This self-guided tour barely puts a dent in the myriad opportunities for exploration along the Bountiful Byway. Plan your own trip to take advantage of your interests, whether it’s hiking, eating, shopping or just taking a scenic drive.
Take the trip — or parts of it — more than once. As the Byway project continues to develop and destination signs are added, you’ll find new stops every time.
Start at the intersection of Mud Bay Drive and Delphi Road Southwest, turning south onto Delphi.
The name McLane pops up in these first miles. An elementary school, creek and grange are named for William McLane, an Olympia pioneer and member of the Washington Territorial Legislature. He and his wife, Martha McLeod McLane, homesteaded on Mud Bay. The timing is a little muddy, too. He left his home in Pennsylvania in 1852 and found his way to Washington Territory. He went back east to marry in 1854, and returned to settle at Bush Prairie (now Tumwater) before moving to the Mud Bay homestead.
McLane Grange was organized on March 3, 1910 by Frank Roberts, a member of Brighton Park Grange, and 24 original charter members. The land where the McLane Grange now sits was originally the site of the first McLane School in the 1870s, donated by William McLane. The Grange obtained this site in 1910 when the school moved to the intersection of Delphi and McKenzie roads, land also donated by McLane and now the homestead of his great grandson Raymond McLane Ramsauer.
Grange member Teri Ramsauer said the grange has a lot of history, “many pieces, written by each secretary’s hand, spread over the years.”
After crossing McLane Creek you’ll see Nature Nurtures Farm on the left. This farm focuses on animal and farm experiences for children. Visiting hours are the first Saturday of the month, April to September.
Along the flats, there’s a sign warning of elk crossing. They’re sometimes seen in the fields there.
Time to get out that Discover Pass and turn into the McLane Creek Nature Trail. There are several easy paths with multiple viewing points for ponds. Expect to see a variety of bird species. Part of the path is accessible for a strong wheelchair user — or pusher. This area is good for a 30-minute stroll or a couple of hours of walking and observation. There’s lots of seating at the viewing areas.
Back on Delphi Road, you’ll soon turn right onto Waddell Creek Road. This winding road with no shoulders is popular with cyclists, so keep your eye out.
Follow the Byway sign when Waddell Creek Road takes a 90-degree left turn. (If you keep going straight, you’ll end up deep in Capitol State Forest, an adventure for another day.)
Immediately after the turn, you are likely to notice gunshots from the left as you pass the Triangle Pit, a sanctioned, and very popular, target shooting site.
The 100,000-acre Capitol Forest is a working forest. You’ll pass all stages of tree growth, or maybe logging. It includes trailheads, day-use areas, and campgrounds with access to hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and off-road vehicle riding trail systems.
Another historical name that pops up on this side of the Byway is McKenny, for Margaret McKenny (1885-1969), an educator and conservationist. In 1919, she taught a progressive kindergarten and primary school in her home on Water Street in Olympia.
Among her naturalist contributions in Olympia are the preservation of the oak trees on Legion Way, keeping Sylvester Park as a public square and defending what is now Watershed Park as a wilderness area. An elementary school, a park and a campground in Capitol Forest are named for her.
It’s the Margaret McKenny Campground you’ll pass as you prepare to leave the forest on the Byway. Use your Discover Pass and explore the year-round hiking and bicycling trails. Horses are allowed May through December, but may be encountered year-round on the access trail to the Equine Loop.
The trail starts with a hill down to Waddell Creek, a long foot and stock bridge, and then switchbacks up into the forest.
Next, find the Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve, located on the right, just after you leave the forest (another place the Discover Pass is required). It offers several nature walks among the domelike hills.
At this point, you can head straight east through Littlerock and get on the freeway, but the Byway continues south along Gate-Mima Road.
There are some beautiful views of Mount Rainier as you pass the Weyerhaeuser Tree Farm. Depending on the season, you’ll see beds of tiny trees being grown for reforestation. The nurseries are closed to the public so as not to interfere with farm activities.
Turning onto Moon Road, you pass blueberry farms and Lael’s Moon Garden. The nursery stocks hardy plants and edible landscaping and has a display and test garden so you can see plants in their natural habitats.
In a change of pace from the leisurely, winding trip so far, turn left (east) onto state Highway 12, and return to 50 mph until you reach Rochester, a community that retains historic facades fronting the small businesses lining the highway.
In June, there’s the Rochester-Grand Mound Community Farmers Market on Thursdays and Saturdays in the side yard of the Mason-Dixon Line Restaurant.
As you leave Rochester, notice Briarwood Farm on the left. The large egg producer, one of six commercial egg production companies in the state, is not open to the public to control biohazards, said Mark Oldenkamp, vice president of Valley Fresh Foods, of which Briarwood Farms is a part.
“Briarwood has enjoyed being part of the agriculture community for nearly 50 years in Washington,” Oldenkamp said.
On a clear day, you’ll continue to enjoy views of Mount Rainier as you head east.
The freeway crosses through Grand Mound, and you can exit the Byway or continue east into the small town of Tenino.
Sandstone Distillery is right off Highway 12 to the left. It specializes in spirits made from Washington-state grains and also makes artisan syrups for flavorings. Its signature vodka is filtered through fractured sandstone and the distillery recently won two silver medals from the American Craft Spirits Association.
About now, more mounds will be visible on the prairies. Native peoples kept the prairies clear by burning them to prevent trees from taking hold.
Those woolly creatures in large pastures on the north side of the highway are alpacas. Alpacas of America is open by appointment.
The speed limits change dramatically as you approach the towns of south Thurston County. Your wallet will appreciate if you pay attention to those changes.
The Tenino Antique Mall is one of several along the main drag. Brad Skramstead and his wife, Maryann Byrne, have owned it for 11 years. The antique store has jewelry and china, an old bar, a whole room full of dolls and myriad treasures tucked into the 6,000-square-foot space.
Skramstead said that because the main drag was also the old highway, there is steady traffic, and he welcomes the addition of the Byway designation.
“You can look out the front window any time of day or night and see a car go by every 15 seconds,” he said.
Across the street is the Scatter Creek Winery. Tourists and returning customers Don and Jill Mitchell, from Graham, were sampling sweet dessert wines, including one that self-described wine diva Alicia Easley served both warmed and at room temperature.
Easley said the winery gets a lot of drop-in visitors, especially on Mondays, when a lot of other businesses are closed. She had seen the Byway signs but didn’t know that it was designed to help promote businesses like Scatter Creek
“We want everybody in here,” Easley said, adding that the winery also hosts family events.
You’ll notice lots of sandstone in signs and buildings in Tenino, which also has the unique Quarry Pool just a block off of the main street. Open in summer, the pool is carved out of the native rock.
Continue east through Rainier and into Yelm. Both offer storefront businesses and eateries to explore. Look for farm and berry stands during produce season.
In Yelm, watch for signs for Highway 510 and turn west.
You’ll drive through the Nisqually Reservation, where you can get a meal and maybe some gambling luck at the Red Wind Casino.
Keep an eye out for Byway signs and take the turn for Reservation Road.
As the Byway enters the Nisqually Valley, you’ll find the Medicine Creek Winery, located on a farm at the headwaters for Medicine Creek, which joins McAllister Creek and eventually Puget Sound.
McAllister is another historical name that pops up along the Byway. James McAllister settled in the Nisqually Valley in the mid-1800s.
The winery’s tasting room has a 1800s decor and a view of the barrel room.
You’re almost at the other end of the Byway now. Turn on Kuhlman Road.
You’ll see the Schilter Family Farm, a popular field-trip spot for school groups that has a pumpkin patch in the fall.
And, finally, the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.
Worth a day’s trip in itself, the refuge includes a Visitor Center with the The Nature Shop, an information desk, a view of the freshwater marsh, a boardwalk into the saltwater estuary and interpretive exhibits. The refuge trails are open daily from sunrise to sunset for wildlife viewing and nature photography. There is a small entry fee, or passes are available for purchase.