Colorful leaves, varied waterfowl and golden sunlight add zest to the pleasant trails of Lakewood’s Fort Steilacoom Park. On this gently rolling loop, you will visit the Hill Ward monument, meander through meadows and forest and stroll the shores of Waughop Lake. Clear, crisp days also afford stunning views of Mount Rainier.

From the parking lot, head to the left of the barn towards a trailhead marked by two white posts. Follow the trail up a small, rocky hillside covered in brush. In a moment you will arrive at the remains of Hill Ward. This was once the site of an asylum and hospital, and has recently been remodeled into a nice memorial. Allow a few moments to explore this historic site and loop through the labyrinth.

Hill Ward Monument ©Jenni Denekas

Turn right across the memorial and head uphill between two rows of trees. At the climax of this gentle climb, look back over your shoulder for views of Mt. Rainier.

Turn left at the intersection at the top of the hill. Follow the path to a rocky slope and climb down.

Rainier View ©Jenni Denekas

You will find yourself on the paved path that traces the shoreline of Waughop Lake. Take the right fork and stroll along this shaded segment of the trail. You will enjoy reflections of fall colors on the lake’s serene surface, as well as sightings of abundant ducks and geese.

When you reach an intersection at the corner of the lake (about 0.1 miles later), head straight uphill, away from the water. You will meander through brushy meadows and pass several adjoining trails. After about 0.2 miles, take a 90-degree left turn onto a broad, gravel path.

In a moment you will enter forest thick with big leaf maple, alder, madrone and Douglas fir. Soon after, turn right onto a slightly overgrown trail and climb uphill. After about 0.2 miles, the trail will bend left and you will reach a large water tower on the park’s southern border. Follow the gravel path as it traces the fence.

Shortly after passing the water tower, take a left downhill into the forest. At the base of the hill, turn right. You will wind your way through changing leaves and past a small dirt bike course. As you emerge from the forest, turn left. You will pass through grassy meadows and a small grove of oaks as you travel 0.4 miles back to your starting point.


Season: Fall

Length: 3.5 miles

Difficulty: 1-2

Variety: Loop

Elevation gain: 200 feet

Highest Point: 350 feet

Maps: USGS: Steilacoom, WA

Open To: Hikers, Runners, Dogs, Mountain Bikes

Passes and Permits Required: None

Directions: I-5 South from Tacoma. 1. Travel south on I-5. 2. Take Exit 129 for South 72nd Street. 3. Stay right at the fork and follow the signs to South 74th Street. 4. Turn right onto South 74th Street. 5. The road will bend left slightly after 2.2 miles; continue onto Custer Road. 6. Turn right onto 88th Street SW at the light. You will enter a large swath of strip malls. 7. Continue onto Steilacoom Boulevard SW. 7. After 1 mile, turn left onto 87th Avenue SW. 8. Turn right to enter the park. 9. Follow the park road past the athletic fields and playground, until it ends at a gravel parking lot near a barn. Overnight parking is not allowed.

Waughop Lake ©Jenni Denekas

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