Federation Forest is a great destination if you’re wondering whether your hikers are ready to graduate from nature walks to longer adventures. Just don’t go looking for the Hobbit Village. Those gnomes and elves have disappeared as of this writing, but there is still plenty here to see.
It’s a state park, and while it’s just off 410, it tends to be overlooked as drivers zoom by on their way to other popular destinations. Even on a July weekend, our family was totally alone here. It’s well worth a stop, especially if you’re looking to walk or hike with young children.
There are towering, moss covered trees to look at, and the forested trails give you that, “Out in the wild,” feel, even though you’re never too far from the highway (and civilization). These are real trails, so there will be some roots and mud to navigate, but they’re all flat and should be easy enough for most children. There are miles of trails here-close to 7 in total-, so you can decide how long of an adventure to have. It would be a great way to assess the kids’ readiness for something more challenging, and it’s a unique opportunity to walk level paths through old growth forest.
Federation Forest also used to be home to a Hobbit Village-a collection of whimsical figures that was a fun destination for kids. Unfortunately, it had become the target of vandals and litterbugs, and given the state parks system’s limited budget, keeping it cleaned up was impossible. So, the village was all hauled away……or was it…. On our recent visit, we found several figures-evidence that some explorers are determined to bring this tradition back. Will they stay or get hauled away by vandals or official clean up crews? That’s anybody’s guess. My boys were thrilled to find them, but since they could easily be gone at any time, I don’t think you want to set out to look for them and then have disappointed kiddos.This trail also has LOTS of blow downs on it. We had to scramble over several fallen trees and through quite a few mud bogs.
For these reasons, I can’t recommend the Hobbit Trail (or what used to be the Hobbit Trail), to any but the most intrepid explorers, but there are several other great trails here, and I still heartily recommend the rest of Federation Forest as a family friendly hiking destination. Since it’s a state park, you can even bring your dog, if he’s on a leash. The East Trail has signs to help kids learn about plants and trees. The West Trail will give you glimpses of the rushing White River. These last two pics look a bit gloomy as they were from an adventure much earlier in the year. It’s a very pleasant hike on a hot summer’s day because the trees provide lots of great shade. On our off season hike it had a mysterious vibe-we could definitely see why someone had decide it was Hobbit territory!
Here’s what to know before you go:
- Federation Forest is a state park, so you will need a Discover WA pass. It’s off 410 past Enumclaw.
- The interpretive center is closed, but you will see signage for the trails. If for some reason, the park’s main gate is closed, you can park along the road. Do be careful as cars whiz by FAST on 410. I mean-FAST.
- Be prepared for mud. Even in the middle of our July heat wave we found some spots with fairly epic mud.
- Take the East Trail to see a giant Sitka spruce and signs explaining native plants.
- Take the West Trail to eventually see the White River below.
- For trip reports on the rest of the park, check the wta.org site.
- If for some reason, this one is a bust, you can back track to Mud Mountain Dam. There are interesting, family friendly walks there, including one down to a viewpoint where you can look at the dam, but your kids will probably be most interested in the playground and the wading pool.
- If you can’t get enough of mystical creatures, you may want to find the gnome doors in nearby Bonney Lake. Last I heard, they were still around, though, these also, have had some issues with vandals.
- Wally’s in Buckley is a nice stop for milkshakes and burgers on your way home. The wait is always long, so you may want to have some of the grown ups go to the playground with the kids. Try the blackberry shake.
Your children might also enjoy a geocaching adventure-a great way to add an element of adventure and discovery to a walk.