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There’s something mystical about waterfalls. The unending symphony of crashing water under the forest canopy is more than simply an example of gravity at work. When water descends, it splits air molecules, creating negative ions that positively affect our brains. Just a half-hour from Olympia, a year-round waterfall in the Capitol State Forest is the perfect, peaceful reward at the end of a summer hike or trail run to Mima Falls.

What’s fantastic about Mima Falls is that it is accessible to almost anyone with any degree of hiking experience. Along the trail, you’ll cross paths with many different kinds of people—young and old, tourists and locals. People running, walking and even those on horseback enjoy this gem featuring wildlife viewing, flowers and a shady, wide non-motorized trail. It’s a perfect summer day hike in the Black Hills for the family, including the dog, provided they are leashed.

Hiking at Mima Falls

A $35 annual or $11.50 per day Discover Pass is required to park in the upper and lower parking areas, but if the cost is prohibitive, be sure to check out the Library of Things collections at a local Timberland Regional Library. Several options offer backpacks to explore nature, complete with a Discover Pass to use.

Numerous paths are accessed at the upper Mima Falls trailhead. Take the time to take a look at the signage and information board offering details on the area’s trails. There is ample parking, space for horse trailers, mounting block, water and restrooms.

Hiking Safety Tips

Gunshots are commonly heard in the area, as a target range is nearby but don’t worry, as the trail goes deeper into the woods, the sounds are drowned out by the song of the birds and the wind in the trees.

Cougars and black bears call the Capitol Forest home. It’s essential to Leave No Trace. Food or garbage attracts wildlife, putting them and you in danger. Pack out what you bring in, and do not feed any animals encountered.

Hiking Mima Falls

Mima Falls in Capitol Forest
Summer is the perfect time to visit Mima Falls and enjoy the sounds of cascading water. Photo credit: Krysta Carper

There are various routes to the falls, but a favorite is Mima Falls East Trail. The well-maintained trail to the falls wanders through the lush forest and quiet wetlands for about five miles. Cross over several bridges while enjoying the cool shade offered by the green forest of various ages. It’s an easy hike, manageable by most everyone, with only around a 400-foot elevation gain.

At the year-round 25-foot falls, find tables offering a place for a rest or picnic. Be sure to go down to the bottom of the falls for the best view and to enjoy those negative ions in the air. Then, spend a little time exploring the creek, looking for summer’s wildflowers and checking out the falls from various perspectives.

Hike the Capitol State Forest Trail System

Capital Forest Mima Falls trail foliage
The forests surrounding Mima Falls are of various ages, offering a look at grown forests, young plantings and wetlands. Photo credit: Krysta Carper

Mima Falls takes its name from the nearby unusual Mima Mounds, and Mima is a Native American word for “a little further along.” So, go a little further along and add to the adventure by taking one or more of the other trails from the falls.

There are many possibilities for an extended hike or run with the designated equine loops, logging roads and other more challenging trails from the falls. Bringing a map and compass is helpful if completing one of the longer routes.

One way is to continue hiking on Mima Falls West after the waterfall, where the incline is steeper, but the reward is fantastic views at some of the clearings. The combined Mima Falls West and East trails equate to about 15 miles of exploration in the Capitol State Forest. Or take the McKenny Trail and Equestrian Loop, connecting to the nearby campground Margaret McKenny offering a place to stay for those looking for an overnight adventure in the area.

Getting to Mima Falls

Hiker at the top of Mima Falls.
Hiker Donna Wardine enjoys a peaceful break at the top of Mima Falls. Photo credit: Virginia Schnabel

Just a half-hour from Olympia, Mima Falls is found from I-5 using exit 95 and onto Maytown Road SW for 2.8 miles, where it becomes 128th Avenue. Continue for .7 miles and turn left at the “T” onto Mima Road SW for 1.3 miles. Turn right onto Bordeaux Road SW for .6 miles. Turn right onto Marksman Street SW. After one mile, keep straight at the bend in the road. Follow the gravel loop until you reach the parking lot.

A visit to Mima Falls is a beautiful way to spend time in the outdoors, alone or with others. It’s a sight to behold rushing water cascading over rocks surrounded by verdant foliage. A highlight of the expansive Capitol State Forest, visit Mima Falls this summer for a trail hike or run and experience the region’s natural beauty.

Get more information about outdoor activities by visiting: Outdoor Activities in Olympia & the Pacific Northwest | Experience Olympia.

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