Some years ago, before kids, gray hairs, and smart phones, I lived at the base of the magnificent Alps in Aviano, Italy. You may be asking yourself, what in the world living in Italy has to do with Thurston County? The Italians spent their days enjoying hand-crafted cappuccinos and wines, biking to artisan markets, and tending to agriculture. There was a strong sense of community in this quiet, almost-rural town only an hour away from a major metropolitan center and the coast. Do you get the connection now?
Thurston County, with its bountiful farms and talented craftsman, situated at the foot of the Olympics makes it hard not to see the similarities. And though much larger than the quaint town of Aviano, we can still get around by bicycle thanks to the miles of trails connecting our cities and all the treasures they offer.
The Yelm-Tenino Trail, perhaps not as well-known as its sister trail, the Chehalis-Western, offers a 14-mile paved route traversing forests, wetlands, and other agricultural gems. The trail, once known as the “Prairie Line” when used for just over 100 years by the Burlington Northern Railroad, connects the rural cities of Yelm, Rainier, and Tenino. The well-maintained trail is perfect for recreational users with its gentle 320-foot climb from Tenino to Yelm. But it also offers a unique and decidedly different experience for touring some of Thurston County’s best kept secrets.
Whether you are looking for a family outing or something a bit different for your next date day, grab a bike and turn your ride into the destination. With the Yelm-Tenino trail you can choose to make a day of it, traveling 28 miles round trip, or customize your experience based on the time (and energy) you have. To help you think beyond the trail, Experience Olympia & Beyond has recommendations for families and couples.
Family Fun Itinerary
Start your family fun day by parking at the Yelm trailhead located behind the City Hall. Get prepared for your ride by taking advantage of the picnic tables (no one wants hungry kids!) and restrooms. You can even learn about the trail at the information kiosk. And if you go on Saturdays, May through October, you can make a stop at the Yelm Farmer’s Market between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to stock up on fresh snacks.
Head toward Rainier taking in all the sights and sounds. If the group is feeling wiped out, stop in one of the great shops like Main Street Cookie Company for a quick treat. From here continue to a sandy beach between mile marker 7.5 and 8. This is about the half-way mark and a great place to stop and let the kids play or turn around if a 28-mile roundtrip ride is not in your plans.
But for those with the time and stamina to make it to Tenino, a visit to the Tenino Depot Museum, and on a warm day, the Tenino Quarry Pool (seasonal), are well worth the stop before heading back to Yelm.
And finally, before heading home, one last stop the kids will really enjoy (if they still have the energy) is the bike park in Yelm.
Couples Date Day Itinerary
For a romantic day you won’t soon forget, head over to the Yellow Bicycle Project in Tenino, located at 213 Sussex Ave West, to borrow a free bike (don’t forget your water and a helmet). You’ll find parking and restrooms at the trailhead located at the Tenino City Park on Washington Avenue. If you go on a Saturday between May and September, you can stop by the Tenino Farmer’s Market between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to pick-up snacks for your trip.
On the way out of Tenino, at about mile four, you’ll pass by scenic McIntosh Lake. This is a great place to stop and stretch your legs and watch the herons fish. After several more miles, stop in Rainier for a pick-me-up. There you’ll find several espresso and food options right off the trail that parallels SR 507 to help fuel the last five miles to Yelm.
Once you reach Yelm it’s time to rest and rehydrate before your return trip. Take a leisurely stroll or have a picnic at Cochrane Memorial Park and then continue to Uptown Lounge for a refreshing beverage. Or if you prefer a longer rest, maybe catch a movie at Yelm Cinemas. Once you’ve made your way back to Tenino, return your yellow bike and end your lovely day with a visit to the Scatter Creek Winery & Brewery.
While we may not live in Tuscany, no matter how you decide to spend your time on the Yelm-Tenino Trail, you are sure to create a unique and unforgettable experience. So, go ahead and make plans for your decidedly different day exploring the bountiful byway by bicycle. Experience Olympia & Beyond has great tips to help you plan this escape and more. Learn more on the Experience Olympia & Beyond website or give them a call at 360-704-7544.