McLane Creek– Wetland wonderland within minutes from downtown Olympia


Quick Facts:

Location: Capitol State Forest

Land Agency: Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

Roundtrip: 1.5 miles

Elevation Gain: minimal

Contact: Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR); South Puget Sound Region Office

Notes: Discover Pass required; dogs prohibited

Access: From Exit 104 on I-5 in Olympia, head west on US 101 taking the Black Lake Boulevard Exit. Proceed south on Black Lake Boulevard which becomes 62nd Ave to a stop sign. Then turn right onto Delphi Road. Soon afterward turn left into the McLane Creek Demonstration Forest and continue to trailhead.

Good to Know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly, interpretive, snow-free winter hike, wildlife observation


One of the finest nature trails in the Puget Sound region; hikers and walkers of all ages, and especially children will love the easy and wildlife-rich trails of McLane Creek. Via wide well-groomed paths and sturdy boardwalks, explore a beaver pond, gurgling McLane Creek, and quiet woodlands. Look for a myriad of birds and explore an old logging railroad grade, too. This is a great place to green bond youngsters and older folks discovering the natural world for the first time.

The McLane Creek Nature Trail consists of a 1.1 mile outer loop, a .3 mile connector trail allowing for a shorter .6 mile loop, and a couple of spur trails to lakeshore and creek overlooks. The trail system is short and easy. And with interpretive plaques and observation decks along the way, McLane Creek is meant to be savored.

The main loop trail starts off by skirting a large beaver pond. In springtime the wetland is transformed into a musical marsh thanks to a chorus of blackbirds and an ensemble of tree frogs performing regularly. The Shortcut Trail was once part of the Mud Bay Logging Company’s rail line. This trail offers good views of the beaver pond, and perhaps a peek of the beaver themselves.

The main trail darts into a dark and gloomy forest of cedar, hemlock, giant maples, monster stumps and over-your-head Devil’s club.  Along the way there are two creek side observation decks. The main loop then returns to the Beaver Pond. Here you can go right on the Rail Road Grade Trail or head left to continue on the main loop. Cross the pond’s outlet and continue wandering along the willow, alder, and cascara lined wetland. Pass a trail heading left to the Forestry Trail (a nice add on for longer hiking) and a trail heading right to an observation point on the pond. Then cross a small creek while rounding a marshy cove and return to your start.

For detailed information on this trail and many more in the region, pick up a copy of my hot-off the press Urban Trails Olympia (Mountaineers books). This wonderful guide includes trails throughout Thurston County, in Shelton, on Harstine Island, and in the Capitol State Forest.

Pick up your copy today!

For information on other things to do in the area and on where to stay, consult Northwest TripFinder.


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