HIKE DESCRIPTION: Whether you’re a nature lover, bird watcher, jogger or a wide-eyed child brimming with curiosity, the Snake Lake watershed offers a getaway without the inconvenience of actually going away.
The wetlands and woods of the watershed sit between Bellarmine Prep and Foss high schools, but offer a lush green escape. Flat loops of 0.5 and 1 miles (the First and Second bridge loops) are short and packed with opportunities to see waterfowl and other birds. Toss in a trip up the Hillside Loop and you’ll get close enough to Bellarmine Prep to watch football practice. This will add about a third of a mile to your trip. To add a little more mileage, tack on the Hillside Loop Extension (0.25 miles) and the Proctor Valley Wetland Loop (0.2 miles) and perhaps even backtrack on the main loop to pick up the lakeside section you would have missed between the bridges.
There is designated ADA parking at the park’s Tacoma Nature Center. A 0.5-mile section of trail is designated as wheelchair-accessible on the center’s map.
DIRECTIONS: From state Route 16 in Tacoma, exit east on South 19th Street. The trailhead is located at the Tacoma Nature Center at the corner of 19th and Tyler streets. 1919 S. Tyler Street, Tacoma.
DIFFICULTY RATING: 1 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).
MILES ROUND TRIP: 2.6 (total distance of the parks’ trails, but hiking them all will require backtracking and walking farther.)
ELEVATION GAIN: 100 feet.
BEST TIME OF THE YEAR: Year-round.
MAP: Maps are available on the Tacoma Nature Center website. A trail guide is also available and offers interpretive information that corresponds with markers placed along the trail.
PASS: No fee. Donations are accepted in the interpretive center.
ALSO: Smoking, pets and bicycles are not permitted on the trails. Exploring off trail is not permitted. The Tacoma Nature Center requests visitors don’t feed birds and other animals. Geocaches are hidden in the park, but do not let your GPS device lead you into off-limits areas to find them. For more information, visit geocaching.com. Signs warn that the trailhead parking area is a “high prowl area” and visitors shouldn’t leave valuables in their cars. The Discovery Pond near the parking lot is open from 9:30 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset. The trails open at 8 a.m. and also close 30 minutes after sunset. The Tacoma Nature Center has interpretive information and a gift shop. It is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. The park was dedicated in 1979, and the interpretive center opened in 1989.
INFO: 253-591-6439, metroparkstacoma.org/tacomanaturecenter.