Woodard Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area: A Hidden Gem near Olympia, Wa

We stumbled upon Woodard Bay last year looking for waterfront areas we could frequent, and it always seems to surprise us. It has become one of our go-to local places on beautiful days to get out of the house and enjoy a nice walk.

It is easy to stay far from people on this trail. The hiking trail does get narrow, but the main path to the beach area is wide enough to pass people with 6-foot separation. You can also hike around the beach area to find a bit more solitude.

Woodard Bay, for being such an off-the-beaten-path place, has a fair amount of history attached to it. Native American’s lived in the area for thousands of years; it was a portion of the land lost by several local tribes after the signing of the Treaty of Medicine Creek in 1854. In 1900, Frederick Weyerhauser acquired the property and operated it as a lumber camp until 1979.

Things to know:

  • Bikes and Dogs are not allowed! It is a wildlife sanctuary. Harbor seals, deer, Yuma Myotis Bats, a wide variety of birds including Bald Eagles and Herons can be found here.
  • The baby harbor seals on the beach HAVE NOT been abandoned, so do not worry. Their mothers will leave them alone for hours at a time. They camouflage excellently amongst the rocks on the shore and can be challenging to spot. Keep your distance and keep an eye out. Seriously, they are difficult to spot!
  • If you are a bird watcher, there is a bench you can sit on and look across the water at a handful of dead trees that seem to almost always be entirely filled with a variety of bird species.
  • There is a spot to launch kayaks near the parking lot.
  • Parking at Woodard Bay is minimal. There is more parking a short walk away, but this is a place that seems to have intentionally limited its daily visitors, and with Covid-19 wreaking havoc. A place that has limited parking is not necessarily the worst thing. A Discover Pass is required.
  • Woodard Bay has approximately 3.5 miles of hiking trails. About a mile of those is a straight shot directly to the waterfront area. That straight shot is wide and starts out paved, but about halfway down, it reverts to gravel. The remainder of the trails is a forested hike that is quite nice. It is well-groomed, has a few ups and downs. But nothing excessive. Most people and small children should be easily able to conquer this trail. If you have mobility issues, I might avoid it and opt for the main trail.
  • At the end of the hike, there are some covered picnic tables, benches, an old logging building, informational signs detailing the history and wildlife of the area. There are some really cool decorative canoes (made of cement), but they make for some fantastic photographs. Seriously, bring a camera. You can easily get photos of a wide variety of animals as well as picturesque landscapes!

It is easily one of our top five favorite beaches in the South Sound to visit.

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