Thurston County is a beautiful place to live. We have the Puget Sound, lakes, rivers, valleys and forests. Along with this incredible terrain, our area boasts some of the most majestic parks. Some of these parks weave through the trees or spread along Puget Sound.
But what about a park that showcases all of it? Overlook Point Park, tucked away at the top of Tumwater Hill, gives a bird’s eye view high above the trees and out toward the splendor of Thurston County.
Completed in the early 1990s as a promise from local home builders, this park provided an opportunity to save a piece of the hill from development. As a result this area, surrounded by trees and trails, is not engulfed by immense homes with expansive windows. The now famous water tower was added to bring boosted water pressure to the adjoining streets, and the expanse of evergreen trees softened the blow of the added eyesore. Now, its mural reflects a hill from the past that stands as a piece of art against a background of urban development.
Although this park was established recently, Tumwater is a city of rich history. Considered to be the end of the Oregon Trail, Tumwater was most notably settled in 1845 by Michael T. Simmons. Centuries before Simmons’ arrival, the area was utilized by Salish tribes. The city was made up then of dense forest, deep valleys at the mouth of the Deschutes River and an untouched Puget Sound. The name itself, Tumwater, comes from the Chinook word for waterfall as a nod to the renowned Tumwater Falls. Overlook Point Park provides you a point of view of the world below as the first settlers may have seen it when they began mapping their settlement.
While the park is small in size, the adventure to get there can really add to the experience. Located at the top of Tumwater Hill off Barnes Blvd, the park requires a fun decision about how you plan to get there. If you are looking for a great work out, start from the bottom. Park your car at the intersection of 7th and Barnes and walk to the top just as the early settlers did. The hike is intense as you hoof it straight up the sidewalk, so wear proper attire. It is a popular walkway for those looking for a challenge. Personally, I find it easier to take this route while walking my dog as he enjoys the climb and usually does a decent job pulling me to the peak.
If you are not looking for a workout, begin your adventure by leaving your car near the park and grabbing a bite to eat at the Flying Top Deli. This locally owned shop serves handcrafted coffee, sandwiches, salads and soup weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and weekends beginning at 8:00 a.m. The friendly staff will even pack your food to go so you can enjoy your meal from a table at the park.
With food in hand, make your way to Overlook Point Park. A lunch there makes you feel as if you are an eagle peering out from its nest at the world below. Overlook is quickly becoming the Olympia equivalent of Seattle’s Kerry Park for its awe inspiring views of the capitol, Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater with the spectacular backdrop of Mt. Rainier, the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountain Range. While this park is usually secluded, photographers take to the ledge for unforgettable shots of sunrise and sunset on a fairly regular basis.
As you look out upon the cities below, imagine what the early settlers of Tumwater would see. Whether you walk, hike, bike or drive to Overlook Point Park, this destination in the sky should not be missed!
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.