Review: Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve

Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve in Olympia offers a couple miles of hiking, but its real attraction is its strange bubble-like hills. A natural and scientific curiosity, Mima Mounds’ hill-studded grasslands seems out of place surrounded by evergreen forests and the Capitol SF peaks in the background. Several theories exist as to why the small grass-covered mounds exist. These theories range from the extraordinary, such as the one that gophers made them, to the tame, like the most accepted belief that they were created by glacier deposits. An educational kiosk (and viewing platform) at the beginning of the trails describes these various theories. This Wikipedia page describes some of the theories in greater detail.

Situated adjacent to Capitol State Forest, Mima Mounds offers a great educational experience and family outing. I rank this hiking area high on the family friendly list as it features several picnic areas and easy, flat walking paths. I also think that the area serves families well because of its amenities. In additional to lots of educational signage, the site includes two raised observation platforms (one of them handicapped accessible) that can give you a pretty good vantage point looking westward over the grasslands. If you do visit, bring your sunscreen though – there’s no shade at all on the trails.

Mima Mounds grasslands.


traildifficulty_rating  (2) = A section of the main trail is paved, while the longer loop trail that juts off it consists of dirt and gravel. All the trails at Mima Mounds are flat. There are four separate trails that altogether cover about 3-4 miles.

Trail map.

trailconditions_rating (4) = Mima Mounds NAP is well taken care for. The trailhead includes plenty of paved parking spaces. Several picnic tables can be accessed via short paved paths from the parking lot. The longer trails are well maintained and include good signage.

Looking out towards the grasslands from the parking area.

ruralness_rating (2) = Mima Mounds is simple to get to (see Where section below). Furthermore, you can combine this short hiking trip with some Capitol State Forest hikes to make for a fun and action-packed day. For example, trying visiting Mima Mounds before heading up the Waddell Creek Road to the picturesque McLane Creek Nature Trail.

The paved trail through the mounds.

Where: Mima Mounds is located just a short distance off of I-5. The fastest route to access the natural area is to take I-5 to Exit 95, head west on Maytown Road SW through the tiny town of Littlerock, and turn right onto Waddell Creek Road SW when Maytown Road ends at a T-intersection. The entrance to Mima Mounds will be a short distance up Waddell Creek Road on the left side.

When to Go: Maybe not when it’s really sunny or rainy out. However, if you’re looking for a place for a family picnic, this area may easily fit the bill. The state holds volunteer work parties at Mima Mounds twice a year and I’m not sure if it closes down for these. For more information about events at the property, check out the Department of Natural Resources website for Mima Mounds.

Trail Information: You will need a Washington State Discover Pass to park at the Mima Mounds trailhead. No dogs are allowed on the trails. Also, you will almost always hear gunfire from the nearby shooting range at this hiking area. This kills the ambience a little but is easy to ignore. For more info, check out the Washington Trail Association overview and Wikipedia page on Mima Mounds.


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