Priest Point Park

Ellis Cove Trail, Priest Point Park.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Another rare sunny day this winter! I got home early Sunday afternoon after spending the weekend in Seattle and was just itching to get out. I needed Vitamin D and exercise! It would have been a perfect day to head out to River Song. But, according to Big Red’s clock, I had only four and a half hours of daylight left. Not enough time to justify burning a third of a tank of gas. So I decided to head out to Priest Point Park. I loaded up my daypack with five liters of water, bringing the pack weight to approximately 14 pounds, and headed out.

Ellis Cove Trail, Priest Point ParkPriest Point is a City of Olympia park on Budd Inlet, and it has something for everyone. The park has miles of hiking trails, beaches, picnic areas, a garden, shelters, outdoor kitchens and barbecue areas, and a playground for kids. Since it is a city park, no parking pass is needed.

As expected, the parking lot was completely full when I arrived, except for one spot, and I grabbed it. As I slid out onto the pavement, I remembered Big Red’s clock is off by an hour. I actually had five and a half hours of daylight left. D’oh! Oh, well. It would have taken me about an hour to prepare for heading out to River Song, anyway. I had completely unpacked it after my last trip, and my tools were all spread out in my shed. I’m not sure about the status of my batteries, either.

I shrugged my way into my daypack and headed for the Ellis Cove Trail. This is the most difficult trail in the system, and I wanted a good workout.

Ellis Cove Trail, Priest Point ParkEllis Cove Trail is accessible from several entry points along East Bay Drive. I chose the southern-most trailhead, closest to the parking lot. This part of the trail starts out fairly level, and then quickly drops into a very steep ravine, using a series of steps and dirt ramps. The steps rise at uneven heights, some of which greatly exceed the US 7″ standard, making them a little awkward or even difficult for people with knee issues. Or those who might be height challenged.

As soon as the trail reaches the bottom of the ravine, it climbs back out through a series of steps and switchbacks, crosses the ridge, and drops back down again to Ellis Cove through an equally steep path. These two ravines are the most strenuous parts of the Priest Point trail system, and I had not brought my hiking poles with me. I wish I had because it would have helped reduce the impact on my knees when stepping down some of those steps with the higher risers.

A nice, fairly level boardwalk curves around the end of Ellis Cove, providing both a welcome relief from the strenuous climbing and also a fantastic view of the cove itself. An information kiosk and overlook at the north end of the boardwalk provides information about the creatures that inhabit the lagoon.

Ellis Cove, Priest PointAfter leaving the boardwalk, the trail continues around the point in a series of short ascents and descents, meeting up with other trails along the way, including paths providing beach access. The maze of trails crisscrossing the point provides a great opportunity to put in some miles for those looking to build up endurance or get a good workout. Some of the trails are flatter with few tripping hazards (roots and rocks), while others are steeper, with exposed roots and rocks, requiring more intentional walking.

I wandered through the maze a bit, and then back up to the parking lot to use the restroom–it was being cleaned–and then down to the beach. I explored the beach a little bit and followed the southern-most beach access trail back up to the restroom–which was now available.

I wanted to put in another mile, so I walked across the bridge to the trails on the east side of the park. These trails are more level and have fewer tripping hazards, making them a good place for those looking for a more leisurely or less technical hike.

Ellis Cove Trail, Priest Point ParkI did a quick loop and added another mile to my hike, bringing my total to five, and headed back to Big Red. It was a pretty good training hike and a great opportunity to enjoy some sun while out in the woods and also at the beach.


  • Distance: 5.04 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 454′
  • Elapsed Time: 2:35:07

I did not use my Garmin, so I only have my stats from iPhone’s MapMyRun app, which, sadly, don’t give me the same level of detail. However, it’s good enough. The elapsed time includes my bathroom stop, photo stops, taking my pack off to find stuff, putting it back on again, stepping aside on the trail to let people pass, pausing to admire the view, pausing to consult a trail map, etc. The usual.

Ellis Cove Trail, Priest Point ParkPriest Point is a popular destination, so be aware there will be lots of other people using the trails, including trail runners. It is a pet-friendly destination, as well, so expect dogs. Most people are pretty good about their dogs, but I found little dog owners often use the expanding leashes and allow their dogs to wrap themselves around my feet and ankles, creating tripping hazards. I usually just stepped to the side to let them pass. This helps keep their little dogs from getting overly excited, too.