5 trails for working up a Thanksgiving appetite, or burning off the calories

There are few smells that rival that of Thanksgiving dinner, but there’s one that’s bound to be just as appealing to walkers, runners and cyclists: new trail smell.

Want to get a whiff?

Stand on the bridges crossing the Mashel and Little Mashel rivers in Eatonville and breathe it in. That smell of freshly cut lumber is courtesy of the two new bridges recently installed on the Bud Blancher Trail.

No longer is the trail split into sections too short to warrant a visit. Now the trail is a 2-mile crushed-rock path ideal for working up an appetite for that turkey dinner. Or for burning off the excess calories inevitably consumed during the holiday feast.

The South Sound has several other options for accomplishing this task — trails close to town and ideal for quick workouts. There are the old standbys such as Capitol State Forest, Fort Steilacoom, Point Defiance and the growing network of paved multiuse trails.

But we’ve got five other recommendations for you. Let’s start with the new one:


WHERE: Eatonville.

MILES: 4 (round trip plus the option to tack on 50 miles of trails and roads at Pack Forest).


GETTING THERE: Heading south on Washington Avenue in Eatonville, turn left on Center Street and find the trailhead on your right at the top of the small hill. This is the ideal place for walkers and runners to start. Those on bikes or those wishing to do the entire trail can start at the trailhead near the town ball fields. This section requires using sidewalks, a closed road near the airport and crossing Center Street. To reach the ball field parking lot, turn left on Lynch Creek Road from Washington Avenue.

DOGS: Must be on leashes. Clean up after them.

THE TRAIL: Recent work on this trail, including the installation of the new bridges, created a recreational gem for Eatonville.

While the crushed-rock trail technically is complete only to the west side of the Little Mashel River, a dirt road immediately picks up where the trail ends and leads bikers, walkers and hikers to Pack Forest and its web of trails and unpaved roads.

In other words, if a mostly flat trail winding through the trees and over rivers seems too easy, you can keep going all day. Hop on a bike at the Lynch Creek Road trailhead in Eatonville, and 6.9-miles and 1,000 vertical feet later you’ll be signing the summit register on Hugo Peak.

Check out the trail and road map on the Pack Forest website before you go. It can be an easy place to get lost and not all trails are open to bikes. Also, wear bright colors in the forest to be visible. Hunting is allowed in parts of the forest Fridays-Sundays.

MORE INFO: 360-832-3361, packforest.org.


WHERE: Olympia.

MILES: 3.8.


GETTING THERE: From Plum Street in Olympia, drive north as the road becomes East Bay Drive and then Boston Harbor Road. The park is on your left, about 6.5 miles north of East Bay Waterfront Park.

DOGS: Must be on leashes. Clean up after them.

THE TRAIL: According to a trail guide published by the City of Olympia, there are 3.8 miles of trails packed into this 50-acre Thurston County park. These trails don’t necessarily flow neatly into one 3.8-mile hike, but a walk here still has plenty to offer.

There are shelters and benches along the paths, boardwalks, an open area and playground for turning the kids loose, and interpretive signage.

But the highlight is arguably the 1,100-foot beach on Budd Inlet, where you can enjoy the view of Olympia and the Capitol building.

MORE INFO: co.thurston.wa.us/parks.


WHERE: Lacey.

MILES: 3 (round trip).

ELEVATION GAIN: Mostly flat.

G ETTING THERE: From Interstate 5 in Lacey, take Exit 111 and turn north on Marvin Road. After 0.2 miles, turn right on Hogum Bay Road then right on Willamette Drive. After 1.5 miles turn right on Campus Glen Drive and park at Meridian Neighborhood Park. To find the trailhead, cross Campus Glen Drive and turn right on the sidewalk. Walk about 500 feet and find the trail on your left.

DOGS: Must be on leashes. Clean up after them.

THE TRAIL: This City of Lacey trail is a flat, easily accessed path through the woods near the Golf Club at Hawks Prairie’s Woodlands course.

The trail offers occasional fairway views, but the trees are thick enough to protect you from most errant golf shots. Use the crosswalk once you reach Campus Park Drive toward the east end of the trail and continue to a large storm pond. From the right angle, you could probably snap a selfie that makes it look as if you ventured someplace a little wilder than Lacey’s north side.

The trail, dedicated in 2008, is named for the surveyor credited with extending the Willamette Meridian (the principle line for land surveying in Washington) from Portland to Puget Sound in 1851.

MORE INFO: ci.lacey.wa.us.


WHERE: Gig Harbor.


ELEVATION GAIN: 250 or more depending on route.

GETTING THERE: From state Route 16, take the Burnham Drive exit and use the traffic circle to turn left on Burnham Drive. Turn left on Sehmel Drive. After a half mile, turn left on Bujacich Road. The parking area will be on your left.

DOGS: Must be on leashes. Clean up after them.

THE TRAIL: Use your imagination as you tour this 122-acre PenMet Parks forest, and the constant sound of cars zipping by on state Route 16 sounds like a stream.

The network of trails — each of the 26 intersections is marked with a letter — can be a bit confusing at first, but small maps are posted on many trail markers. A map can also be downloaded at penmetparks.org.

Parts of the trails also are open to bikes and horses.

The highlight of the forest is arguably the paths that run through the McCormick Creek drainage and its many shades of green. This section is closed to bikes and horses.

MORE INFO: penmetparks.org.


WHERE: Tacoma.

MILES: 4.5.


GETTING THERE: From Interstate 5 in Tacoma, take exit 135 to East 28th Street, which will become state Route 167 (River Road). Veer right on Pioneer Way and continue to the trailhead, on your right, after the Clay Art Center and before Waller Road.

DOGS: Must be on leashes. Clean up after them.

THE TRAIL: Hiking the lush green canyon and watching salmon splash in Swan Creek, it’s hard to believe that at no point on this trail are you farther than 2.2 miles from the Tacoma Dome.

But you’re bound to get a few reminders. On a recent visit with friends, we saw a couple walking their cat. Now, there’s something you aren’t likely to see on the Pacific Crest Trail. The silence was also sometimes interrupted by the clamor of nearby construction work.

Starting at the Pioneer Way trailhead, the walk up the canyon is about 2.2 miles. You can return on the Canyon Rim Trail, but, as my hiking partners quickly observed, it is significantly less scenic and, on windy days, much less protected. The upper park offers more hiking options including a grid of old paved roads.

The canyon and rim trails are closed to cyclists, but a mountain bike trails system sits at the south end of the trail. The bike park opened earlier this year and volunteers are already looking to add new trails. The bike park can be accessed at East 56th Street east of Portland Avenue and East T Street near Lister Elementary School.

MORE INFO: metroparkstacoma.org