Hike description: We have a wonderful resource in our backyard to the south of Tacoma - perfect for those days when your muscles are yearning to be stretched and cabin fever is setting in. One of the state's first parks, Fort Steilacoom Park is a 340-acre undeveloped urban wilderness. Urban because it is nestled in the midst of commercial, industrial and residential development, wilderness because of the various natural habitats to stroll or bike through, including an oak prairie, ancient native forests, old barns testifying to the agricultural past of the site, Waughop Lake with the many species of waterfowl there. Views? Yes. When you climb the hill with the water towers, on a clear day you will be rewarded with a glorious view to the west, across Puget Sound to the Olympics. A well-placed bench urges you to take a break and soak in the scenery below and in the distance.
The trails, 10 miles in total, include both paved and natural surfaces. Start by heading off/around/from Waughop Lake, picking your route based on time available – yours and daylight, and trail conditions. The lake, at 33 acres, is stocked for the wildlife – not for fishing or swimming.
The park also offers a large children’s play area for an after-hike treat, a large picnic area and an off-leash dog run.
Directions: Fort Steilacoom Park is located at 8714 87th Ave. S.W., Lakewood. Take Interstate 5 to Exit 125. Turn left onto Bridgeport Way, left again onto Steilacoom Boulevard. In about 1.2 miles turn left onto 87th Avenue Southwest and then a right into the park. Go the left at the T intersection and drive past the children’s play area and find the parking area between the dog run and the barns.
Difficulty rating: 1 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)
Miles round-trip: 10
Best time of year: Year-round
Map: None available
Pass: None needed
Also: A search of the Internet and guide books did not produce any map of the trails in the park. You will need to keep track of your natural boundaries and landmarks, stopping periodically to re-orient yourself. A compass and street map will be helpful to you. Waughop Lake is a great natural boundary. Pierce College, abutting the southwest corner of the park, and Western State Hospital across Steilacoom Boulevard are man-made boundaries to watch for.
Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch Hiking/Backpacking Committee. For other hikes, visit www.theolympian.com/hiking.