Fall has definitely arrived in the Pacific Northwest, but don’t let the shorter days and gray skies get you down. Autumn is the best time to grab someone you love and go exploring! There is just something about the cool, crisp air and saturated colors this time of year that is so invigorating. So why not hop on two wheels and go for a bike ride? While there are plenty of trails throughout the Grays Harbor area, you can head inland to experience something new.

Nearby Thurston County is home to the 14-mile, paved Yelm-Tenino Trail. While not as well-known as its sister trail, the Chehalis-Western, the trail connects 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. Riders traverse forests, wetlands, and other agricultural gems and experience some of the county’s best-kept secrets.

Scatter Creek Winery
More than just exercise, the Yelm-Tenino Trail connects people to places like Scatter Creek Winery & Brewery. Photo credit: Nate Burgher

The Yelm-Tenino Trail is the perfect escape for two or the whole family. With a number of viewpoints, shops, and parks along the way, you can customize your experience based on how much time and energy you have. Whether you take the whole day and travel 28 miles roundtrip, or take a more leisurely journey, Experience Olympia & Beyond has recommendations to help you think beyond the trail.

Couples Date Day Itinerary

For a romantic day you won’t soon forget, head over to the Yellow Bicycle Project in Tenino, located at 213 Sussex Avenue West, to borrow a free bike (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.

McIntosh Lake
Experience forests, wetlands, and other agricultural gems along the Yelm-Tenino Trail. Photo credit: Nate Burgher

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 herons 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 that parallels SR 507 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 and then continue to Uptown Lounge for a refreshing beverage. Or if you prefer a longer rest, maybe 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.

Yellow Bike Project Tenino
The Yellow Bike Project in Tenino ensures everyone can enjoy the Yelm-Tenino Trail by offering free bikes to borrow. Photo credit: Nate Burgher

Family Fun Itinerary

Start your family fun day by parking at the Yelm trailhead located behind the City Hall. Get prepared for your ride by taking advantage of the picnic tables (no one wants hungry kids!) and restrooms. You can even learn about the trail at the information kiosk. And 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.

Head toward Rainier taking in all the sights and sounds. If the group is feeling wiped out, stop in one of the great shops like Main Street Cookie Company for a quick treat. From here, continue to a sandy beach between mile markers 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.

Yelm Tenino Trail Overhead
Autumn is a great time to ride the Yelm-Tenino trail to experience Thurston’s Bountiful Byway. 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 to Yelm.

And finally, before heading home, one last stop the kids will really enjoy (if they still have the energy) is the bike park in Yelm.

No matter how you decide to spend your time on the Yelm-Tenino Trail, you are sure to create a unique and unforgettable experience. 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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