Best Hikes for Wildlife Spotting

Hike these trails to find owls and marmots and nearly 200 species of birds—oh my!
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Golden Gate Trail
Paradise, Mount Rainier

Map of Golden Gate
Difficulty: Moderate; 3 miles, approx. 1,000-foot elevation gain Location: About two and a half hours southeast of Seattle at Paradise on Mount Rainier. Nearest town: Ashford, 23 miles. $15 park entry fee; dogs prohibited; nps.gov 

In late summer, this trail cuts through a meadow so awash with vivid wildflower color, it may take you a while to spot them, but once you do, you can’t stop spotting them: hoary marmots. These mangy-looking but playful critters abound along this trail, often popping their heads up from behind rocks to stare pertly at passersby, or lounging, seal like, trailside, as if waiting for their morning scritch. (Don’t do it, of course—these are wild animals and may bite.) As you toil up switchbacks winding steeply through the valley, feeling the effects of the altitude, with Mount Rainier towering over your left shoulder, there’s no denying the comic relief these marmots bring. Stop at the top where Golden Gate meets the Skyline Trail; here, you’ll find excellent resting rocks (and probably more marmots, who will try to make off with your snacks). Head back the way you came, or better, make it a loop back down the Skyline Trail.

 

 

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Near Olympia

Map of Nisqually
Difficulty:
Easy (paved and boardwalk); length varies, mostly level ground 
Location: About 90 minutes southwest of Seattle via Interstate 5. Nearest town: Olympia, 8 miles. $3 entrance fee, dogs prohibited; fws.gov/nisqually 

This pristine refuge in Thurston County is considered Puget Sound’s last unspoiled major estuary, and has been designated as a National Natural Landmark. Explore the 3,000 acres of saltwater and freshwater marshes, grasslands and other habitats via five miles of walking trails—including a lovely, accessible boardwalk loop. On a good day, you might spot dozens of the 275 species of migratory birds, and beavers, rabbits, frogs and salamanders that rest, nest and live here; a complete list is at fws.gov/nisqually. (This month, watch for juvenile eagles on the wing and all manner of creatures dining on summer berries.) There is a multitude of free tours and programs available; times and days vary; visit fws.gov/nisqually for details.

 

Juanita Bay Park
Kirkland

Map of Juanita
Difficulty: Easy (paved and boardwalk); length varies, zero elevation gain 
Location: About 20 minutes from Seattle in north Kirkland; kirklandwa.gov 

There are nearly 200 species of birds here, including great blue heron and osprey, but what you may remember are the many turtles that lounge on nearly every log in this marshy urban wildlife habitat. A looping system of trails and boardwalks winds through wetlands and over water, through reeds and cattail stands and among trees replete with nesting birds and alive with the cries, screetches and splashes of the creatures that call these 110 acres home. Download a habitat map at kirklandwa.gov, and see how many of the birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles you can cross off the checklist; lucky strollers might spot beaver and muskrat, river otters and Pacific tree frogs, and more; free tours led by park rangers depart from the parking lot at 1 p.m., rain or shine, on the first Sunday of every month.

Why Olympia's 222 Market is Worth the Trip

Why Olympia's 222 Market is Worth the Trip

Olympia’s new artisan food market puts the capital city on the culinary map
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Sofie's Scoops at the 222 Market

Olympians, we apologize for invading your downtown parking. But, an artisan-style food hall like 222 Market (Olympia, 222 Capitol Way N; 222market.com) is an exciting destination and one we food lovers think is worth the drive.

At press time, the 15,000-square-foot building was scheduled to open in September, showcasing artisan food and beverage producers from around the Pacific Northwest, including Broth Bar By Salt Fire & Time; small-batch gelateria Sofie’s Scoops; and the city’s first oyster bar.

The 1940s-era building was originally the home of Olympia’s Packard car dealership and over the years has housed a variety of businesses. But, with renowned bakery The Bread Peddler as an anchor tenant for more than a decade, the building’s owners, Gray and Joy Graham, saw potential for a full-fledged food hall. They partnered with Olympia chef Lela Cross (co-owner of Capitale, Cielo Blu and Dillinger’s Cocktails & Kitchen) to handpick local, independent merchants, including a florist (Fleurae), and then hired green architect firm Artisans Group, which gutted and opened up the building’s interior, repurposing recycled lumber and Douglas fir into tables and countertops.

222 Market certainly plays a vital role in downtown Olympia’s revitalization, but it’s also pretty great for the destination-dining Seattleite. Here’s what to eat.


Photos: Sofie’s Scoops: Sofie Landis; Broth Bar: John Valls; Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar: Courtesy of Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar; Blind Pig Spirits and the Bread Peddler Crepe: Piper Backholm