Here in our corner of the PNW, one thing we are not at a loss for are glorious hiking trails. Even those with young families have their pick of easy hikes near Seattle that suit all ages. But have you ever taken the kiddos on a trail filled with gnomes? Tucked away in a bedroom community just southeast of Seattle is the new Gnome Trail in Maple Valley. Here’s what you need to know about this magical walk through the woods that is perfect for tiny hikers and cute to boot.
Why It's Gnome-ber One
Recently relocated this past year from its previous Maple Valley locale, the 0.6 mile Gnomes Trail is dotted with hundreds of gnome statues along the pathway. You and your family can enjoy the great outdoors in this mystical forest, and make it extra fun by seeing what hidden gnome discoveries you can find en route. Short and flat enough for even the littlest tots, your kids will definitely be charmed in this forested hike of weird and wonderful bearded people. Hint: It's a good one for grandparents too!
Gnome Where To Go
The Gnomes Trail resides in the woods behind a newly cleared multi-use area in the Rock Creek Natural Area right off Maple Valley Highway (Hwy 169). With plenty of parking now available, you won’t have any trouble getting a spot near the trailhead. If you start at the trailhead towards the right side of the parking lot, you will take the Legacy Loop trail right to Gnomes Trail (you can also access the back end by hitting up the Market trailhead on the left hand side of the lot).
Take a quick peak at the trailhead map at Legacy Loop, and head on up the path incline to the flat well-groomed trails above. The incline is a little steep but not so bad to discourage your tiny tots, though strollers might be a bit of a challenge. Once up, veer off to the left, meander a bit, and you will come across the start of the Gnomes Trail, recognizable by the plethora of gnomes waiting to welcome you to their woody world (and give you an adorable photo op). Follow the clearly marked path and away you go to see what quirky gnomes you will find along your trek!
Become A Gnome-ad
As you traverse the wonders of this gnome man’s land, your kids will have a great time spying out both teeny tiny gnomes and big ones alike, plus gnomes' homes, gnome communities and some fairy gardens, too. Keep a keen eye out, as you will come across these little friends in all sorts of hidden cubby holes, tree trunk knots, roots, upturned trees, and mossy oases both high and low. You might even spy some promoting your favorite football and baseball team!
Why We Gnome-inate It
It is nothing short of a delightfully peculiar gnome...errr, roam through the woods. Plus, with its whimsical version of I-Spy, it offers the kiddos great hiking motivation! Once you’ve made your journey through the phe-gnome-inal trail, had your fill of garden dwellers and found all the elves you can handle, don’t forget to check out the gnome cemetery to pay your respects to those precious pointy-hatted peeps who have come before and have gone the way of the elements. It’s a cute little hurrah at the end of your gnome-y excursion!
Good To Gnome...
The area surrounding the trailhead is also home to the Maple Valley Farmer’s Market. If you hit the trail on a Saturday morning between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., from May 1 to September 25, expect some crowds. But that also means you can enjoy the local vendors at the market afterwards as well!
If the kids still have energy to burn, Lake Wilderness Park is the outlet you're looking for, and it’s on your way back to the city. This large recreation area has a newly-updated playground, a beach and picnic spots if lunch is on the menu.
If all this play means the kids have worked up an apetite, Maple Valley has quite a few kid-friendly restaurants that’ll fill their bellies for the way home. Farrelli’s Pizza is a fun one for kids as is familiar fave, MOD Pizza, just off 169. If sandwiches, salads and soups are more your speed, check out S’wiched, where you can feed your crew for under $5 each. Spring Kitchen offers another local option that caters to families, offering Vietnamese faves like pho, teriyaki and sweet and sour chicken on the menu.
—Alaina Weimer & Allison Sutcliffe, all photos courtesy the writer