Loop trails through the beaches, woods and prairies near Olympia, Washington

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The web of trails through this wetland park serve as a woodsy playground for the Northeast Olympia neighborhood.

Distance: 1 mile

Time:  30 minutes

Steep:  No

Challenging:  No

Trailhead:  1700 San Francisco Ave NE Olympia, WA 98506

The trails through Mission Creek Nature Park are not the most captivating Olympia has to offer.  Rather than getting away to the solitude of the woods, it’s more like romping through a neighborhood’s gigantic backyard.  And that’s what makes Mission Creek so great.  This is the kind of park that reminds me of the woods I would play in as a little boy, my friends and I going out to play ‘Army’ or ‘Indiana Jones.’

The 37 acre park is ringed by homes and dead end streets, and every one of them seems to have its own entrance.   On my recent journey through its winding trails, I encountered no less than a father and son out on a mountain bike ride, an older couple coming back from birdwatching, a younger couple picking blackberries, and a new mother with a baby on her back walking her dogs.  Here at Mission Creek you will see rope swings hung from ancient Douglas firs, remnants of kids’ forts cobbled together with alder branches and what I can only presume is a dirt bike jump.

Mission Creek is not without its natural charms, however.  The park is built around a sizable marsh in the center and you will see countless deer trails exiting the human trail to get down to the wetlands.  Impressively thick cedars and firs survive in these woods, serving as wizened anchors to an otherwise young forest.  As you walk along the trails, you can often hear rustling from deep within the brush.  Have you startled a bird? A garter snake? A beaver?  They usually don’t let you know the answer.

I like to enter the park at the San Francisco Street entrance, there is ample parking and it is clearly marked.  The trails through Mission Creek are a little chaotic because there are so many entrances, but you can make a loop trail by going left at the entrance, and then following a general oblong loop inside the boundary of the park.  If your trail has led you to a street or someone’s backyard, do a quick backtrack and continue clockwise on the main trail.

Mission Creek Nature Park is a great place to explore with your kids or your dog.  If you grew up with woods in your backyard, you may reappreciate the afternoons of adventure it continually offered.  Wander around (maybe even get lost a little bit)  but know that you are safe, because around the bend a friendly neighbor is bound to come along and point you in the right direction.