The Chehalis Western Trail follows the route of a Weyerhaeuser Timber Co. railroad by the same name that carried millions of logs out of Washington forests to the coast for shipment from the 1920s to 1980s. Today, the 21.2-mile trail is the backbone for trails that link every major town in Thurston County, including the state capital, Olympia.
From the Woodard Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA) on Puget Sound, the trail passes through forests, farms, and pastures, as well as the suburban community of Lacey, as it heads south into the hills overlooking the scenic Deschutes River valley to its intersection with the Yelm-Tenino Trail.
Users can find trailheads with parking at Woodard Bay, Chambers Lake at 14th Avenue SE, 67th Avenue SE, and Fir Tree Road between Summerwood and Country Vista Drives SE. Parking spaces for two or three cars are located at several other street crossings.
If you start at the Chehalis Western Trailhead, you'll be able to hike the Upper Overlook Trail through Woodard Bay NRCA, unless you're there between April and August when the trail is closed for nesting herons. The path (hiking only) follows a siding of the former main line that crossed Woodard Bay and Weyer Point and ended at Weyerhaeuser's log dump in Chapman Bay, where logs were floated to mills in Everett. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources replanted the rail right-of-way and removed most of the trestles to restore the natural habitat here.
Heading south, you'll arrive in Lacey to find pedestrian bridges over Martin Way SE, Interstate 5, and Pacific Avenue SE. Just south of that third bridge, the trail crosses the Woodland Trail, which serves as a 2.5-mile connection to Olympia.
Trail traffic can get crowded in Lacey, where the old railroad corridor bisects new neighborhoods. South of town, trail users have to negotiate a short stretch of dirt trail and road shoulder to avoid an above-grade railroad crossing. After that, you'll pass the fast-flowing Deschutes River and an outdoor sculpture park before arriving at the end of the trail. There's no parking or services here, but a 2-mile ride northeast on the Yelm-Tenino Trail takes you to Rainier, where you'll find a small grocery, restrooms, and a restaurant.
To reach the Woodard Bay trailhead from I-5, take Exit 109, and head west on Martin Way SE. After 0.6 mile, turn right onto Sleater Kinney Road NE. Go 4.5 miles; the road bears left onto 56th Avenue NE. In another 0.4 mile, turn right onto Shincke Road NE; at 0.6 mile, bear left onto Woodard Bay Road NE. Parking for the trailhead is 0.4 mile ahead on the right.
To reach the Rainier Trailhead on the Yelm-Tenino Trail, which connects to the Chehalis Western Trail 2 miles to the southwest, from I-5, take Exit 109, and head west on Martin Way SE. Take the first left onto College Street SE, which, in 3.7 miles, becomes Rainer Road SE after crossing Yelm Highway. Go 9 more miles, and turn left onto 133rd Avenue SE in Rainier. In 1 mile, turn right onto Center Street N, and proceed about 0.5 mile to the trailhead.