The days are getting shorter and the air is getting crisper as fall takes hold of the region. While many residents see summer as the ideal time to explore the trails of the Pacific Northwest, fall may in fact be the best opportunity to lace up your boots and take a hike. Colorful falling leaves and panoramic views are just a few of the highlights when you take a hike on the Hood Canal.
Start with something simple and awe inspiring by visiting the stunning Murhut Falls. The trail is less than two miles roundtrip and is both family and puppy friendly. The waterfall plunges nearly 130 feet and is set in a deep green forest. The trail is a converted logging road and only climbs 250 feet before greeting the falls making this hike not only beautiful but also doable for all skill levels and ages.
Lake Cushman boasts some of the best trails in the area. Start at Skokomish Park at Lake Cushman for nine miles of dog-friendly and mountain bike-friendly trails. Walk through the woods with stunning views of the lake and a variety of plant life. With few elevation changes and well-maintained trails, this is a great spot to hike a moderate trail during a beautiful fall day. Nearby Mount Rose Trailhead offers hikers a real workout with a 3,500-foot elevation gain. The sweat is well worth it on a clear day when visitors can potentially spot Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and Mount Saint Helens.
Head farther down the canal to the picturesque Twanoh State Park. During fall, chum salmon are present in the creek that lines the beginning of the three miles of trail. While the hike is short, the elevation gain can be surprising to novice hikers. The moss-draped trees and giant ferns make this a uniquely Northwest hike. When you’re finished exploring the trail, don’t miss the opportunity to walk along the beach on the other side of the park. The water views here and beach access are unparalleled to anywhere else on the canal.
Lower Lena Lake Trail is an absolute fan favorite among locals. Just shy of seven miles, this trail takes visitors up a series of switchbacks before winding through old growth trees and finally leading to the beautiful lake. Pack a lunch to enjoy along the shore or even pack a sleeping bag to spend a night here under the stars. While a popular and well-trafficked trail, the feeling of peace and seclusion once at the lake is incomparable. Great trail for dogs to explore and take a dip in the lake as well.
Near the North Fork Skokomish River, hikers can explore the easy one mile Staircase Rapids Loop Trail. Mushrooms grow alongside the moss and logs that line the trail here. Fall foliage speckles through the lush green backdrop. A massive fallen old-growth cedar makes a fun stop along the way for the whole family to climb and explore. This is a great beginners trail for the youngest hikers in the family to conquer.
Spider Lake Loop has a very fitting name for fall festivities. Hikers will traverse this trail through dark forests, across trickling streams, past cascading waterfalls and above the lake for views that can’t be beat. While only two miles, the start of this trail is steep and not recommended for those without proper shoes. It’s a quick jaunt through the woods while enjoying an autumn afternoon.
Finally, take in a piece of history on the Living Legacy Trail. The forest surrounding this area was replanted in the 1930s and passes by the historic Hamma Hamma Cabin. This historic cabin was formerly a guard station built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and used by the Forest Service fire and trail crews. It has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its architecture and historic significance to the area. The trail itself has a quarter mile portion that is wheelchair friendly while the remaining trail has a moderate rating making it accessible to most hikers. The trail boasts views of the Hamma Hamma River, which flows into the Hood Canal.
Whether it’s above the canal in old growth forests or along the salty shores, take advantage of a beautiful fall day by taking a hike with the whole family!
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 events calendar.