A year or so ago, I read about a gnome trail just southeast of Seattle in Maple Valley. I set my sights on visiting, but the weekend I decided to go, I checked again and the trail had closed down. Bummers ensued! However, in mid-2020, the Gnome Trail reopened, still in Maple Valley and now at an even better location as now the trail is not shared by motorbikes and it doesn’t take nearly as long to hike from the trailhead to the gnomes, a boon for tiny hikers!
The Gnome Trail in Maple Valley is not long, easy enough that children can do it, and is absolutely adorable. Kids of all ages will love it as searching for gnomes and fairies and tiny houses and other figurines along the way is super fun. The Gnome Trail also connects to other trails in the Rock Creek Natural Area, if you want to up the ante on your hike and go for longer.
What to Know
- The Gnome Trail is located at 25719 Maple Valley Black Diamond Rd SE, Maple Valley, WA 98038, which is right across Highway 169 from Rock Creek Elementary.
- The trail is within the Rock Creek Natural Area.
- You can park right at the trailhead, regardless of what Google Maps says (it did not show the parking lot where I parked at the time of this writing).
- Getting to the trail takes about a half hour from Seattle or Tacoma.
What to Expect
The Gnome Trail is a piece of a larger trail system in the Rock Creek Natural Area. Take note that Google Maps as of the time of this writing shows a bunch of trees where the Maple Valley Farmers’ Market and trailhead for the Gnome Trail are. You’ll just have to trust me that they’re there until Google does another pass by this area. Rock Creek Elementary is on one side of Highway 169, and directly across the highway from the elementary school is a parking lot and Farmers’ Market (on Saturdays seasonally). Even if the Farmers’ Market is taking place, you can still park in the lot across from the elementary school.
To get to the trailhead, go to the back of the parking lot. There aren’t any maps of the trails that I could find online, but I did snap a photo of this nifty print out hanging by the trailhead (this is all still fairly new). You can get to the Gnome Trail using either the Legacy Loop trailhead or the Market Trail trailhead.
Not all of the trails you can access from this trailhead have gnomes. If gnomes are what you seek, look for the gnome silhouette on the map above (or check the map at the trailhead). You will first need to venture up a hill shortly after you get onto the trails. It’s not so intimidating that my three-year-old couldn’t do it, but if you have a stroller, you might want to take the Market Trail to the gnomes where the hill is a little less steep. Wear boots if the weather has been soggy because the trails are dirt and there are some muddy areas.
Once you get to the gnomes, you’ll see gnomes and tiny houses and mushrooms popping up. Sometimes they’re obvious, but other times you have to look around, so encourage the littles with you to peep under stumps and look up as well as some gnomes are climbers.
The Maple Valley Farmers’ Market
The Maple Valley Farmers’ Market takes place in the same parking lot as you’ll park during the later spring, summer, and early fall months. If you want to pair your trail with some fresh produce or some snacks, time your visit with the market. It takes place on Saturdays from mid-July to late-October from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (check the hours before you go as these things can change).