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Top five: Walk in the woods

Where to get lost close to your home

One of the wilder trails through the center of Point Defiance Park. Photo credit: Kristen Kendle

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There are many things the Northwest does well. Coffee. Beer. Scenic water views. We also stand out in terms of our greenery. There's nothing quite like a Northwest forest, from its giant ferns at ground level all the way up to its towering Douglas firs. Northwest forests are pleasantly easy to get to, with many large and small locations found right in the middle of city limits or within a short drive and often overlapping with or contained within parks.

Point Defiance Park has it all - open areas, playgrounds, beaches - but more than anything else, Point Defiance Park is made up of spectacular old-growth forest. Of the park's 760 acres, the vast majority are forested, with paved and unpaved trails weaving through the trees. The easiest way to get acquainted with the trees is to park near the entrance or at Owen Beach and walk all or part of Five-Mile Drive, which is paved and mostly level and great for all abilities. This is also one of the best places to bike through a forest, as you can't do that through a forest of this size just anywhere. While all the trees are beautiful, one tree not to miss is the Mountaineer Tree - a 450-year-old Douglas fir. It's labeled and located right along Five-Mile Drive. You can also take detours through the Rhododendron Garden or down to Owen Beach, where you can walk along a boardwalk sandwiched between beach and shore.

Point Defiance Park, 5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma,

Swan Creek Park is Tacoma's unsung park. While Point Defiance is popular and always has people walking its trails, Swan Creek is often unpopulated and feels a little wild around the edges. If you prefer your forest on the natural side, Swan Creek Park is hard to beat. The park's 373 acres are entirely forested and follow along with Swan Creek deep in a ravine at the center of the park. Trails are not paved and include some steeper elevation gains or difficult terrain. If you enter off of Pioneer Way, you can expect level trails, though, but keep going and expect a challenge to greet you. The Pioneer Way entrance also includes a parking lot and picnic tables.

Swan Creek Park, 2820 Pioneer Way, Tacoma,

Not everyone wants to take on a major hike just to spend some time in the forest. Snake Lake is a park right in the heart of Tacoma that's got 71 acres of forest and wetlands with two miles of trails around a narrow lake at the center (one half mile of the trails is accessible for wheelchairs). Along the way, stop along a bridge and watch turtles and ducks swim in the lake. Because the park is known for the Tacoma Nature Center, there are also plaques located along the trails that identify animals and plants that live in the park.

Snake Lake, 1919 S. Tyler St., Tacoma,

While Priest Point Park is known for its mile-long shoreline, it's also a park filled with old-growth forest. Trails wind through the forest as well as down to the beach, where you can peek into tide pools and explore. If you prefer to walk the forest, avoid going down the hills to the shore. You might also catch views of downtown Olympia and the Capitol. There's also open grassy spaces and a playground, too.

Priest Point Park, 2600 East Bay Drive NE, Olympia,

At one time, Watershed Park was the location of the wells that served early Olympia. Today, the area is protected and has become a 153-acre forested park with moderately challenging trails. Watershed Park has a 1.3-mile loop trail through its heart that's one of the best hikes within the city limits. It's just steep enough, and the forest canopy overhead provides natural shelter from the sun or even light rain.

Watershed Park, 2500 Henderson Blvd. SE, Olympia,

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