Wild Logo v4

15 BEST Trails for Hiking and Running in Olympia, WA

The Olympia area is surrounded by fascinating hiking and running destinations. There are many family-friendly routes with historical and environmental significance here.
ItIsWild.com

If you found yourself in Olympia looking for some trails, you are in luck. The area offers fantastic escapes all under 40 minutes from downtown.

Many destinations on this list are family and dog-friendly and have interesting historical specialties. Enjoy!

Trails near Olympia:

  1. Sequalitchew Creek Trail
  2. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
  3. Mima Falls West Trail
  4. Priest Point Trail
  5. Watershed Park Loop
  6. Tumwater Falls Trail
  7. Four Cedars Trail
  8. McLane Creek Nature Trail
  9. Woodard Bay Loop Trail
  10. Lost Valley and McKenny Trails Loop aka Sherman Creek Loop
  11. Greenline Climbing and Wedekind Trail Loop
  12. Millersylvania Northwest Loop
  13. Chehalis Western Trail
  14. Yelm Tenino Trail
  15. Porter Creek Falls Trail

1. Sequalitchew Creek Trail

  • Highlight: Relaxing, easy-to-follow trail with a beach.
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trail Length: 3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 228 feet
  • Time to Complete: 1 hour 30 min
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Near police station at DuPont (Google Maps)
  • Distance from Olympia: 16 miles (20 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

It is a perfect time of the year to walk the trails, and if you are looking for options near Olympia, the Sequalitchew route is an excellent place to start. 

This short but busy trail is located near DuPont. It starts on an old gravel road leading up from the car park, then turns to pavement and back to gravel. 

The shaded trail runs to abandoned railway tracks and then to the beach with a cute picnic spot.

Locals seem to take pride in the area and keep it clean.

Short, scenic, and flat, the route is perfect for a family gateway or a lunch walk.

Related: 13 Stunning Recreational Lakes near Olympia, WA

2. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Photo: mndociCC BY 2.0
  • Highlight: Diverse wildlife, great for birdwatching, stroller-approved.
  • Type: Varies
  • Trail Length: from 1 to 10 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 100 feet
  • Time to Complete: from 20 min to 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: At the HQ (Google Maps)
  • Distance from Olympia: 10 miles (20 min)
  • Dog Friendly: No

The Nisqually Wildlife Refuge is a highly-rated area just 20 minutes from Olympia. It is a river estuary with rich wildlife and a system of boardwalks and viewing points.

You can make your hike as long or as short as you like. But make sure to bring the binoculars as the birdlife is the biggest attraction here.

There are plenty of benches and picnic areas for taking breaks, and the trail maps are provided so you won’t get lost.

Wheelchair accessible and stroller-approved, the area is a great day out for families and nature fans.

Related: Best Beaches near Olympia, WA

3. Mima Falls West Trail

Mima Falls West Trail
  • Highlight: Small but pretty waterfall and a gentle walk through the woods
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trail Length: 4.7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 561 feet
  • Time to Complete: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: At the trailhead (Google Maps)
  • Distance from Olympia: 18 miles (25 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Mima Falls is located on the edge of the Capitol State Forest. It is a popular area with many trails sprawling the woods.

The Mima Falls West trail is an easy hike that takes you straight to the waterfall. It gets muddy during the wet season but is relatively flat with only a few hilly sections.

The whole walk is in the shaded woods, which makes it a perfect summer destination. However, don’t hold your breath for the falls. It is pretty but won’t make it in the state’s top ten.

Although it is a popular area with various activities like mountain biking and horseriding, it doesn’t feel crowded.

Overall, the hike is an excellent gateway and can easily be extended into longer backpacking trips.

4. Priest Point Trail

  • Highlight: Short trail with steep sections and fantastic views of Ellis Cove and the sound. Perfect for a workout.
  • Type: Lollipop
  • Trail Length: 2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 214 feet
  • Time to Complete: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: At the trailhead (Google Maps)
  • Distance from Olympia: 3.3 miles (10 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Although not very long, Priest Point trail is one of Olympia’s favorites. With its steep sections and just 2 miles in length, it is a fantastic place for workouts and lunch walks.

The trail features a pebble beach and beautiful views of Ellis Cove, Gull Island, and the bay. Naturally, the sunsets are gorgeous here, so time your visit right.

Also, you can easily extend your hike by visiting the opposite side of the cove, which has even more trails and a stunning Samarkand Rose Garden.

Despite being on the outskirts of Olympia, this area has an ‘out there’ feel; it is great for escaping the hustle and bustle.

Related: 13 Stunning Recreational Lakes near Olympia, WA

5. Watershed Park Loop

Watershed Park Loop
  • Highlight: Lovely shaded park loop. It’s so nice you have to loop it twice.
  • Type: Loop
  • Trail Length: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 177 feet
  • Time to Complete: 45 min
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Henderson Blvd (Google Maps)
  • Distance from Olympia: 1 mile (3 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Watershed Park is frequently described as Olympia’s treasure. It is the largest green area in the city.

One of the highlights of the park is the fish hatchery with a viewing window. During the fall, you can see dozens of salmon spawning, completing their lifecycle.

The loop around the Watershed park is a pleasant shaded walk on gravel paths with various historical features.

The well-kept trail is suited for runners, walkers, and families, as well as nature fans who will enjoy the park’s numerous wildlife.

Related: Best Beaches near Olympia, WA

6. Tumwater Falls Trail

  • Highlight: Charming city park with a stunning waterfall.
  • Type: Loop
  • Trail Length: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 85 feet
  • Time to Complete: 25 min
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: C St SW (Google Maps)
  • Distance from Olympia: 3 miles (8 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Tumwater Falls is one of the easiest and shortest trails in Olympia. Only 0.8 of a mile, it is a busy urban route used primarily by walkers and runners. 

Its main highlight is the picturesque falls surrounded by a gorge of boulders and deep water pools. In the fall, you can see salmon jumping cascades to get to their spawning grounds.

Another feature of this area is its industrial heritage. There are many old buildings like mills, hydroelectric installations, colonial buildings, and the Old Olympia Brewery.

The paths are mainly gravel, and the terrain is flat. Also, there are plenty of observation decks, picnic areas, and benches. It is another urban treasure that Olympians are lucky to have.

7. Four Cedars Trail

  • Highlight: Beautiful short trail with cedar trees, sand spit, and views of the bay.
  • Type: Loop
  • Trail Length: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 222 feet
  • Time to Complete: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: 61st Ave NE (Google Maps)
  • Distance from Olympia: 13 miles (25 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Four Cedars Trail is a 1.8 miles outer loop in Tolmie State Park – an easy-to-get-to area northeast of Olympia.

The park is pleasant at any time of the year. It has benches, picnic areas, bathrooms, and water fountains; plus, the trails are well-maintained and adequately marked. Except, it gets muddy after the rain. 

Some of this route’s highlights are the views of the bay, sand beach, diverse wildlife, and quiet woods, which make the area charming and beautiful.

However, one of the things to note is that the trail has a few steep hills that will test your fitness, perfect for workouts!

Related: 13 Stunning Recreational Lakes near Olympia, WA

8. McLane Creek Nature Trail

  • Highlight: Highly-rated nature area, perfect for running and hiking.
  • Type: Loop
  • Trail Length: 2.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 137 feet
  • Time to Complete: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: At the trailhead (Google Maps)
  • Distance from Olympia: 10 miles (15 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

McLane Creek Nature Trail is located on the edge of the Capitol State Forest. Just 2.2 miles in length, it is an easy flat hike on the packed gravel path.

The area is easy to access; the road is tarmacked all the way with a small parking lot at the trailhead. The lot gets somewhat busy during public holidays and sunny weekends. Arrive early to secure a spot.

The trail runs through the moss-covered woods crossing a few creeks and looping around a beautiful pond. It is a cool, shaded walk, delightful during the summer.

Depending on the time of the year, you will see lots of wildlife here. Newts, frogs, butterflies, and a plethora of birds are just a few examples. Perfect for educational nature trips. 

Also, there are a few more trails in the area, so you can easily extend your hike.

Related: Best Beaches near Olympia, WA

9. Woodard Bay Loop Trail

  • Highlight: Calm and tranquil shaded walk with lots of wildlife.
  • Type: Loop
  • Trail Length: 2.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 199 feet
  • Time to Complete: 1 hour 15 min
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Woodard Bay Rd NE (Google Maps)
  • Distance from Olympia: 8 miles (15 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Just 8 miles from Olympia, Woodard Bay Loop is another highly-rated trail not far from the city. It offers both the woods and the waterside, which makes it a unique destination. 

Woodard Bay is a nature preserve with a multitude of species. Bring binoculars to get a closer look at nesting herons, cormorants, and bald eagles. And on the beach, there are plenty of seals and crabs. It is a fun place for nature fans.

The trail itself has a paved road section that is closed to traffic. But for the most part, it is a gravel track through the woods with bridges crossing multiple creeks.

Because it is an ecologically sensitive area, dogs are not allowed here. 

And another complaint is that the parking spaces are limited. Apart from that, it is the top destination.

10. Lost Valley and McKenny Trails Loop aka Sherman Creek Loop

Lost Valley and McKenny Trails Loop aka Sherman Creek Loop
Photo: Dan OxCC BY 2.0
  • Highlight: Long and well-kept trail along the creeks, perfect for trail running.
  • Type: Loop
  • Trail Length: 8.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,260 feet
  • Time to Complete: 5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: At the trailhead (Google Maps)
  • Distance from Olympia: 19 miles (40 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Sherman Creek Loop combines two trails in Capitol Forest that make a nice 8.3-miles circuit through classic PNW wilderness.

Apart from hiking, the route is a popular destination for mountain biking and horseriding. However, you won’t meet more than a handful of people because of the remote location and the loop’s length. It really is a quiet and tranquil area.

The best thing about these trails is that they are clearly marked and very well-maintained. This makes them one of the top remote destinations near Olympia.

The only complaint about the area is the lack of landmarks or views which may be off-putting to some. But if you are looking for a tranquil hike in the woods, this is it.

Related: 13 Stunning Recreational Lakes near Olympia, WA

11. Greenline Climbing and Wedekind Trail Loop

Greenline Climbing and Wedekind Trail Loop
Photo: JenniCC BY 2.0
  • Highlight: Highly-rated and well-kept trail with stunning views, popular with MTBs.
  • Type: Loop
  • Trail Length: 9.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,511 feet
  • Time to Complete: 5 hour
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: At the trailhead (Google Maps)
  • Distance from Olympia: 20 miles (40 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Greenline Climbing and Wedekind Trail is another highly-rated loop in the same area as the previous hike.

However, this route is a lot more popular with MTBs. You are guaranteed to meet a few along the way.

The area is well-maintained, and the trails are well-marked, but it gets muddy and boggy here after the rain. 

The access to the trailhead is through the narrow but good-quality road suitable for most cars. And there are BBQ pits and a picnic area near the parking lot. 

In addition, there is Fall Creek Campground nearby, so you can make a weekend out of it and complete both trails. 

Related: Best Beaches near Olympia, WA

12. Millersylvania Northwest Loop

Millersylvania Northwest Loop
Photo: Dan OxCC BY 2.0
  • Highlight: Flat, shaded hike with a stunning lake and a campground.
  • Type: Loop
  • Trail Length: 4.7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 211 feet
  • Time to Complete: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Inside the Millersylvania Park (Google Maps)
  • Distance from Olympia: 12 miles (20 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Millersylvania is a state park 8 miles south of Olympia. In 1921, it was donated to the state by the Miller family, who gave it its peculiar name – Millersylvania. 

It is a historically significant area because of the well-preserved Civilian Conservation Corps grounds with bathhouses, picnic shelters, and a caretaker’s home.

There are also remnants of the logging industry, including large tree stumps and a narrow-gauge railway.

Apart from history, the park offers plenty of activities, including hiking, boating, fishing, and swimming, and has a campground for overnight stays.

Millersylvania Northwest Trail loops around the park and passes through many of its features. It is an easy and flat hike that is loved by many.

13. Chehalis Western Trail

Chehalis Western Trail
  • Highlight: Paved and flat rail-trail, perfect for cycling, running, rollerblading and skating.
  • Type: Point to Point
  • Trail Length: 20.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 500 feet
  • Time to Complete: 10 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Northern end trailhead (Google Maps)
  • Distance from Olympia: 8 miles (15 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Chehalis Western is one of the coolest rail-trails in Washington, and luckily for the Olympians, it is right on their doorstep.

This used to be the Weyerhaeuser Timber Co. railroad which carried timber from Washington’s forests to the coast. 

Nowadays, thanks to the “rails-to-trails” program, it is a 21-mile tarmacked artery stretching from Woodard Bay to Rainier.

Flat, smooth, and shaded, this rail-trail is perfect for rollerblading, skating, biking, and running. It is also wheelchair accessible and hence great for strollers. 

Although paved, Chehalis Western is a nice challenge for experienced hikers who can try and complete it in one day. And beginners can use it to build miles on flat ground.

Related: 13 Stunning Recreational Lakes near Olympia, WA

14. Yelm Tenino Trail

  • Highlight: Another fantastic rail trail, paved and perfect for cycling and running.
  • Type: Point to Point
  • Trail Length: 16.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 313 feet
  • Time to Complete: 8 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Railroad St SW in Yelm (Google Maps)
  • Distance from Olympia: 20 miles (35 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Yelm-Tenino Trail is a section of an old railway that used to run to Tacoma, supporting the sandstone industry.

Like many rail-trails, it is flat, wide, and smooth, allowing cycling, skating, and rollerblading away from road traffic.

The charming town of Rainier is the trail’s mid-point and has many places to have lunch and rest.

The remarkable fact about the route is that cyclists use it in the annual Seattle to Portland Bike Race, riding from Yelm to Tenino. So if you want a taster of the famous STP, it is a great starting point.

Hiking or running this trail is not a problem. The only concern is the tarmac that can be hard on your feet, but apart from that, it is excellent.

15. Porter Creek Falls Trail

  • Highlight: A short, tranquil hike to the waterfall.
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trail Length: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 354 feet
  • Time to Complete: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Porter Falls Campground (Google Maps)
  • Distance from Olympia: 32 miles (45 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Porter Creek Falls Trail is a short route in the western part of the Capitol Forest, which leads to a series of falls. Many describe this area as a hidden gem.

The trail is only 1.8 miles but has a steep ascent at the beginning and gets very muddy in wet weather. 

However, the hike is magical; it has a lot of wildlife, moss-covered trees, and fern – a classic PNW atmosphere. Dogs and kids can easily manage the route.

Because the trail starts at Porter Creek Campground, it is easy to spend the night here; the area has neat campsites right by the river.

Final Thoughts

The Olympia area is surrounded by fascinating hiking and running destinations. It is a luxury to have so many fun places at your doorstep.

Hopefully, the list above gave you a few hiking ideas. It is up to you now to venture out and explore.

Hiking Motivation: Funny and Inspirational Hiking Quotes

More Trails in Washington:

Lakes in Washington:

You Might Also Like: