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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.
I used the combination of Yelm-Tenino and Chehalis West trails last year to get ready for the Seattle to Portland ride. Start in Tenino and ride out to where the trail intersects with Chehalis then ride that trail to where the trail crosses South Bay road turn around there and you get around 50 miles of riding. Gas station on South Bay Rd is a good place to replenish water, etc. The weird little dirt part of the trail off of Rainier Road is the only issue. If you haven't ridden there before the trail drops down along Rainier Road for a couple of blocks then there is a sharp left onto this hard packed dirt part of the trail. Take it slow. It is pretty short and then the trail opens up to a very wide paved stretch. Great trail throughout. Quiet nice scenery and strategically placed facilities.
We did 40 miles (20 out and back) today on this fantastic trail. We are fairly new to road cycling and still a bit nervous to ride a lot in traffic. This trail gave us the mileage we needed with out the concerns of riding on busy roads. The scenery is outstanding, a good amount of shade, and not too many other users mid-week. The trail itself seemed well marked and maintained. Please disregard reviews that share concerns about losing the trail. The issues in Lacy "near the Petsmart" have been resolved and we had no problems. There is a short area, as someone stated before about 600ft, of gravel. Our road bikes traversed it fine, no flats. This is quickly followed by an equally short bit on the road with traffic. Just keep going and you will join the trail again on the right side of the road. There is little doubt that we will be frequent users of this trail even though we live near Tacoma. Oh, also, we were very impressed with vehicles stopping at crossings, very courteous and safe! Thank you!
I love walking this quiet, restful trail, it would be all the more restful if the bicyclists could be advised that they can NOT be heard when they approach rapidly from behind a walker or baby buggy, at the speeds they use. They also do not respect walkers by riding two and three abreast and forcing the walker off the paved area.
This could be helped by a sign to remind cyclists to use bells and that they have a duty to share this glorious trail. The section of the trail I use is also used by people dependent on wheelchairs and walkers and I am concerned that there will be a sad accident due to these speeds and no warnings.
I also note that although the dog walkers often use the doggy droppings bags, they tend to throw them on the side of the trail!
Please put some signs up addressing these issues.
I love this trail and have ridden all parts of it.
Relatively flat so it's good for the young ones, quiet and peaceful and overall great.
We rode the trail on Easter Sunday (2014) and found it delightful. We left from Lacey and went south about 8.5 miles before turning around. Mile markers are placed every 1/2 mile. People were friendly and the trail is well maintained. The one confusing part came when the paved trail ended and you had to ride about 600 feet on gravel to the highway. There was no signage for first time riders. Fortunately, some young men pointed us in the right direction. (Hint: At the highway, turn right and stay on the right for about two blocks. There is a sign where the trail picks up again and you head up a little grade, back into the woods.) Love the bench (further south) along the Deschutes river.
I live near the trail and walk it every day with my dog. Often there are bicycle riders, sometimes in groups that ride by. Many are courteous and have a bell, or alert me ahead of time that they are behind me. I appreciate that. However, sometimes a group just races past me without warning. One of these days I am going to accidentally step in front of one of those riders and we will have an accident. I am 63. Let's all share the trail and keep safety first and foremost, shall we?
I ride this trail dozens of times a year. It's very interesting. All types of riding on a bicycle are available. There are sections where you need to keep it under 10 mph when there are a lot walkers, dog walkers, strollers, families, roller bladers, skateboarders, and kids learning to ride bikes. It's a section of about 3 miles heading south of the trailhead in Lacey on 14th Avenue. It's nice to see that section of the trail getting so much use, so don't complain... there are plenty of sections of this trail that are out in the country with excellent visibility and no crossroads for several miles where you can "open it up" and go fast.
You'll go through all kinds of scenery. Urban shopping center parking lot, golf course, along a river, along a lake, an inlet of the puget sound, prairie, through horse property, along railroad tracks, and several sections of trail lined with fir trees. The trail connects with other great trails. The Yelm-Tenino trail that is about 14.5 miles and the Woodland trail that is currently about 7 miles. You could easily spend the entire day riding this network of trails. You are likely to see some wildlife - rabbits, birds, squirrels, raccoons, deer, and maybe even some snakes. Mid-august to early September you'll find many spots to stop and snack on some wild blackberries. From April through October, get on the Woodland trail and ride into Olympia and go to the Farmer's Market (open 10:00 - 3:00) and eat some great local food and grab some fuel (fruit and jerky) for the rest of your riding.
I can't think of a better summer day for vacationers visiting the Lacey-Olympia area that love cycling and sightseeing. Plenty of great road rides around too, as well as mountain biking in Capitol Forest.
I found this trail to be very kind to new riders. While there were a lot of walkers/joggers around the city center, the long stretches of shady, gently inclined trail made for a fun, relaxing ride. There is a couple of sections of trail that are "broken"... through the edge of Lacey, we had to go through a fence, across a parking lot, across Pacific Ave, and then behind a shopping center. Just a little annoying. The second section that we found was down by the Yelm Highway, where the trail abruptly stops at an active railroad berm, and you are directed to go "600 ft of gravel". Unfortunately, when you get out to the Highway, there is no other sign. We waited until we saw another biker come out onto the highway to see which way we needed to go. So, when that happens, turn RIGHT, go under the RR bridge (pretty wooden bridge), and up the highway (generally South - East) about 2 blocks worth, immediately past the housing development driveway with the water feature, and you will see the trail dart to the right, uphill (steep!). One interesting feature of the trail (we did the entire length) was the change of native plants. We went from (the North end) cedars, blackberries, and some mossy/ferns, to dry, dusty, decidious stands of trees, meadows, and horse farms. It seemed to us that the best way to do this trail round trip, would be to start at the North end, Woodard Bay, go to the end, then back. Why? Because you will finish the ride on a downward joyride!
I live right next to the chehalis western trail and walk or bike it atleast three times a week. It is a nice trail but needs wayyyyy more bathrooms!! My young children need somewhere they can go to the bathroom when we are on our walks or bike rides. And it would also be very nice if there was more access to rivers, lakes, or streams. The Fir Tree access is wonderful! But as far as the Lacey accesses, they are not so great.
my girlfriend and I just completed this bike trail and we loved it. There are only 2 things we didn't like about it. The first problem we had was finding where the path continued once we got in the city, near Pet smart.
The trick is to cross the road and go towards a fence in the back, there is a small opening to keep going.
An interesting thing as well is, we seen a sign that says "trail ends" which is not true. This sign was right before you cross the road, have no idea why its there.
The second thing we didn't like was it was not in a loop. which is not to big of an issue just have to be ready to go 20 miles back the other way.
BE AWARE that some jerk broke some glass on trail, it can cause a flat. I was riding with a spare but some people don't have the tools to replace on the spot.
Awesome trail we plan on doing it again very soon.
if you got any questions about the trail just email me id be happy to help
I live here and use the trail often. Fall is a great time because of the many fruit trees along the way.
This was a great trail for us! Unfortunately we only had 3 hours to do a portion of it from the Chambers Lake Trailhead but enjoyed it thoroughly. Lots of shade and changing terrain as well as being well marked. We want to return. Chambers Lake Trailhead is easy to find from I-5. Take the College Ave exit South to 14th Street and turn right. Pass under railroad trestle and turn left into spectacular trailhead.
Anybody else roller blade this trail? Looking for someone to skate with.
"First, the directions on how to get to the Chambers Lake Trailhead are not very clear on the trail website. So here is clearer instructions: From I-5 southbound, take Exit #109. At the bottom of the exit, take a right onto Martin Way. Stay in left lane and turn left onto College Street, cross Pacific Avenue, cross Lacey Boulevard, turn right onto 14th Avenue. Follow approximately 1 mile. The entrance is after the trestle on the left, quick left.
This trail is beautiful. A great trail for family riding. The trailhead is located at milepost seven. By turning left on the trail, you would be heading towards the Puget Sound. We decided to head right and pass Chambers Lake. The trail has a gradual grade. Within the first two miles you will cross two major roads, watch the kids. One thing great about the trail is that they have placed metal post gates and ""rumblers"" before each major road so you can not rush out into traffic. The trail then leads thorough forest and meadow, crosses a golf course and then at mile 3.5 goes ballast for .25 miles. At this point you are on a major road, 67th. Turn right and use the shoulder to travel about 600 feet to the trail entrance on the right. You will climb a steep hill to reach the next part of the trail. Now the trail follows fields and forest, some parts so dense they seem medieval. At mile seven, milepost 15, you begin a jaunt next to the Deschutes River, just beautiful. It meanders along with you for about two miles before it jogs right and you jog left.
After the river leaves us, we move on into forest and field. Pass the train holding yard for the dinner train, we head into forested fields and formica ants galore, was afraid to put my foot down in fear of being attacked and dragged off to their pine needle mounds, which were everywhere."
"This was a wonderful ride. I have cycled this several times. The last time I did the entire path round trip, which is 50 miles. It's a lovely path, a great ride and a nice workout."
"We live about 1/2 mile from this trail and use it frequently for commuting and recreation. It is 99% paved and not heavily used. It's a great weekend trail with only gentle rises that are acceptable to all level of riders.
The trail passes 2 lakes and a river, plus if you take it to the north end it drops you at an arm of Puget Sound. The latest improvement has been made so that you can connect to an east-west trail between the small towns of Yelm and Rainier (about 8 miles apart)."
"I stopped by this trail while travelling home from Seattle on the recommendation of a friend. The trail head parking is large with clean restrooms and water. Lot's of folks with kids and dogs, bikes and rollerblades were coming and going. The track is paved the whole 9.95 miles south, where it ends at a private residence.
There are views of the lake and marshlands, farm fields and wooded glens. The first couple of miles was fairly busy, but became more private further south. Several traffic posts impede your progress at major road crossings and I feel they were constructed too narrow to safely pass without almost coming to a complete stop. A pleasant track to train and just get out for a couple hours, although a bit over developed for my taste. "
"It seems the Chambers Lake Trailhead is no longer ""full service."" The county has closed the restroom for 6 months, until April '03, and the county tells me they may have to close if for a longer period next year. Lack of funding.
The trail itself is terrific -- can't say enough good about the trail. Its asphalt, its clean, its rural and urban. I rollerblade there every chance I get -- just take care of business elsewhere!"
This is a fantastic trail. There's beautiful scenery and pleasant surroundings.
"I just moved to Lacey, WA, this spring. This is a wonderful walking and biking trail for all to enjoy! It is clean and nicely paved. Great job!"
This is really an enjoyable ride. The first part is in the Lacey neighborhoods and is very accessible in about 4 places. It actually starts at mile post 7 off of 14th street and goes to mp 14.1. There is a short section of about 150 yards that parallels the BNSF Railroad's mainline at about mp 10.3. Keep going and follow the signs for the Chehalis Western Trail. It is worth the little bit of gravel. The next portion of trail is really out in the country and is quite a woodsy ride. I have driven from Tacoma twice to ride it and will do it many more times.
"This is a very good ride for all abilties. I especially liked the feeling of being out in the woods and far from civilization. The trail itself is in good shape, but the shoulders could use some cutting back, as the blackberries are starting to encroach. Also, the grass covers a third of the trail in a few places. "
"An interesting ride through suburban and rural forested land. The trail is very level, and the seven miles out and back was an easy ride. I dropped my air pump and someone followed me over two miles just to return it. Viva la rails to trails."
"Very pleasant, well-maintained trail; mostly blacktop. Some major road crossings have been bridged over, others have well-marked crossing areas. However, there is a fairly large (1 mi.) missing link in the middle where the former railroad right-of-way has been absorbed by businesses and the I-5 freeway. Work is ongoing to lengthen this trail and link it to other planned trails in the area."
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