaux Road near Mima Mounds. Start the hike by heading up the trail towards the campground, where the trail veers right, follow the Mima Falls Trail East for about 2.5 miles to arrive at the falls, a small waterfall at the top of a small hill near a picnic table and bridge. The falls is a bit off of the trail and is easy to miss when the water is low. After enjoying the falls, head back to the junction with Mima Falls Tie Trail, which you follow, over a hill, for one mile to the Campground Trail, which will eventually lead you back to the Mima Falls Trail, and the parking lot. Capitol Forest is a working forest with numerous logging roads intersecting the trails, so use of a current map is strongly recommended. Discover Pass required.
Lower South Fork Skokomish– Choose your own adventure on the Lower South Fork Skokomish. Just over one hour from Olympia, this trail makes a great escape from town, year-round. This trail follows the South Skokomish River for 10.3 miles, linking up with the Upper South Fork trailhead. You could, feasibly, hike the whole thing, either hiking the full 20.6 miles out-and-back, or arranging a shuttle. However, there are many great spots to stop along this hike, and anything from a two to a 20-mile hike is sure to delight. Northwest Forest Pass required.
Mount Rose– One of the steepest hikes in the Olympics, Mount Rose is in Olympia’s backyard, starting at a trailhead near Lake Cushman. Climb 3,500 feet in three miles and be rewarded with great views of surrounding peaks, Lake Cushman, and Hood Canal. The panoramas may not be quite as sweeping as nearby Mount Ellinor, but the chances for solitude are infinitely greater. Mount Rose can feel like quite the accomplishment, and one you’ll be thinking of for days, as your sore quads won’t let you forget. The total trail length is 6.4 miles.
Marmot Pass– This 11.5-mile hike is well worth the effort. While the 3,500-foot elevation gain may sound intimidating, it is a consistent, steady climb on a well-maintained trail. The trail follows the Big Quilcene River for several miles, and passes Shelter Rock Camp, which makes for a great lunch stop. The trail then climbs to Camp Mystery, and finally, after a steep push, Marmot Pass. Here you are rewarded with breath-taking views of Puget Sound, the Cascades, and the mighty Olympics. Enjoy a break, and if you’ve got a little more steam, head the extra mile to summit Buckhorn Mountain, with additional views of Seattle and Mount Baker. Northwest Forest Pass required.
Wynochee Lake– This 16-mile loop hike on the Southern Olympic Peninsula passes through groves of old growth Douglas Fir and provides numerous swimming opportunities in the hot summer months. A two hour drive from Olympia, this long, winding, up-and-down, but not especially difficult trail is well worth the drive. In late summer when the water levels are low, the river can be forded and the loop reduced to 12 miles. Pack a picnic and make this circumnavigation of Wynochee Lake an all day affair.
Enjoy your hike! All of the hikes listed are dog-friendly. Research conditions before you go and always pack a map and the rest of the ten essentials.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and the surrounding area, visit our complete event calendar.