Walk Along the Water with these Waterfront Walks in the Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater Areas


One of the many great benefits of living in the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater area is the public’s access to walking trails along bodies of water. These footpaths help you cool down from the summer heat while providing calming waterfront routes to reduce stress and meet your fitness goals. Whether you are new to the area or looking to revisit some local paths, here are some great waterfront walks in Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater.

Loop Your Way Around Capitol Lake in Olympia

Capitol Lake near downtown Olympia provides popular trails with lovely views along open areas and shady paths. This artificial lake is at the mouth of Deschutes River. The short loop of about 1.7 miles is an easy route leading you past bronze markers, one for each of the state’s 39 counties.

The lake loop provides options to extend your stroll. For example, you can climb up the switchback trail to the Capitol Campus bluff that offers a view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Or you can follow the Deschutes Parkway and walk along the estuary. Or you can take Simmons Street NW to cross 5th and 4th Avenues and hop to the boardwalk next to Budd Bay.

Free parking is at the lake’s Heritage Park, Marathon Park or on the Deschutes Parkway. Metered parking is on downtown streets.

Capitol Lake with the capital behind it.
Capitol Lake in Olympia offers a walking path looping around the lake, plus a switchback trail up to the Capitol Campus. Photo credit: Nancy Krier

Walk Along the Water at Olympia’s Percival Landing Boardwalk

Percival Landing, also in downtown Olympia, includes a park plus a 0.9-mile waterfront boardwalk on Budd Bay. The path has stunning water views, public art and exquisite hanging flower baskets during the summer.

As your walking shoes take you along the boardwalk, you can stop at the Port Plaza with its three-story timber observation tower giving a panoramic view of Puget Sound. To enhance your fitness goals, add steps with a stroll over to local shops, restaurants and the Olympia Farmers Market.

One parking option is the Farmers Market, then walk over to the boardwalk. Metered parking is also available on downtown streets.

Olympia's Percival Landing Boardwalk with colorful hanging baskets and ships docked in the distrance
Olympia’s Percival Landing Boardwalk lets you enjoy marine breezes and beautiful hanging flower baskets on your walk along the water. Photo credit: Nancy Krier

Waterfront Walk at Brewery Park: Tumwater Falls’ Trail

There’s nothing like feeling cool mist wash over you as walk on a hot summer’s day. That’s exactly what the trail along Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls gives you on its tree-lined path with native plants and historical markers.

The Olympia Tumwater Foundation operates the park, describing that: “One-half mile of walking trails are highlighted by cascading waterfalls, reflective pools, and massive rocks. Spanning the river at both ends of the gorge and connecting the network of trails are footbridges designed for compatibility with the surroundings and historic accuracy.”

To add more steps to your walk, take the connecting path down the hill to the Tumwater Historical Park where you can proceed along the Deschutes River and observe the Old Brewhouse Tower.

Free parking is at the Brewery Park and Tumwater Historical Park.

wood walkway railing with the Tumwater Falls on the left
Cooling mists from the tumbling water at the Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls provide a perfect location for a summer walk on the park’s trail. Photo credit: Nancy Krier

Waterfront Walking Path: Port of Olympia

This 1.2-mile scenic Billy Frank Jr. Trail honors the Nisqually environmental leader and treaty rights activist. The waterfront walking path stretches around the East Bay side of Budd Inlet, through the Swantown Marina & Boatworks and Port of Olympia property, connecting to the Percival Landing Boardwalk. On this walk, you will enjoy not only the sea breeze, but you can observe the variety of boats moored at the marina. A half-acre park along the trail is adjacent to the site used by the Squaxin Island and Nisqually tribes for canoe landings. See more route details on this handy map.

A day use parking lot is at 1700 Marine Drive NE.

gravel walkway with water on the right
The scenic Billy Frank Jr. Trail at the Port of Olympia has public access to waterfront vistas of Budd Bay and the Olympic Mountains. Photo credit: Nancy Krier

Lacey Water Walks: Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Trails

Not to be confused with the Budd Inlet path also named for the tribal activist, the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge outside Lacey off Interstate-5 provides trails where the Nisqually River flows into Puget Sound. Several walking options can take from one to three hours to complete, depending upon the trail and other activities you select.

Routes like the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail wind through diverse habitats offering wildlife viewing opportunities, so bring your binoculars. And the Washington Trails Association says, “The highlight is the Puget Sound Viewing Platform at the end of the boardwalk, which provides a 360-degree view, including McAllister Creek, the Olympics, Mount Rainier and several islands in Puget Sound.”

Check this page for entrance fee and parking information.

information sign on the railing of the wood walk overlooking the water at Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Bring your binoculars on your walk at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge outside of Lacey. There is a lot of wildlife to see on the waterfront trails. Photo credit: Nancy Krier

Explore More Thurston County Walking Paths

Whether it’s near the Puget Sound’s saltwater or the area’s freshwater rivers, lakes and tumbling falls, a short walk along the water or in the Pacific Northwest forest shade gives a break from summer temperatures, improves health and promotes relaxation. For more about Olympia area trails, visit the Experience Olympia & Beyond website.

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