The Tenino City Park Trail, the nearby Creekside Conservancy Trail and a portion of the Yelm Tenino Trail interconnect to form a three-mile loop, the perfect length to work out in any season. The three sections of the loop trail offer distinct landscapes as well some peace and quiet – it isn’t unheard of to hike the entire loop without running into a single soul.
Though the loop can be traveled in either direction, many of the turns are unmarked, so for the benefit of first-time travelers we will begin with a solid landmark: the Tenino City Park. You may begin or end your journey with this delightful historic place. In the old section of the park is a city-run camping facility with the open ball fields just below.
Moving south along the park is the children’s playground and unique sandstone climbing blocks, a remnant of the town’s quarrying past and perfect for young adventurers. Farther south is the Quarry House, originally the offices for the Tenino Sandstone Company, and the hard-to-miss Sandstone Quarry Pool. During the summer months, the pool is open. The multitiered waterfall is a splendid highlight for swimmers. It is a unique experience to swim out and stand on the mossy ledges under this picturesque spot.
The Tenino Depot Museum complex is next, also open seasonally, along with the Ticknor Schoolhouse. Behind the schoolhouse is the museum parking area where you will find the marked trailhead tucked away in the far south-east corner.
As you start up the trail, you will notice a steady ascent to the top. Wind damage is a constant concern up on the hill as evidenced by a few toppled trees that have come up by their roots. There is an abandoned sandstone foundation near the top, but you will continue up along the ridgeline. From the top, it is possible to view some landmarks in the town below. The Tenino Park Trail spans the length of the city park and winds its way through a quintessential older second growth forest complete with wildflowers and mushrooms in their season. Two creeks trickle through the park in the winter months.
A bridge crossing over one of these creeks takes you out of Tenino Park and into the Conservancy. Just past the bridge, you will turn right on the old dump road. Walk up to the cell tower. On the south side of the cell tower is a trail along the chain-link fence line. Follow along that and you will enter into an area that was clear-cut a few years back. This part feels like a deer trail, but follow it and it opens into a larger trail that was once a logging road. You are now in Creekside Conservancy land known as the Mill Pond Property.
Creekside Conservancy (formerly known as Heernett Environmental Foundation) purchases and manages land for the mission of protecting salmon and wildlife habitat and providing migratory corridors. The land provides valuable habitat and you will certainly see signs of the inhabitants along the way. The walk through the Conservancy is quiet and contemplative. The forestland, which was once logging land, is becoming forest again and the logging roads are naturally narrowing into trails. There are runoff creeks along the way that run through culverts under the old roadbed. Once you descend from the hill, Mill Pond is at its base. As the name implies, there was once a lumber mill at this location. The pond is now a haven for birds of every shape and size. Come here on a spring morning and you can’t miss the birdsong.
Once you walk past Mill Pond, you may notice a creek going under the road. Just after this there is a spur trail to the right that will take you up this delightful creek. Travel upstream and you will eventually find Hidden Falls. This gem of a waterfall can be gushing and treacherous in the winter, and easy to climb and explore in the summer. There are several tiers to the waterfall which are fun to explore in the drier months when the stone is exposed.
Once you return to the main Conservancy road, continue down to where a smaller trail forks off to the left. This short trail will take you to the Yelm Tenino Trail. This former railroad bed is paved and well traveled. Hikers need to be aware of bicyclists. From here, there is more birdwatching to do as you pass back by Mill Pond on its opposite shore. Follow the trail for one mile back to the Tenino City Park.
Other Things to Do
After your hike, a visit to Tenino pairs well with the experience. There are several little shops like the Iron Works Boutique, Tenino Time Machine and Wanderlust Rustics. Tenino is turning into a great place for foodies and there are several restaurant choices. The Sandstone Cafe serves delicious traditional American breakfasts and lunches. There are two Mexican places in town, each with their own style, the new Los Compadres and the popular Don Juan’s Mexican Kitchen where you can sample the sauces before you order. T90 Pizza offers pizza whole or by the slice. Scattercreek and Mill Lane Wineries are both located in Tenino if you want to do your own little wine tour, and Aunt Kate’s Chocolates offers wonderful accompanying treats. So, go ahead and indulge in an enchilada, fresh biscuits and gravy, or tomato basil soup after your hike because you earned it.
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