Exploring the Gnome Trail in Maple Valley

The Gnome Trail in Maple Valley is pure tiny human magic. The 0.7-mile loop will have your kiddo racing through the woods in wonder and awe. As a parent or caregiver, you too might feel like pixie dust magic hangs in the air. After all, the chorus of giggles that ripples through these woods is delightful, especially when the giggles are coming from your own child.

gnomes in forest
gnome trailhead

Accessing the Gnome Trail

Located roughly 40 minutes from Seattle, the Gnome Trail is a smaller subset of the 50-acre Maple Valley Legacy Site and the Rock Creek Natural Area. The access point is located at the back of the Maple Valley Farmer’s Market parking lot, directly across the road from Rock Creek Elementary School.

Parking is free and leashed dogs are allowed. Please keep in mind, cleaning up after your pet and packing out anything you brought in is essential to keeping this heavily trafficked trail a safe and healthy place for all visitors. 

gnome trail sign

Finding Your First Gnome

The trailhead is marked by a wooden sign that reads, “Tahomie Gnome Legacy Loop.” This is the first of two minor inclines you’ll traverse to reach your first gnome. As you crest the top of the hill, hang to the left. The second incline is just up ahead, marked again by a wood sign that reads, “Gnome.”

Both of these small bits of elevation gain can be a bit slippery, so shoes with traction are recommended. At the top of the second incline, stay to the left and keep your eyes out for your first fanciful discovery!

child finding gnome

Year-Round Fun

The trail is in a dense forest with tall trees. Mushrooms, lichen and moss grow in abundance. Completely unpaved, the pathways feature small dips and curves scattered with roots and stumps. 

During the summer, shade from the tree canopy helps keep the trail cool. In the colder months, the slight elevation gain helps the trail avoid becoming a boggy mess. The one caveat to this trail being a year-round destination is snow. Depending on how many inches Maple Valley gets, the gnomes may be hidden.

gnome trail

Adding Your Own Pixie Dust

Want to bring a gnome (or two) to add to the trail’s collection? Go for it! The gnomes were rehomed from their original home on the nearby Henry’s Ridge trail system and are frequently added to by visitors. 

Letting your kid add their own gnome to the trail can make returning on a different day even more fun. The figures are frequently investigated (aka moved) by kids, so you never know where you’ll find your friends hiding next!

Extending Your Adventure

Depending on the age and energy level of your child, you may want to extend your adventure a little (or a lot). Thanks to this adorable loop being part of a larger trail system, this is easily done. Near the back (the western edge) of the Gnome Trail, the pathway forks. It’s marked by a sign for the “Wild Goose” trail. For the most direct route to the car, stay to the right. For a longer hike, swing left down this path. 

trail sign

Duck, Duck Trail

The gnomes will begin to thin until you reach the Duck, Duck trail. A small sign that reads ‘Gardeners plant a little sunshine’ marks the interaction of the two trails. Hang a right, heading back into the trail system. Here, the pathway grows substantially wider and the roots fewer. 

The Duck, Duck trail dead-ends into the Legacy Loop, which is part of the larger trail system. Hang a left to extend your adventure further or turn right to head back towards the Gnome Trail and your car. 

Snacks & Treats

Even with such a short hike, snacks are always a good bet when you’re hiking with a kid. My daughter is two years old and she typically demolishes a banana and a granola bar before we’re off this trail. 

On Saturdays, the Maple Valley Farmer’s Market is another fun place to find a snack. This seasonal market is open May through September, with a special holiday market often held during the first week of December. However, fair warning that the parking lot can be extremely crowded when the market is active. 

Alternatively, consider stopping at Crown Donuts. Located just off Highway 18, beside WA-169, it’s only seven minutes from the trailhead. If you’re coming from Seattle, you’ll drive past it on the way to and from the trailhead. They have a wide selection of donuts, sausage rolls and cinnamon rolls. Particularly delightful are the French curlers. 

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Mikaela Judd

Mikaela Judd is a lover of words, trail shoes and black coffee. Born and raised in the Seattle area, she and her family live nestled by the foothills in a small town an hour from the Emerald City. A freelance writer, Mikaela loves to hike, cook and explore new places. Blog: MikaelaJudd.com IG: @mikaelacjudd

1 Comment

  1. Melaine Williams on December 3, 2021 at 11:00 am

    Very nicely written! If we were closer we would definitely want to go explore the trail!

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