Ellis Cove Trail at Olympia’s Priest Point Park
Hike description: Ellis Cove Trail in Olympia’s Priest Point Park packs plenty into 2.5 miles.
Hikers might see and hear ducks, herons, eagles and other birds. They might see salmon swimming in the cove. They can wander among mossy trees, comb the beach and take a picture of the Olympia skyline. They might even notice a bear sculpture hidden high in a tree.
The trail is also a tour of local history. According to the city of Olympia website, the Priest Point area was claimed by missionaries in the 1800s. A school for Native American boys was built there,and several tribes used the mission as a trading post. The mission closed in 1860, and the land was acquired by the city in 1905.
The trail can be traveled in a loop with opportunities to visit the cove and Budd Inlet. There are also opportunities to lengthen or shorten the walk by using marked trails that cut through the woods. Board walks and a bridge help minimize the impacts of visitors.
The trail has some steep sections, but they are relatively short. Steps have been installed in some areas. The Ellis Cove Trail accounts for approximately half of the trails in Priest Point Park.
Directions: From Interstate 5 south, take Exit 105 to Plum Street. Continue on Plum Street as it becomes East Bay Drive. The road passes through Priest Point Park. There is parking and trails on both sides of the road, but Ellis Cove is on the west side of the road.
Difficulty rating: 2 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).
Miles round trip: 2.5.
Elevation gain: 400 feet.
Best time of the year: Year round.
Map: Posted at kiosks in the park. A printable map is online at olympiawa.gov.
Also: Ellis Cove Trail is part of the Great Washington State Birding Trail-Southwest Loop. Signs remind visitors to stay on trails. Damage from off-trail travel is visible in some areas. The beach can be slippery at low tide. The Washington Trails Association, in its effort to do more projects near population centers, has held work parties at Priest Point. A license is required for fishing. The beach is closed to shellfish harvesting. Dogs must be on leashes and cleaned up after. There are several geocaches hidden along the route, according to geocaching.com.