The historic Chehalis Western Trail is one of Thurston County’s best places for a family bike ride. It stretches over 22 miles through a variety of ecosystems and environments and makes for a safe, yet adventurous, family outing. The trail is paved in its entirety, mostly flat, and save for a few well-signed country road crossings, devoid of cars. It’s appropriate for all ages and stages of riders. Pump up your tires and take a day trip to tour Thurston County via bike on the Chehalis Western Trail.
Thurston County owns and operates all 22 miles of the Chehalis Western Trail, in addition to a 14.5-mile trail, the Yelm-Tenino Trail, which it intersects. The trail is a re-purposing of the Chehalis Western Railroad, which operated from 1926 to the mid-1980s. It runs north-south through what the County defines as “the heart of Thurston County,” and provides access to 170 acres of parkland including nearly two miles of frontage along the Deschutes River. It features access to the Puget Sound at Woodard Bay, as well as Chambers Lake, wetlands, forests, farmlands, creeks and prairies. It also meanders through the suburban area of the City of Lacey.
It is an easy half-hour drive from Tacoma, and not too far from Lewis, Clark, and Gray’s Harbor counties. It is well worth the drive and is accessible in every season.
From Woodard Bay in the north, to Fir Tree Road in the south, eight trailheads provide access with varying facilities along the trail. Many trailheads, but not all, feature restrooms, picnic tables and abundant parking. Or, do like the locals do and access the trail where it’s convenient for you by parking along one of the roads that the trail crosses. Thurston County provides this map with the official access points shown with green squares.
My family loves to bike the trail. My children, ages 7 and 9, have been riding the trail since they were born. First in strollers, then to balance bikes, and when my son graduated to a pedal bike at age three, (yikes!), it became a full-on family affair.
The trail is a great place for all ages and stages of ridership, but it’s important to heed to trail best practices. Stay on the right-hand side of the trail unless you’re passing, and it’s customary to let the person you’re passing know if they aren’t aware of you. Just keep an eye or an ear out for elite cyclists whizzing past, as they often don’t slow down.
My family’s favorite place to begin our ride is in the north at the Woodard Bay end, and you can even sneak in a hike along the Upper Overlook Trail through Woodard Bay NRCA if you visit outside of April-August. (The trail closes during those four months to protect nesting herons).
The north end of the trail passes through some of the most lovely, bucolic farmlands with a carpet of leaves in the fall from the grand, overarching maples, to a chorus of frogs in the wetlands in the spring. It’s easy to forget how close to town you actually are, when in just a few short miles you run right into the bustling epicenter of Lacey shopping.
There are overpasses spanning the busiest roads that make for a safe family bike ride, and this past year, new bridges were installed spanning Spurgeon Creek to make for a safe fish passage. The project restores approximately one mile of habitat that has been blocked to spawning fish since the railroad was built, nearly 100 years ago.
Since You’re in the Area…
Whether you pedal hard from one end to the other, or from various points in between, the Chehalis Western Trail is Thurston County’s premier, paved recreational trail. It offers free, outdoor family-fun and at least one family member is bound to work up an appetite.
Head to The Rock Wood Fired Pizza for a Rock n’ Roll-themed restaurant and lounge with a kid’s menu and classic album covers decorating the walls. It’s location, adjacent to a movie theater, makes a great day trip an even better night out!
Craving something out of your normal dinner plans? Head to Tuna Poke for the best Hawaiian poke bowl on the planet! This unassuming restaurant is located next to Fred Meyer and you can order ahead on their website and take it to go. They offer kids bowls too, and dinner for the whole family here won’t break the bank.
If the family tradition is ice cream after a long bike ride, well, you’re in luck because Lacey has a Cold Stone Creamery. Located in the up-and-coming area of Lacey referred to as Hawk’s Prairie, this booming part of town has a wealth of places to eat, including the ice creamery where they mix your deliciously custom creations on their frozen granite stone.
Nearby, you’ll also find Best Western Lacey Inn & Suites if you need a good night’s rest so you can tackle yet one more day on the trail.
You can find more helpful travel information on visiting Thurston County and surrounding areas on Experience Olympia & Beyond.