McLane Creek Nature Trail, Olympia, WA

McLane Creek Trail in the Capitol State Forest offers a beautiful sanctuary just 30 minutes from downtown Olympia. This nature trail travels through wetland and forest and follows a pond and a creek where visitors may see beaver, salmon, yellow pond lily, and a myriad of other plants and wildlife. It is a 1.5-mile bisected loop trail, with options for a 0.6 mile loop and a 1.1 mile loop. The first portion is wheelchair accessible; the entire trail is mostly level and there are many benches along the way. The trail is undergoing improvements, so the surface and design may change from this writing.

Spoon Rating: One spoon for the 0.6 mile loop, wheelchair accessible for ¼ mile. One and a half spoons for the 1.1 mile loop – there are a few stairs, tree roots, and a couple of forks in the trail to navigate.

Trail Stats: Distance: 1.5 miles total, a 0.6 mile loop and a 1.1 mile loop. Elevation: Less than 50 feet elevation gain. Typical Surface: boardwalk, compact gravel, natural. Wheelchair accessible for ¼ mile on boardwalk and compact gravel. Trail Map.

A boardwalk with a wheelchair accessible sign
A boardwalk with a wheelchair accessible sign surrounded by cat tails with trees and a hill in the background.

Trail Description: The trail starts near the picnic shelter. The wheelchair accessible path is to the left, closer to the parking area. The walking path starts closer to the shelter; it is narrow but level, and brings you to an additional viewing platform before connecting with the accessible path. The accessible path is wide, crushed gravel and follows the edge of the parking area before passing the accessible pit toilet and curving to the right. It continues on then comes to an accessible viewing platform over the pond made of the lateral wood boards with a bench at the end. The boardwalk trail continues to the left for 100 feet along the pond before transitioning to gravel and coming to a fiberglass boardwalk with an accessible-grade gravel incline on either side (I did not measure, and it felt a bit on the steep side, but it is supposedly an accessible improvement). The trail then becomes worn compact gravel and passes narrowly between two trees before coming to the fork for the bisected loop. There is a bench here.

A trail forks with a boardwalk one one side and gravel path on the other
The trail forks with the Old Railroad Grade trail on right and boardwalk ahead. There is a sign in the center and benches on either path.

The right fork is the Old Railroad Grade trail which bisects the loop forming a 0.6 mile trail. It is primarily boardwalk along the pond and is not wheelchair accessible, but offers up close views of wildlife (see below for full description). I recommend taking the fork straight ahead.

The fork straight ahead continues on the outer loop. Continue on a boardwalk with no rise, covered in skip-resistant tread. There is a pull-out area with a bench and an informative sign before the boardwalk curves to the left and continues 100 yards to another pull-out with benches. The trail then forks again.

Boardwalk forks in the forest.
The boardwalk forks to the viewing platform at the creek.

To the left is a large viewing platform over the creek where you can see salmon in the spawning season. Travel on a short boardwalk covered in lateral metal slats over wood (for traction and people with low vision, but they are raised slightly so watch your wheels/step), that then drops about 2” to a compact gravel surface. There is a bench in this lovely grove of western red cedar. Continue a few feet to the ramp to the viewing platform. It is lined with benches so you can enjoy some time here.

Head back to the fork and continue the loop to the left. The boardwalk continues about 100 feet. There is one area where the boardwalk has collapsed from tree damage; it is slightly unstable and is a sudden, decline so be careful but it is passable. There is then a pullout with a bench.

This is the end of the boardwalk; the trail then widens and becomes compact gravel and natural surface, with some areas where trail building material is exposed that may present a trip hazard, so be careful. The trail continues to follow the creek then curves to the right; a short path on the left leads to another viewing platform and bench at the creek beneath western red cedar. There is a 2” inch rise to the platform and the boards are a bit uneven.

A muddy trail in the forest
A section of wide, muddy trail with a couple of roots in the middle.

Continue on the trail among western red cedar, douglas fir, devil’s club, and other iconic PNW plants. Come to a short bridge with a 1-2” rise over a seasonal water flow. The trail then becomes natural surface and there are some muddy areas, a couple of dips, and a few low roots. Pass several remarkable and character-filled tree stumps as the trail widens with a couple of larger roots in the middle. Come to another bridge with a 2” rise and 1” gap between the boards. The trail narrows again and there are several 2-3” roots in the path. There is another bridge with a 2” rise before the trail rolls slightly and comes to a short, narrow boardwalk and another path on the left.

The path on the left leads about 100 feet to a viewing bridge over the creek. It is narrow and winds among the trees with exposed trail material and roots, but there are benches. A set of 7 stairs lead to a fiberglass bridge that ends at a bench (it does not continue across the creek). It is a nice spot to sit under the trees with the creek flowing underneath.

Back at the main trail, continue left to a narrow boardwalk covered in slip resistant tread. In about 100 yards there is a pullout with no bench then the boardwalk ends at an intersection.

To the right is the Old Railroad Grade trail that bisects the loop – this is the 0.6 mile loop. A set of 7 stairs lead up to a boardwalk that follows the pond. There is a sudden hump then the boardwalk travels a short distance to a viewing platform with benches. The platform has a 2” rise and had some unstable boards. The path then becomes compact gravel and rocks for 50 feet; there is a 6” root in the trail here. There is another boardwalk with a pullout before ending at the first intersection you encountered on the trail. Go left to the parking area.

The fork straight ahead continues the 1.1 mile loop (and meets the Forestry Trail, a longer 3-spoon hike).  Take two 6” steps to a bridge and then a slight decline to a gravel trail. The trail dips and then forks; continue to the right on a steep decline of about 20 paces. The trail narrows and rolls then curves to the left. There are several areas of mud and roots as the trail curves to the left, following the border of the forest around the pond. The path curves slightly to the right then comes to a short, steep cross-slope as it rises slightly. There is then a short fork on the right to a small viewing platform with two tall steps.

The trail continues to the left and becomes gravel with a couple of roots. There is a bench just before it curves again with a steep cross-slope. You then come to a bridge over the pond with two steps on either side. The trail rises on slightly loose gravel before it ends at the parking area and the shelter.

Cell Phone Reception: Yes, generally pretty good, but I had GPS problems on the trail.

Pass/Entry Fee: Washington Discover Pass (disability placards are not eligible for exemption on DNR land)

Location: The address for GPS is 5044 Delphi Rd SW, Olympia, WA 98512. Delphi Rd is a two lane, paved semi-rural road. The entrance to the park is slightly hidden, but there are signs; look for a clear-cut area. Follow the one-lane paved forest road a short distance until it ends at the main parking area. There is paved and gravel parking for approximately 20 cars, with one accessible parking space. There are accessible pit toilets. No potable water.

Land Acknowledgement: This is Coast Salish land. The Upper Chehalis (Q̉ʷay̓áyiłq̉) or Tsihalis people (People of the Sands) had a large village (skwah-YAI’lh-hahbch) at the head of Eld Inlet at Mud Bay.

Featured Image Description: A pond with clear blue water and many lily pads. A hillside rises in the background. It is a sunny late winter day.

Last Updated: February 29, 2020

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