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Hunting for nature in the South Sound

Get outdoors this fall and commune with your natural surroundings

Take a quick detour from I-5 and be one with nature at Billy Frank, Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Facebook

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The outdoors are an essential piece of the South Sound puzzle. Without our luscious green forests, rocky beaches, and unique plant life, we'd just be a horrendously boring wasteland - no offense, Eastern Washington. All jokes about Spokane aside, there really are many opportunities to explore the Tacoma/Olympia region, particularly if you're interested in collecting some of nature's artifacts. If you happen to be a scavenger, here are a list of fantastic places for botanic exploration.

Charlotte’s Blueberry Park and Watershed Park
On first glance, these two parks seem quite different. Watershed is a sprawling mini-forest, oddly untouched despite being located directly south of Olympia’s downtown and the Capitol. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s looks more like something you’d see on Etsy rather than a typical park: rows and rows of neatly arranged blueberry bushes and only small patches of unkempt shrubbery here and there. Still, despite their differences, both parks have one major similarity: They’re equally fantastic places for berry picking. Watershed has a large variety of berries that can be foraged, but according to ParentMap, salmonberries are the forest’s most unique product. You can probably guess which berries are available at Charlotte’s Blueberry Park. Whichever you choose, either park is a fantastic place to bring out family or friends for a day of picking.

Charlotte’s Blueberry Park, 7402 E. D St., Tacoma, 253.305.1000,

Watershed Park, 2500 Henderson Blvd. SE, Olympia, 360.753.8380,

Billy Frank, Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge
You've probably driven right over Nisqually without giving it much thought. Well, it's time to change that, as this refuge, located between Lacey and DuPont, is a gorgeous and highly underrated nature walk. Not only can you see many unique and rare animals, such as mink, different varieties of frogs, and yes, even bald eagles, but Billy Frank, Jr. also can satisfy your scavenging itch. Sure, there's a walkway along the swamplands, but unless you feel like collecting algae, you can visit the riparian forest next door, where plenty of unique leaves and nuts can be found from the area's naturally grown Red Alder, Big Leaf Maple, and many other types of flora. Next time you're on I-5, maybe take a quick nature break in Nisqually.

Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, 100 Brown Farm Rd. NE, Olympia, 360.753.9467,

Capitol State Forest
How convenient would it be to have a massive, untamed forest right next to Olympia, less than an hour's drive east? This isn't a hypothetical situation: Capitol State Forest, located deep in the backwoods behind Tumwater, has miles and miles of trails and campgrounds, so you can transform your nature scavenger hunt into a weekend sleepover. Still, in terms of specifically South Sound nature, you can't go more classic than ... Visit for details.

Point Defiance
It would be a crime not to list Point D on here. The greatest city park in the Western Hemisphere - sorry for our strong Tacoman bias - Point Defiance has miles and miles of trails in its woodsy interior. True, it's just a city park, but the trees and plants aren't too much unlike what you'd find deep on Mt. Rainier or any unexplored woods in the Puget Sound. The possibilities are endless for discovering nature, and there's no time like the fall to see what it has to offer.

Point Defiance Park, 5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma, open 9:30 a.m. - 6 p.m. daily, 253.591.5337,

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