This short stroll provides stunning views of undeveloped salt waterfront and changes dramatically as the tide rises and lowers.
Distance: 3/4 mile
Time: 20 minutes for the walk, but I highly recommend stopping on the shore awhile to spy for Great Blue Herons and Bald Eagles
Challenging: Not particularly, but woe is the explorer that decides to walk into the mud of Mud Bay. You can sink up to your thighs, so stay high on the shoreline.
Trailhead: In the rear of the WSDOT Park ‘n’ Ride lot, adjacent and west of Mud Bay Storage at 510 Madrona Beach Road, Olympia
Do not be dismayed by the large parking lot, the industrial park or the busy traffic of Highway 101 roaring by. What waits for you at the end of this little gravel trail is a beautiful sight that could be one hundred, or one thousand years old.
Walk along the trail towards the water and enjoy the wild daisies and rose bushes…the butterflies and bumblebees certainly are. Mud Bay is one of the many salt water inlets that make up the southernmost reach of Puget Sound. To your left, you will begin to get glimpses of one of this bay’s many smaller inlets.
Poking out of the water, you will see barnacled pilings that once held a railroad trestle. Look out farther into the bay, and you can see the remaining skeleton of the trestle, slowly eroding.
When you get to the big tree by the water (a Douglas Fir), which not too long ago sported a rope swing, hop down towards shore. The bank is partially covered in a fascinating ground cover plant that spends much of its life underwater during high tide.
And now: take a deep breath and take a full sweeping look at this place. The Black Hills rise in the west, and across the bay are hundreds and thousands of Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir and Madrona trees, all hanging languidly over the water. Look along the near coastline for a Great Blue Heron, standing like a statue waiting for prey to wander too close in the shallow water.
If you’d like, you can turn around and pop out the way you came. Or, if you feel like stretching your legs, continue east along the trail, which hugs the shoreline. Yes, on your right you may be distracted by the sounds of power tools in the industrial shops, but you’re also walking along their back lots. This is where many of their old multi-colored Ford pickups are parked, and they lend a feeling of mellowed old age to the area.
The trail releases you back onto Madrona Beach Road, so turn right and walk the couple of hundred yards back to the Park ‘n’ Ride. And next time, why not bring a picnic for a timeless afternoon under that big Doug Fir on Mud Bay?