The Mima Mounds in Olympia! Finally. We took this trip back in April, but I got so busy I forgot to write about it, so lets add it to the list of mini adventures now.
I had been waiting to take this short little hike for SO LONG! Why? Because I wanted to time it just right so that the wildflowers were in bloom. With busy schedules, poor weather, and inconsistent trip reports it just hadn’t happened… until this spring! I’d been trying to be patient and keeping my weekends open for a spur of the moment drive. It finally felt like the right day, so we made the trip down to Olympia and we were not disappointed.
The Mima Mounds Natural Area is Washington State’s weirdest prairie, filled with circular mounds up to 7 feet high that are unexplained in origin. The (roughly 3 mile) walk around the preserve is pretty cool because of the strangeness of the landscape, but the wildflowers in bloom made it truly beautiful. There were quite a few varieties blooming, but the camas flowers were really incredible. They were everywhere, but were the most densely clustered between the mounds, forming rivers of blue that criss-crossed for miles.
The park is easily accessible. The trails are mostly flat – no more than 10 feet of elevation gain over the 2 and a half mile loop. A portion of it is even wheelchair accessible. A short trail with interpretive signs meanders through the thin forest around the prairie and leads to a dome with an observation deck that has some information on the mounds, the wildflowers, and the Native Americans’ use of the area in the past. It was a perfect hike for a kiddo, though we could have done with it being even longer!
One more reason that this is a perfect hike for kids is because it’s the kind of area best explored with eyes close to the ground, focused on the little things. We were enchanted by iridescent ground beetles, roving spiders, fat fluffy bumblebees, and of course, the many types of flowers we had never come across before. My favorite were the chocolate lilies – their brown petals have a faint checkerboard pattern.
We also found the prairie to be a great spot for bird watching. We spotted savannah sparrows and several birds of prey, and finally crossed the American kestrel off our bird list. A few kestrels were hovering in place over the fields, diving, then hovering again. Quite a stunning sight.
I think the potential for owl sightings in this area could bring us back over the fall or winter, but this spot does seem at its best when viewed in peak wildflower season. At any time of year, though, this is a cool little day hike, and apparently a bit of an unknown gem.
Areas Visited: Mima Mounds – Olympia, WA | 2.5 miles
Species observed: Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Savannah Sparrow, Garter Snake, Ground Beetles.
Plants identified: Reindeer Lichen, Kinnickinnick, Camas, Chocolate Lily, Western Buttercup, Broad-leafed Shooting Star, Spring Gold, Early Blue Violet.