January 31, 2021

Hike 5: Woodard Bay Loop Trail

By Linda Hilburn
Hike 5: Woodard Bay Loop Trail
Woodard Bay Loop Trail
Ancestral Lands of the Nisqually, Coast Salish, Cowlitz, and Squaxin
2.3 miles 
Discover Pass Required
Woodard Bay View

Woodard Bay Loop Trail is a short, easy trail located near Olympia, Washington (https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/washington/woodard-bay-loop-trail). It’s 2.3 miles if you do the full loop, although you could choose to skip the wooded/muddy portion of the loop to follow the paved/gravel path directly to the water for a shorter trip or one that is accessible for strollers. This trail is very easy making it perfect for the tiniest of hikers.  But I advise doing the full loop as kiddos will love all the mushrooms, the swamp, and the boardwalk over the mud located on the loop. 

Child on boardwalk

The trail begins in a very small parking lot. I'd advise avoiding the trail on the weekend as there are less than 20 designated parking spaces and nowhere to park on the roadside. You could park at the trailhead up the road, but it's not really safe to walk across the bridge as there is no shoulder. 

Woodard Bay Loop Trail

The first portion is gravel/paved, but you'll come upon an entrance to your left that leads into the forests. This portion will be very muddy, but well worth it. They're currently working on trail so sections of it are missing. I'd advise bring a change of shoes or a shoe brush. 

Woodard Bay Loop  Stairs in the Woods

There will be a few sets of stairs, but not too many. There will also be several sections of boardwalk. My toddler loved this part. This trail is overflowing with interesting mushroom varieties as well, so if you're a budding mycologists this trail is for you.

Mushrooms  Mushrooms

Mushrooms  Mushrooms

This portion is also VERY muddy. 

Muddy trail  Muddy Trail

You'll pass through so much beautiful greenery.

Woodard Bay Loop

As you near the portion of the loop that connects to the bay, you'll pass a manmade swamp where you can sometimes see Newts crossing.


You'll continue down and get to the bay, which is our favorite part. Here you can see bountiful wildlife. While we were there we saw multiple types of birds, a garter snake, and a seal.  The bay has sandy areas for mud drawing, water to splash in, and even a canoe sculpture on which to play. The toddler was a huge fan and didn't want to leave. This part of the trail made the trip worth it. There's also a designated picnic area, as well as a bathroom. 

Woodard Bay

Clear Water

Child in sand

Child Running  Child on log

Would I recommend driving for hours for this short, easy hike? Probably not. But if you're nearby it's a great stop on a busy day. 

Woodard Bay

For this hike, I’ve chosen to donate to the Squaxin Island Museum Library and Research Center the mission is to preserve the culture, identity, and traditions of the Squaxin Island Tribe through revitalization programs.  If you would also like to make a donation to an organization that assists some of the people whose land you are occupying, donations can be made here: 


History of the area: 

Treaty of Medicine Creek: https://www.historylink.org/File/5253

Squaxin Historical Timeline: https://squaxinisland.org/government/historical-timeline/

History of Woodard Bay Conservation Area: https://www.eworks.org/detail-land-woodard-bay-natural-conservation-area

Incomplete history of the bay: https://www.thurstontalk.com/2014/10/05/busy-commercial-history-woodard-bay-now-quiet-serene/

History of the Nisqually Tribe at the bay: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henderson_Inlet, http://www.nisqually-nsn.gov/index.php/heritage/