During a time of the year when the parking lots at local state and city parks fill up quickly, Grass Lake Nature Park is a quiet little gem on the Westside of Olympia spanning 171 acres. You almost have to know it is there to find it. It’s the brainchild of group called the Friends of Grass Lake who were dedicated to preserving its unique ecosystem. The purpose of the park is both educational and environmental and is designed to protect this intact wetland system as well as provide a quiet place in an increasingly developed part of Olympia.
As you park your car next to the chain link fence in the gravel parking lot off of Kaiser Road (one of the two trailheads), your attention is drawn to a dark brown sign. Grass Lake Nature Park is part of the Olympic Loop of the Great Washington State Birding Trail. More than 100 species of birds have been sighted there, including Wilson’s Snipes, Spotted Towhees, Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Rufous Hummingbirds. While that list is likely to be more exciting to birdwatchers and ornithologists, the average hiker will still enjoy the diversity of birds and bird songs along the trail. The wide variety of birds drawn to the park also make this a year-round birding site as different populations stop off on their journeys to other areas while some make Grass Lake their home.
If you are passing through the gate in mid to late summer, on the side of the path you will be met by Himalayan blackberry bushes tempting you with ripe, plump berries while at the same time fighting you off with the unavoidable thorns. Just beyond the bushes is the proper start of the trail that leads you into the shady cover of the forested wetlands.
Heading into the forest, the trail runs along Louise Lake and then becomes a loop trail about one mile long. To see Louise Lake, you can take a short trail that turns off on the left side (and is not pictured on the map) before the loop starts that takes you down to the edge of the water. The park actually includes three lakes: Louise Lake, Grass Lake East and Grass Lake West. It’s best to keep in mind that the word “lake” in terms of a wetland is not always a large expanse of water, especially in the summertime. Grass Lake East and Grass Lake West are almost completely empty in the summer.
The loop itself is a lovely walk through the woods. While it’s an easy hike for all ages, it is not stroller or wheelchair friendly. Pets are not allowed. Over 200 plant species have been identified in the park, which makes it a great resource for environmental education. Depending on the time of year, you can see the delicate beauty of the Western Trillium or watch a graceful great blue heron land or listen to the frogs sing.
The park is full of possibility and the master plan includes over water piers, viewing blinds and interpretive exhibits. For the time being though, a quiet walk through these woods is an activity you won’t share with many others. Enjoy!
Trailheads are located at:
- 3432 6th Avenue NW (note this is in a neighborhood and parking is on the street and limited)
- 814 Kaiser Road NW (though the author put this address in Google Maps and was taken to a house on Kaiser Road that was not the trailhead – the trailhead is on Kaiser Road NW just north of 6th Avenue NW and can hold 3-4 vehicles.)
How to get to Grass Lake Nature Park
- From 101 Westbound, take the 2nd Avenue NW exit and then turn right on Mud Bay Road. Turn left on Kaiser Road NW.
- From 101 Eastbound, take the Mud Bay/Evergreen College exit and turn right on Mud Bay Road. Turn left on Kaiser Road NW.
By bus to the Kaiser Road trailhead:
- On Route 45 – get off at Harrison Avenue at Kaiser Road – then walk 0.8 miles/16 minutes north on Kaiser to trailhead
- On Route 47 – get off at Harrison Avenue at Twin Flowers Station – then walk 0.8 miles/17 minutes west on Mud Bay Road and then north on Kaiser Road to trailhead
Grass Lake Nature Area is located at 814 Kaiser Road NW. For more information about Grass Lake Nature Area, visit its website.