You are here: Home Find a Hike Hiking Guide Mima Mounds

Mima Mounds

» REI » Amazon

A portion of all book sales from the links above benefits WTA and helps protect and maintain our trails.

Hike through a landscape that almost appears lunar (except for the vegetation of course). Weave in and out and even over a few of the hundreds of 4- to 6-foot mounds scattered across this Thurston County prairie. How did they get here? Who or what made them? You'll most certainly be pondering these thoughts while hiking through this geologically intriguing landscape.

Most visitors to this National Natural Landmark just visit the observation deck and maybe walk the 0.5-mile paved nature loop. But to really appreciate the mysterious nature of the Mima Mounds, take to the trail that loops around this 445-acre preserve. By all means head for the observation deck first to get a look at this bizarre arrangement of "earthen hay bales."Scientists continue to debate the mounds' origins. Was it the thawing and freezing during the last ice age that caused the land to buckle? Or perhaps pocket gophers were at work, having since moved on to haunt golf courses?

Walk the paved path for 0.3 mile to find the trailhead for the prairie loop trail. Once on a soft-surface path, head into the heart of the mounds. The surrounding forest has encroached on the prairie-invasive plants too, like the dreaded Scotch broom. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources and volunteers are trying to restore the prairie to the way it appeared when Native peoples periodically set fires to them, keeping the vegetation in check.

At 0.65 mile pass an old fence line, a remnant of early farming on the mounds. At 0.75 mile come to a junction, and turn right for the loop. Soon pass another junction, a shorter loop option. Continue right, hiking the periphery of the preserve. Enjoy views of Mounts Rainier and St. Helens towering in the distance. At 2.1 miles close the loop and retrace your steps back to the trailhead. The Mima Mounds are exceptionally beautiful in April and May, when prairie flowers such as blue violet, buttercup, and camas paint them in dazzling colors.
Driving Directions:

From Olympia take I-5 south to exit 95. Follow Maytown Road west for 3 miles to Littlerock. At a stop sign proceed forward (west) on Littlerock Road, which soon turns left (south). Bear right here onto 128th Avenue (signed for the Capitol State Forest). In 0.7 mile come to a T intersection. Turn right onto Waddell Creek Road and drive 0.8 mile. At a sign announcing "Mima Mounds Natural Area,"turn left and reach the trailhead in 0.4 mile. Privy available.

Improve or add to this guidebook entry

Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

Recent Trip Reports

Hiked here recently? Submit a trip report!
There are 17 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Mima Mounds — Feb 04, 2014 — Bob and Barb
Day hike
Expand report text Hide report text
After enjoying Tumwater Falls Park, we had time for another short hike so drove to Mima Mounds. We h...
After enjoying Tumwater Falls Park, we had time for another short hike so drove to Mima Mounds. We had been here many, many years ago and were reminded today why we decided then we should come back when the flowers were blooming to add color to the mounds. Too early for flowers, but today blue sky and clouds added beauty to the area. There were 3 other groups walking the trails.
Read full report with photos
Mima Mounds — May 05, 2013 — sketch
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Expand report text Hide report text
Camas flowers were in full bloom along the 3 mile loop trail. Also saw blooming buttercup and violet...
Camas flowers were in full bloom along the 3 mile loop trail. Also saw blooming buttercup and violets.
Read full report with photos
Mima Mounds — Apr 26, 2013 — Amber
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Expand report text Hide report text
This hike offers a view somewhat separate from the typical evergreen forests of Western WA. I enjoye...
This hike offers a view somewhat separate from the typical evergreen forests of Western WA. I enjoyed examining the blue-green-purple color combinations of the just-blooming camas lilies. Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier were easy to see during the second half of the longer loop.
Read full report with photos
Mima Falls, Mima Mounds — Apr 24, 2013 — trailsad44
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Mud/Rockslide
Expand report text Hide report text
We first wound up up at the trailhead to the falls, but we came for the mounds. So we drove back to ...
We first wound up up at the trailhead to the falls, but we came for the mounds. So we drove back to the mounds and walked a couple of miles in and out of those little mysteries--laughing whenever we thought about it too much. After our walk we grabbed our sandwiches and sat on the visitor center--which is shaped like a mound--to eat.

After lunch we drove back to the falls to check it out. On the trail we ran into high schoolers, helpful mountain bikers, and four-wheelers. Although, not as well marked as Mount Rainier or as poorly as some parts of the PCT we managed to find the falls. Once you see a picnic table 2.5 mi in from the trailhead your there. The trillium were beautiful. The falls weren't huge, but more fun to look at than the mounds. Maybe when they have more flowers on them.
Read full report with photos
Mima Mounds — Apr 23, 2013 — snow Cat
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Expand report text Hide report text
I've always wanted to visit the mounds, but have never made the effort to make it happen. It is def...
I've always wanted to visit the mounds, but have never made the effort to make it happen. It is definitely a "side-trip" for when you happen to be in the area, and the big observation tower was behind a barbed-wire fence, on private land.(?) Nevertheless, there are smaller viewing platforms to climb, and a nice, informative kiosk about the natural history.

Like a collection of over-sized molehills, the mounds look like barren tundra, until closer inspection reveals the carpet of violets, buttercups, camas and reindeer lichen. Lomatium, shooting star, wild strawberries, lupine and chocolate lily also are blooming now.
Read full report with photos
Mima Mounds by Andrew Engelson.JPG
Mima Mounds by Andrew Engelson
Location
Olympics -- SW Washington
Department of Natural Resources, Pacific Cascade Region
Statistics
Roundtrip 2.75 miles
Elevation Gain 10 ft
Highest Point 225 ft
Features
Wildflowers/Meadows
Mountain views
User info
Dogs not allowed
Discover Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Hiking Guide to Washington Geology (Carson & Babcock - Keokee) p. 66-68
USGS Little Rock
Capitol State Forest DNR map

Improve or add to this guidebook entry

Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

Map it
Red MarkerMima Mounds
46.9051166667 -123.047983333
(46.9051, -123.0480) Open in new window
Document Actions
  • Print this
  • Share
Get the Guidebooks

Mountaineers three booksSelect content from The Mountaineers Books' guidebooks is featured in this Hiking Guide. Sales of the books from this website help protect and maintain trails.

> Shop Now

More hikes » Hike of the Week
Diablo Lake Trail (Apr 17)

Diablo Lake

North Cascades

Follow the Diablo Lake Trail up and across talus slopes on the flanks of Sourdough Mountain to impressive cascading waterfalls and stunning views. This hike in the North Cascades Institute's backyard makes a great option for an early season hike in stunning North Cascades National Park, much of which is inaccessible during the winter and spring.

Get Trail News

Subscribe to our free email newsletter for hiking news, events, gear reviews and more.

What's Happening
Trails and Ales - Spokane 2014 Apr 22, 2014 Meet fellow hikers and raise a glass for trails!
GiveBIG 2014 May 06, 2014 Donate to WTA during The Seattle Foundation's GiveBIG event and grow your impact on trails!
Hiker Potluck in Vancouver May 28, 2014 Come out for an evening of great food, meet other hikers and learn what is happening on trails near you.
More »