Washington is beautiful – we all know that. From the coast to the mountains and even out to Eastern Washington, beauty can be found in every corner of the Evergreen State. Yet, once the clouds and rain return, most residents retreat indoors, waiting until summer arrives to continue their adventures. The end of summer typically marks the end of exploring, however it doesn’t need to be that way.

Fall in the Pacific Northwest is stunning and nowhere is that more evident than along the Olympic Peninsula’s Hood Canal. Just a short drive from Thurston County, you will find waterfalls, wild forests, stunning panoramas and dizzying views high above rivers. Combined with fall colors, mushrooms and elk along salmon-filled rivers, exploring Hood Canal this autumn will have you reveling in the majesty of our beautiful lands. 

Five Hiking Adventures

As one of the foremost experts on the Hood Canal region of the Olympic Peninsula, I always find it tough to whittle down a list of the very best trails to explore. However, no list can be complete without mentioning the Staircase Rapids Loop Trail, as it is always incredible in the fall months and worth a visit. That being said, there are five more hikes that are fun for the whole family and sure to give you a dose of fall beauty.

Staircase Hike, Hood Canal
In the Staircase region of Olympic National Park, colorful trees and mushrooms galore can be found each autumn. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

We start with the trail system around Dosewallips State Park. The state park has two great trails for fall experiences. For the best fall colors, take the 1.5 mile Maple Valley Loop Trail through the brilliant colors of the maples and amazing smell of the cedars. If you still want more fall hiking at Dosewallips, take the 3.5 mile Steam Donkey Trail. Weaving through a beautiful second growth forest, this trail also has a nice display of fall colors and mushrooms. Keep an eye out for elk while exploring this park. Once you are done at Dosewallips, head further up the Dosewallips River Road for a short but beautiful hike up to Rocky Brook Falls. The trail is about a quarter of a mile in length and easy to follow, leading through some colorful maples before reaching the stunning waterfall tumbling down the rocks.

Another of the classic fall adventures along the Hood Canal is walking up the Duckabush River toward Big Hump. Removed from the crowds, the Duckabush River Trail is quiet, wild and gorgeous. The most popular hike in the region is probably Murhut Falls, but we recommend skipping that and heading up toward Big Hump. At around six miles round trip, the trail weaves through a lush forest, entering into wilderness before climbing up to an outcropping of rocks that rewards you with unrivaled views of the Duckabush River Valley.

Fall on Hood Canal
Each fall, the maples along Hood Canal put on a dazzling display of color. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

Closer to Olympia, located near the shores of Lake Cushman, is the Big Creek Trail. Through old growth forests and crossing over gorgeous creeks, the 4.3 mile round trip trail showcases some pretty fall colors, an impressive mushroom display and a fun walk for the family. The trail is very straight forward and well-signed, making this a great adventure for all ages. If you need more than this trail, head out to Staircase just a few miles away and see the incredible fall colors along the North Fork of the Skokomish River.

Speaking of the Skokomish River, our last fall hiking destination is found along the often-overlooked South Fork of the Skokomish. Full of elk, fall colors, mushrooms and gorgeous river views, hiking along the Lower South Fork Skokomish River Trail is one of the underrated gems of Hood Canal fall hiking. While the trail is 8.5 miles round trip, even just a few miles along the trail will help to quench your wanderlust and give you your fill of natural beauty. Passing huge trees hundreds of years old and walking along a wild and scenic river, the South Fork of the Skokomish is the hike you have been craving.

Three Overlooks

high steel bridge, mason county
High above the South Fork of the Skokomish River, the High Steel Bridge is a classic fall destination. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

If hiking isn’t on the agenda or the weather is not cooperating, there are a few easy to access lookouts that showcase the fall beauty of the Olympic Peninsula’s Hood Canal. The first is the always impressive High Steel Bridge above the South Fork of the Skokomish. Stretching 685 feet across and standing 375 feet above the river below, the views from this drivable bridge are dizzying and spectacular.

Farther up Hood Canal, head toward Staircase from Hoodsport and take in the sights of Lake Cushman and the mountains of the region from the Lake Cushman Overlook. With fall colors and snowcapped peaks visible, this is a perfect place to have lunch and enjoy the sights of the eastern Olympics.

hamma hamma
If you haven’t driven the roads along the Hamma Hamma River, head there this fall for amazing beauty. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

Finally, after the rains have returned and the rivers are once again full of water, we recommend driving from Hood Canal up the Hamma Hamma River. Here, there are numerous turnouts and bridges to see a beautiful display of fall colors and raging waters, making it a beautiful drive to the wilderness beauty along the Hood Canal.

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 submit@thurstontalk.com. For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and the surrounding area, visit our complete events calendar.

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