When you need a dose of nature therapy but are limited for time, look for a suburban nature trail. The Walker Preserve in Normandy Park offers a level easy trail, plus optional steep and narrow side trails that lead down to two small creeks. There is even a picnic table available at the small parking lot.
The 30 acre woods known as the Walker Preserve was formerly owned by Ron Walker, a Normandy Park developer and early city councilmember. Walker’s style of building houses retained mature trees around them. Fittingly, a few houses are visible from along these trails, but not enough to detract from the arboreal atmosphere of the preserve. The land has been home to squirrels, pileated woodpeckers, owls, coyotes, rabbits, raccoons, and river otter. The creeks are monitored to keep tabs on the precious few coho and chum salmon that return. Multiple Eagle Scout projects, and ongoing volunteer work combine to keep this trail enjoyable.
WTA Pro Tip: Before you enter the preserve, it helps to know what stinging nettles look like, so that you can avoid them. They grow over head high in this preserve, and can be found along any portion of the trail. They are particularly abundant along the Miller Creek Loop.
From the parking lot, walk north on 2nd Avenue SW, 500 feet to the trailhead, signed “Walker Preserve”. Continue on the path, bordered by wooden fences, with trees forming a canopy overhead. Cross the bridge over Walker Creek to a map and sign. The map shows the Main Trail as a lollipop shape, heading west southwest. There are also two connecting loop trails which are not depicted: The Miller Creek Loop, which branches off to the north from the stem of the lollipop, and the Walker Creek Loop, which branches off to the south from of the head of the lollipop. The two connect to each other just west of the top of the lollipop. There is also a Walker Creek Spur trail, which leaves the Walker Creek Loop to head steeply down to the creek. There are signs at most, but not all, junctions. (See the unofficial map below.)
Behind the signage is an old railway tanker car. It was refurbished in 2016, painted with the city seal, and labeled “1953 NPRY” in honor of Normandy Park incorporation. But the tanker predates cityhood. It was used as a water storage tank decades ago, on this very location!
Start out on hard-packed dirt flanked by lots of large sword ferns, blackberry vines, salal, and Oregon grape. There are alder, moss-covered maple trees, a few large douglas-fir, and cedar - basically the usual lowland flora.
Mileages in this guide are from the trailhead, not from the map sign. At 0.2 mile is the first signed junction, with the Miller Creek Loop on your right. If you continue along the Main Trail, the next junction is at 0.4 mile. This is the where the stem of the lollipop meets the head. Let’s assume you go right, past a bench. Rounding the top of the lollipop, you will encounter two junctions, one signed and one unsigned. In both cases, stay left to remain on the Main Trail. At 0.6 mile is a signed junction. Straight ahead will take you back to the bench junction at 0.7 mile, and straight again will return you to the trailhead for a total distance of 1.1 mile. To the right (south) is the Walker Creek Loop trail.
Once you are familiar with the layout, you can hike most of the Main Trail and both of the loop trails in under 1.5 miles. The loop trails are steep in places. Fence railings help when the steep trail is wet and slick. The loop trails are narrower; watch out for stinging nettles.
Familiarize yourself with the map and have fun. In the right season, you can see trilliums, bleeding hearts, or candy flower in bloom.