If you can’t decide between the playground, a hike, or the beach, head north of Olympia to Burfoot Park, a county park tucked into Puget Sound that offers all three activities at no cost.
Just past the Burfoot Park sign is a road looping around the park, with several free parking lots along the circle giving access to different areas. The largest parking lot faces the playground. The structure features two steep slides and a rock-climbing wall, as well as a slide for younger children. There is a swing set with two bucket swings and four swings for older children. The playground is surrounded by a grassy field dotted with picnic tables and grills.
Take note that the public restrooms are not particularly close to the playground and are more easily reached from the next parking lot.
Hiking trails can be found on the perimeter of the park. Rhododendron Trail is most accessible from the large parking lot by the playground. It is a forested, unpaved trail about a fifteen-minute walk from the beach. Rhododendron Trail isn’t stroller accessible due to several areas with wooden stairs. The trail is mildly steep—my four-year-old requested a rest on the benches along the trail—but still doable for young hikers.
The trail forks occasionally, but is clearly marked with signs leading to the beach. There are also signs warning of poison ivy, so be sure to stay on the trail! Other trails include the Beach Trail and the Horizon Trail.
Rhododendron Trail ends on a rocky beach with a wide view of Puget Sound. Water shoes are a must, as the beach is entirely covered with rocks and shells—good for throwing into the water, but not for bare feet. During low tide the ground was crawling with tiny crabs, much to the delight of my boys. We also found sand dollars, clams, oysters, and tiny sea snails. A bald eagle circled overhead, at one point dipping into the water for a fishy meal.
To close our afternoon, we spotted a vibrantly colored woodpecker on our hike back to the parking lot. Burfoot Park burgeons with opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities and appreciate the natural beauty of Puget Sound.
Lorren Lemmons is a mama to two blue-eyed boys, a military wife, a nurse, a bibliophile, and a writer. She recently moved to Lacey from Los Angeles.