Get your heart pumping with a quick run, explore a forest that feels a world away from the city or take the kids for a stroll—all on trails in the Olympia region. Award winning author and outdoors writer Craig Romano dishes on the best beaches, shorelines, old-growth forests, wetlands, riverfronts, vistas, prairies and historic sites. As the author of the recently released guidebook, Urban Trails: Olympia, Craig introduces locals and visitors alike to the walking paths and surprising wilderness opportunities.
Best Hikes for Little Legs: As the father of a three-year-old boy, Romano has experience when it comes to hiking with littles in tow, “Tumwater Falls is a great option for bringing kids along. It’s short, easy, there’s steps, bridges, a paved trail, gardens, lots of water, a big picnic area and it’s close to the city.” Another can’t miss option is the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, “there’s a board walk, nature center and lots of wildlife for kids to see.” Those looking for a beach to stroll along with the kiddos, “head to Tolmie State Park, there’s a beach, bridges, plenty of hiking and a picnic area for snacks and lunch.”
Tumwater Falls, Photo by Craig Romano
Pet Friendly Trails: Just about every hike in the Urban Trails: Olympia guidebook is pet-friendly, but according to Romano a standout option is Mima Falls Trail, “it’s not crowded, there’s plenty of forest for your dog to run around and water to cool off.” Another pet-friendly spot is Pioneer Park in Tumwater and Millersylvania State Park.
Mima Falls, Photo by Craig Romano
Top Urban Trail: For Romano, this topic “is a toss-up,” he notes that “Capitol Lake is one of my most absolute favorite urban trails in Washington State. There’s a loop, lots of history, lots of places to stop and it’s one of the best places for an urban run. Another great spot is Priest Point Park, it’s super close to downtown but you’ll feel remote.”
Capitol Lake, Photo by Craig Romano
Trail with the Best Views in Thurston County: According to Romano, all of these hikes have stunning views, but there is a clear winner, “Mima Mounds in the late Spring is perfection. The flowers are in bloom, feast your eyes on the native prairie and the views of Mt Rainier are breathtaking. Another one to add to the list is the Capitol Peak Trail, on a clear day see all the way out to the water.”
Mima Mounds, Photo by Craig Romano
Most Challenging Trail. According to Romano, Capitol Peak Trail is a challenge for more advanced hikers and trail runners, “This option makes for a classic trail run or all-day hike. On this trail you’ll notice a 2,300-foot elevation gain and a quiet atmosphere. This trail isn’t over run or over crowded.” Romano says even though this is considered a difficult hike, there are ways to make it easier, “there are different starting points along the trail to make it more manageable.”
Capitol Peak Trail, Photo by Craig Romano
What makes the Olympia region decidedly different? Romano says, “the South Sound is one of the last places in the greater Seattle area where you can still stumble upon native prairies and see prairie wildflowers. The best time to gaze on these beauties is late Spring into early Summer – this is an offering that other places just don’t have.” In addition to all the great hiking the area has to offer, Romano adds that there’s also a plethora of bike trails, “with more than 40 miles of paved bike trails cyclists can ride from Yelm to Tenino without driving, just using trails. Also, cyclists can bike from Tenino to Woodard Bay Loop Trail on the old logging railroads turned into biking trails.”
Craig Romano is an award-winning author of more than a dozen books about outdoor recreation and writes for several outdoor publications, tourism agencies, and HikeoftheWeek.com. Learn more at craigromano.com. Purchase Urban Trails: Olympia HERE.
Show us your view from the top of the trail or your favorite outdoor adventures. Tag social posts #DecidedlyDifferent and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter (@Experience_Oly) and Instagram (@ExperienceOly).