TRAILBEAR TRIES THE TWIN TRAILS … The Woodland Trails of Olympia and Lacey
Finally! Some sunny days amid the spring rains.
The TrailBear is down in Thurston County, WA, surveying their network of Class I trails. They have over 40 miles of such. You can pass the time riding up, down, to and fro. Worth the commute from the San Juan Islands – sez Der Bear.
These trails are the urban Woodland Trails of Olympia and Lacey. They are each about 2.48 miles long and joined in the middle at the junction with the Chehalis Western – which is a great 21 mile ride. Think of them as Siamese twins, joined at the hip.
You can tell the Olympia trail because it has signage, mature trees and such. The Lacey trail is more urban and has no signage. The info on the TL page needs an update. You've got about five miles of finished riding.
The trails are anchored on the western end by a superb trailhead facility at Eastside St. in Olympia and by Woodland Park in Lacey on the east side. Woodland Park is much expanded from what you can see on Google Earth.
The Woodland Trail (Olympia) is the older of the siblings. It is a green forest ride with lots of shade, some 3% grades and a Most Excellent trailhead facility over on Eastside. TB appreciated the shade as the temp for the day hit 81.
The Woodland Trail (Lacey) is a very urban ride alongside an arterial, through two traffic circles and assorted street crossings down to Woodland Park. Both trails have been heavily planted by volunteers – 15,000 and counting, we are told. In a few years, when they mature, both trails will be greener than ever.
Trail bed: 5* The trail bed is good blacktop with very few cracks or root heaves. It’s a smooth ride.
Scenery: 4* on the Oly side and 3* on the Lacey side. Trees beat cars.
Facilities: 7* at the Eastside St. Trailhead – that is one excellent facility. When you live in the NorthWet, you appreciate overhead cover. 4* on the other end in Woodland Park. The restrooms are new and cabin style. There are covered picnic areas and other facilities waiting for you.
You can stage out of either facility, but Woodland Park has lots of parking and parking is limited over at Eastside. A third option is to stage out of the Chambers Lake Trailhead on the Chehalis Western, 0.5 miles from the junction. That puts you in the middle of the trails. Let’s begin the ride over at Eastside…
EASTSIDE ST. TRAILHEAD, GE: N47.03454 W122.88653
The parking lot is small, but what a great facility! (TB thinks of all those gravel parking lots with a lone sanican in the weeds. He is spoiled now.) A great canopy with a very PC sod roof covers a pair of handicap flushies and four picnic tables. It can be pouring, but you can stay dry here. Handicap flushies are great – TB and bike can fit. No way Der Bear is going to leave $2K of bike and a full suite of equipment unattended.
Hop on the trail and start up the grade. This is a green tunnel ride in summer. Love the shade on a hot day. Notice that the land here is rather cut up. The road bed variously runs on embankments or through large cuts. You will find benches to hand here and there. The first stop is for art appreciation at the …
GRAFFITI UNDERPASS, GE: N47.03936 W122.86927
Good graffiti is good urban art. It enlivens yards of bland concrete. Look past the gang sign and scribbles to some interesting throw-ups. There is a bench provided for contemplation. That done, saddle up and head uphill to the first of the Woodland Trail x I-5 (freeway) Trail connections.
I-5 (FREEWAY) TRAIL CONNECTION, GE: N47.03983 W122.86793
There are two connections between the Woodland and the I-5 trails, but TrailBear mentions this one because, if you are riding toward Eastside, you can divert to the I-5 at this point. Why? Well, according to Dryden, "Men are but children of a greater growth."
The fun of it. There is a screaming downhill over on the I-5 trail just beyond this point, heading west. It’s on a wide bike lane section (10’ of lane) along the frontage road. When you screech to a stop at Eastside, the trailhead facility is about 300’ to the left. Now you can ride up the RR grade at a sedate pace. Roadies, who would eschew a tame 3% grade can ride up the frontage road and gain both merit and thigh muscle.
The trail climbs out of the greenery and heads east into an increasingly more urban landscape to meet the Woodland (Lacey) Trail at …
THE WOODLAND – CHEHALIS WESTERN JUNCTION, GE: N47.03912 W122.83929
This is where the two trails cross at the edge of Lacey. For a major trail junction it is rather underwhelming. TB would have a wayside here with benches, a bike rack, overhead cover, a map board and trail signage. What is there is an empty info kiosk. Not very helpful. Not even a trail map.
The Chehalis Western comes in two segments. The Woodard Bay section starts 0.1 miles north up the Right of Way and runs up toward Woodard Bay – about 6 miles. Contrary to the county trail map, the CW does not reach Woodard Bay. It stops at a trailhead at N47.12396 W122.85061. From there the RoW is a ped trail and that is closed from 4/1 to 8/15 for some sensitive species. Said RoW is nowhere to be seen back at the Woodland Trail junction.
Head east down the Woodland Trail for a few meters. There, on the north side is a gravel path and a fence. The RoW is along the edge of that parking lot. It crosses Pacific Ave. and runs along the back of the mall parking lot. A TrailBear Word to the Wise: Don’t try to jaywalk across Pacific Ave. at the RoW unless it’s 0400 in the morning. There is a LOT of traffic on Pacific. Go down to the light.
The other segment of the C-W terminates at the junction. From here it heads south to join the Yelm-Tenino Trail, about 15 miles to the south. Nice ride. The Chamber Lake Trailhead is just a half mile down the RoW and a decent place to stage from.
However, you are riding the Woodland Trails, so keep heading east. One block later the trail crosses Sleater Kinney Rd. and begins to merge with Pacific Ave. It will run alongside Pacific until Woodland Park. Ahead you will two traffic circles, ped crossings that light up at night and speak to you: “Traffic may not stop.” They did.
TB found that the drivers were more than happy to stop. He took the traffic circles as a ped and used the cross walks. (Different culture. A Californian returned from the NorthWet complained to Der Bear that the Washington drivers were driving the speed limit. Imagine! In CA the speed limit is the lower limit. You should not let your speed drop below the posted limit. Upper limit? Huh? Interactions with the CHP determine that on a case by case basis.)
ACCESS PARKING TRAILSIDE, GE: N47.03797 W122.83017
There is a strip of parallel parking indented into the Right of Way here. Local access, but it might be handy. Admire it while riding by. Your next Point of Interest is …
THE COFFEE BEAN, GE: N47.03677 W122.80784
Always nice to see a trailside business catering to bikies and drivers alike. The Coffee Bean is there, right alongside the trail at Pacific and Lacey. You can drive up or pedal up. That done, pedal on another 0.8 miles to …
TRAIL END EAST, WOODLAND PARK, LACEY, GE: N47.03556 W122.79107
You made it to the end. You are 2.48 miles out of the Woodland x CW Junction. Backtrack a bit and take the new blacktop trail leading into Woodland Park. There are a lot of improvements in the park that do not show on the outdated Google Earth photos. Nice restrooms, water, picnic shelters, ample parking, etc. It is a fine full service trailhead.
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
If you are parked at the Eastside Trailhead and want a loop ride, you can catch the I-5 Trail back. Head back up the Woodland Trail 1.5 miles to College St. and ride north up College for 0.6 miles to 3d SE Ave. At this point the trail is a bike lane heading west.
It soon becomes a trail again and dives into a small park, underpasses Sleater Kinney, goes behind South Sound Center (a good commercial trailhead choice) and along the freeway. Roar of traffic? Yes! If you have a ‘pod or mp3, crank it up. Sousa would be a good choice.
Otherwise, ear plugs work. The I-5 Trail is a pure bike commuter trail designed to move bikies across town from Martin Rd. to Eastside. You will get to enjoy that descent to Eastside. Have fun.
Cranking up the music.