Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve
Hike description: Touring Mima Mounds is more than just a stroll though a lumpy field. It’s an up-close look at a geological mystery.
Fifty years ago, Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve was designated a national natural landmark. It is 445 acres of mounds covered by prairie grass, and it’s an ideal hike for geology aficionados.
The mystery lies in the origins of the mounds. An interpretive sign near the beginning of the trail outlines some theories: Glaciers, earthquakes, flooding, erosion, cracking permafrost and gophers. Additional theories: aliens and Paul Bunyan.
You can ponder these ideas and concoct your own as you take a 2.8-mile walk among the mounds.
The walk is two loops — one paved and one unpaved — linked by a dirt path.
The paved half-mile path is ADA accessible and offers a look at the mounds and access to a visitor area with an elevated viewing platform.
About half way down the paved loop, follow the unpaved path into the field of mounds. Signs will direct you to a nearly 2-mile loop. Not only is this trail an opportunity to see occasional wildlife and much of the preserve, but the path also crosses over the top of a couple mounds along the way. Visitors are asked to remain on the trail.
A shorter loop runs inside the large loop.
Look for signs of fire as you wander. Controlled burns are used to rid the field of invasive plants such as Scotch broom.
On clear days you can see Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens from Mima Mounds.
Directions: From Interstate 5, take Exit 95 and drive west on state Route 121 (Maytown Road) to Littlerock. Continue west on 128th Avenue until it ends, then turn right on Waddell Creek Road. The entrance to Mima Mounds will be on the left in about a mile.
Difficulty rating: 1 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).
Miles round trip: 2.8.
Elevation gain: Mostly flat.
Best time of the year: Year-round, but flowers are best in spring.
Map: A map is posted at the trailhead kiosk.
Pass: Discover Pass.
Also: Evergreen Sportsmen’s Club has a shooting range next to the preserve so visitors may hear gunshots. Native Americans used plants from the prairies for cooking and medicine. Pets are not allowed at Mima Mounds. An Earthcache is hidden at Mima Mounds. Visit geocaching.com for more information.