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Kennedy Creek Natural Area Preserve

Olympic Peninsula

Location

Olympic Peninsula -- Olympia
View map below

Length

9.0 miles of trails

Elevation

Gain: 420 ft.

Rating

4.25 out of 5

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 
 

Home to a small trail system and made accessible thanks to Taylor Shellfish and Green Diamond, in partnership with a local nonprofit and Department of Natural Resources, Kennedy Creek is a nice walk where, in fall, you can experience spawning salmon up close. 

Kennedy Creek flows for about 9.6 miles and has a drainage area of 17.76 square miles on the west side of Highway 101. On 101’s east side, the creek empties into Totten Inlet. As the inlet’s largest tributary, Kennedy Creek provides a wealth of habitat for many animals, particularly salmon, in and around the creek. Although the entirety of the land surrounding the creek is fairly natural, it’s not all a preservation or park. In fact, most of the trails are actually little-used old logging roads. This is because the area was once logged, as many clear-cuts along the old roads make obvious.

Now, while much of the land is no longer used for logging, some parts are reserved for timberland while others are protected from any human purpose. Several groups, including the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Taylor Shellfish, the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group (SPSSEG), and Green Diamond all share access to Kennedy Creek’s watershed. The estuary area where Kennedy and Schneider Creeks meet Oyster Bay in Totten Inlet is protected by DNR as the Kennedy Creek Natural Area Preserve. 

From the trailhead on the east side of Highway 101, begin hiking down the hill for about a quarter mile to an estuary viewpoint. Along the way, interpretive signs explain the estuary’s natural history and describe the wildlife. Bird-watching is especially good here in the fall and winter, when many shorebirds stop at the mudflats during migration or stay for the winter.

 

West Side of Watershed
On the other side of 101, you'll travel upstream along Kennedy Creek. Here, the land is owned by Taylor Shellfish, a private company, and the entrance is an unsigned Green Diamond gate and road. Turn left off of 101 N and drive until reaching a pull-off on the left side of the road which functions as a parking lot. A yellow gate will be on the right and up a short, small hill.

After passing the usually locked gate, walk along a gravel road for about a half mile before coming out of the trees and entering a wide field. To the right is open tall-grass and to the left is a steep but short hill. Stretching across this hill and all the way through the field to reach rolling hills on the field’s other side are a set of power lines. Cross under the power lines and reach the first junction. Turn right and pass nearby a pile of nets and other shellfish equipment in the middle of the field. The equipment is owned by Taylor Shellfish, and although the land and dirt roads are open for the public to walk around, please do not touch the shellfish equipment.

Back at the junction, continue straight for a couple hundred feet and then turn right to reach the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail, signed with a metal structure. While the half-mile trail system is on Taylor Shellfish’s property, this land is managed by SPSSEG. The group has set up salmon viewing stations along with interpretive signs lining the trail and creek, making it possible for people to learn about salmon as they observe from the trail. The trail is also mostly ADA accessible, giving even more visitors the ability to learn. During weekends in November the trail is open between ten in the morning and four in the afternoon, and thousands of students as well as lifelong learners visit the trail each year. During November, Green Diamond unlocks their gate to allow visitors to drive to the salmon trail’s start.

To extend the trip to a true hike, continue on the main logging road for a little under three miles until reaching a small, unmaintained, and overgrown footpath off to the right. Turn off here and continue about half a mile through the forest until reaching the creek and a small set of waterfalls, Kennedy Falls.

WTA Pro Tip: Although the Taylor Shellfish and Green Diamond properties on the west side of 101 are a great place to take dogs for an on-leash romp, dogs are not allowed on DNR land on the east side of 101. Dogs are also not allowed on the salmon trail during spawning season in order to minimize disturbances.

 

Kennedy Creek Natural Area Preserve

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 47.0995, -123.0861 Open map in new window

Trailhead

Olympic Peninsula -- Olympia

Washington State Department of Natural Resources

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Getting There

Access to the east side of Kennedy watershed: Head east off Highway 101 at milepost 356 onto the Old Olympic Highway and park in a signed pull-off on the right side of the road. Off to the right there’s a trail heading down the hill for about a quarter mile to an estuary viewpoint.

Access to the west side of Kennedy watershed (made possible thanks to private companies): Turn west off Highway 101 at milepost 356 onto Old Olympic Highway. Drive until reaching a pull-off on the left side of the road which functions as a parking lot. A yellow gate will be on the right and up a short, small hill.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 

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Kennedy Creek Natural Area Preserve

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