A Walking Tour of Thurston County

Mountain views. Wildlife sightings. Forested parks. Farmers markets — and so much more.

Thurston County, Washington, is home to amazing scenery — mountains, rivers and the Puget Sound for starters — as well as bustling cities and towns filled with local character. And there’s no better way to explore Thurston County than by hopping out of the car and putting one foot in front of the other.

Whether you’re rolling around downtown Olympia or treading a trail on a wildlife refuge outside Lacey, there are plenty of easy miles to cover on a Thurston County walking tour. We’ve compiled some of our favorites here.

 

Olympia — Washington’s capital city is an ideal one for walkers on the hunt for the right mix of scenery and activity. Olympia’s compact downtown — it spans just a half-square-mile — is packed with more than 450 independent businesses, which can fill any afternoon shopping spree. It’s also home to eight parks, the Olympia Farmers Market, a year-round market with close to 100 farm, art, craft and food vendors, and the intriguing Hands On Children’s Museum. Time your downtown walk right and you can stroll through the biannual Olympia Arts Walk. For those looking for a little more natural trek, Priest Point Park has four miles of winding trails, almost two miles of saltwater shoreline and scenic Northwest views.

Tumwater — No visit to this city south of Olympia would be complete without the half-mile stroll through Tumwater Falls Park. Here, the Deschutes River plunges into Capitol Lake in a series of scenic falls. As backdrop, there’s the old Olympic Brewery, whose motto, “It’s the water,” came straight from this site. The Tumwater Town Center Farmers Market runs seasonally on Wednesdays, and three museums — the Crosby House, the Olympic Flight Museum and the Schmidt House — make for interesting stops. Another nice walk is the 1.5-mile loop through Tumwater Hill Park, which offers up stunning views of Mt. Rainier.

Lacey — To Olympia’s east, Lacey can be a walker’s paradise. Out east sits the scenic Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, which is laced with loping trails ideal for wildlife viewing and photography. The 2.2-mile paved Woodland Trail rolls right through downtown Lacey, offering access to a handful of restaurants and shops, as well as the Lacey Historical Museum a few blocks away. Lacey-Thurston County Regional Athletic Complex has two miles worth of walking trails and other activities for families, and on Lacey’s western edge is the Chehalis-Western Trail, a paved pedestrian and cycling trail that stretches for miles north and south.

Image by svetlana57

Jon Bell

Jon Bell writes about the outdoors, fitness, health, and a range of other topics from his home in Lake Oswego, OR. He is also the author of "On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon's Perilous Peak."