I don’t know about you, but I get bored exploring the same places all the time. Sure, I have my favorite local hikes, restaurants and activities, but I’m fueled by wanderlust, that drive to get out and experience new places and things. And while the days are getting shorter and wetter, autumn is arguably the best time to go exploring, especially if you’ve been trapped inside by the weather!

The Yelm-Tenino Trail is a destination, offering stops at local restaurants like Scatter Creek Winery & Brewery. Photo credit: Nate Burgher.

Take a road trip down south to Thurston County, home to our state Capitol and an abundance of trials and outdoor recreational options. Here you’ll find the 14-mile, paved Yelm-Tenino Trail, connecting the rural cities of Yelm, Rainier and Tenino.

Just over a 100 years ago, it was known as the “Prairie Line” by the Burlington Northern Railroad. Now the well-maintained trail offers recreational users a unique and decidedly different way to access Thurston’s “Bountiful Byway.” Bicycle riders traverse forests, wetlands and other agricultural gems to experience some of the county’s best-kept secrets.

No need to haul in your own bike. The Yellow Bicycle Project in Tenino makes the Yelm-Tenino Trail accessible to all. Photo credit: Nate Burgher.

The Yelm-Tenino Trail is a perfect way to spend the day with someone special or the whole family. With several viewpoints, shops and parks along the way, you can customize your experience based on the time (and energy) you have. And best of all, you don’t even have to haul your own bike to enjoy the trail. Just pick up a bike at the Yellow Bicycle Project, located at 213 Sussex Avenue West, near the Tenino trailhead.

Whether you take the whole day and travel 28 miles round trip, or take a more leisurely journey, Experience Olympia & Beyond has recommendations to help you think beyond the trail. Include these great places to stay if you want to make a weekend of it.

Couples Date Day Itinerary

The Yelm-Tenino trail connects riders to scenic views like this one at McIntosh Lake. Photo credit: Nate Burgher.

For a romantic day you won’t soon forget, head to Tenino and borrow a free bike from the Yellow Bicycle Project (don’t forget your water and a helmet). You’ll find parking and restrooms at the trailhead located at the Tenino City Park on Washington Avenue. If you go on a Saturday between May and September, you can stop by the Tenino Farmer’s Market between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to pick up snacks for your trip.

On the way out of Tenino, at about mile four, you’ll pass by scenic McIntosh Lake. This is a great place to stop and stretch your legs and watch the heron catch fish. After several more miles, stop in Rainier for a pick-me-up. There you’ll find several espresso and food options right off the trail to help fuel the last five miles to Yelm.

Once you reach Yelm, it’s time to rest and rehydrate before your return trip. Take a leisurely stroll or have a picnic at Cochrane Memorial Park, then continue to Uptown Lounge for a refreshing beverage. Or, if you prefer a longer rest, catch a movie at Yelm Cinemas. Once you’ve made your way back to Tenino, return your yellow bike and end your lovely day with a visit to the Scatter Creek Winery & Brewery.

Family Fun Itinerary

The Yelm-Tenino Trail allows you to experience Thurston’s Bountiful Byway up close and personal. Photo credit: Nate Burgher.

For this itinerary, we’ll start in Yelm. But if you plan to borrow a free bike from Tenino’s Yellow Bike Project, you’ll want to follow this in reverse starting at the Tenino City Park on Washington Avenue.

At the trailhead behind Yelm City Hall, located at 105 Yelm Avenue West, take advantage of the picnic tables (no one wants hungry kids!), informational kiosk and restrooms. If you go on Saturdays, May through October, you can make a stop at the Yelm Farmer’s Market between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to stock up on fresh snacks.

Take in all the sights and sounds as you head toward Rainier. Stop into one of the great shops like Main Street Cookie Company to refuel. From here, continue to a sandy beach between mile marker 7.5 and 8. This is about the half-way mark and a great place to stop and let the kids play or turn around if a 28-mile roundtrip ride is not in your plans.

The Yem-Tenino Trial is a great way to explore the small towns of Tenino, Rainier and Yelm. Photo credit: Nate Burgher.

But for those with the time and stamina to make it to Tenino, a visit to the Tenino Depot Museum and – on a warm day – the Tenino Quarry Pool (seasonal), are well worth the stop before heading back.

And finally, one last stop the kids will really enjoy (if they’re not completely wiped out): the bike park in Yelm.

No matter how you decide to spend your time on the Yelm-Tenino Trail, you’re sure to create a unique and unforgettable experience. So, go ahead and make plans for your decidedly different day or weekend exploring the “Bountiful Byway.” Experience Olympia & Beyond has great tips to help you plan this escape and more. Learn more on the Experience Olympia & Beyond website or give them a call at 360-704-7544.

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