Gnome-hunting at the Bonney Lake Library. Photo credit: Tiffany Doerr Guerzon
Located 15 miles east of Tacoma, the city of Bonney Lake sits above the Puyallup River Valley, offering gorgeous views of vistas ranging from Victor Falls and Lake Tapps to Mount Rainier. In addition to views, the city has found another unique way to entice residents outdoors: hunting for gnome home doors.
The fun started when city councilmember Laurie Carter read about a tiny door in a tree in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Curious people were coming from all over to see the mysterious “gnome door.” She emailed a picture of the door to fellow councilmember Tom Watson, who happens to be a woodcarver.
“Could you carve one of these?” Carter asked.
He could and did — 10 times over. Watson carved and painted 10 unique doors that he placed on trees around Bonney Lake. Another councilmember mapped the GPS coordinates so that families could hunt for the magical creations.
Want to join the gnome home hunt? The doors can be found in large and small parks, on hiking trails and even at the Bonney Lake Library. There is even a Bonney Lake gnomes T-shirt available for sale to show your gnome pride. Here's a round-up of the gnome spots, with hints. All locations allow leased dogs.
Midtown Park (Formerly called WSU Forest)
The entrance for this network of trails is located behind Fred Meyer on highway 410. Here you will find two gnome home doors. The trails are well-traveled by foragers and hikers but can prove confusing because there aren’t any signs. If you are up for the adventure, the trails wind through a pretty forest and are fairly flat.
Gnome hint: For the first door, check around the open area at the trailhead — and be sure to look up! For the second door, take the main trail to your right.
Find it: 20904 SR 410, Bonney Lake
This door can be found in the same outing as Midtown Park, as the park is just a short drive across highway 410 from the Midtown Park trails. Cedarview Park is great for train-loving toddlers and preschoolers, with a train-shaped play structure as well as swing sets and slides.
Gnome hint: Walk around the periphery of the grassy open space. As you enjoy the sculptures placed at random intervals, look around the tall cedar trees for the gnome door.
Find it: 9301 208th Ave. E., Bonney Lake
This amazing park, located at the south end of Lake Tapps, is worth a visit even without the two gnome home doors. Perks include picnic areas, sport courts, a skateboard park, playground area, snack shack and a grassy meadow for playing. Across the street, you can swim in Lake Tapps and rent kayaks and paddle boards. You could easily spend the day here, so pack a picnic lunch!
Gnome hint: Speaking of picnics, look for the first gnome home door around the picnic areas near the main entrance. The second gnome door is hidden across the street near the parking lot with the sign Ballfield #4, off of Bonney Lake Boulevard E. Rumor has it that you can also see an eagle’s nest in this area.
Find it: 7203 W. Tapps Hwy E., Bonney Lake
Located near the northwest shore of the lake called Bonney Lake, this small park features a playset, benches and a short trail but — heads up — no restrooms. Parking is limited.
Gnome hint: Walk along the path that parallels the park area behind the playset, and look at the tall trees just behind the trail. There are a few narrow trails going into the woods, but they are quite overgrown. Be sure to look on the sides of the tree trunks facing away from the playground to find this watermelon-themed door!
Find it: 18200 74th St. E., Bonney Lake
Do gnomes like to read? They must, because they have made a home in one of the trees near the library. Kids will love finding this easy-to-spot gnome home door before or after a library visit.
Gnome hint: Look around the trees in the grassy area next to the library building.
Find it: 18501 90th St. E., Bonney Lake
This trailhead is located on a residential street in a suburban neighborhood in the southern part of Bonney Lake. Once you find the address, look for a paved road between two houses. If you see a white stormwater facility sign, you are in the right place. Drive in and park in the small parking lot. (Note: There are no restrooms.) The trail marked as a path to Victor Falls Elementary begins with a boardwalk then goes sharply uphill in a series of steep steps, a scenic, mile-long hike for older kids. There is also another flat trail to the left of the boardwalk that offers peek-a-boo views of Fennel Creek and the stormwater pond.
Gnome hint: If you’re not up for hills, walking the stretch of boardwalk will be fine for gnome home door hunting. Victor Falls Elementary kids might see the gnome door while walking home!
Find it: 11110 185th Ave. E., Bonney Lake
Bonney Lake Dog Park (also called Viking Park)
Bring the family dog to help you sniff out this gnome home at this pooch park next to Bonney Lake Elementary School. The fenced off-leash area offers a nice walking trail around the periphery of the park. If you have GPS capability, use it for this one, because the coordinates are spot-on.
Gnome hint: To find the door, you will need to venture off the main trail. You will see several offshoots from the main path that lead to the center of the park. You’ll find a door on a tree on one of these smaller trails.
Find it: 18902 82nd St. E., Bonney Lake
Nestled in a residential area in south Bonney Lake, this park was built around the Bonney Lake Sky Stone, a huge glacial erratic that is thought to have been used by early Native Americans, possibly to map the constellations. The trailhead is located between two houses, but is easy to see from the street. Be aware that there are only two parking spots (and one is designated as handicapped) but you can park along the street in the cul-de-sac. The park features a small playset and hiking trail, but no restrooms. After you check out the Sky Stone, there is an out-and-back hiking trail that is about a mile with a gentle incline.
Gnome hint: Look for a gnome door in the trees surrounding the Sky Stone enclosure.
Find it: 11313 176th Ave. E., Bonney Lake
Editor's note: Some of the gnome doors have been stolen or vandalized in recent years. Hopefully you'll find that everyone has treated them respectfully.
Sweet gnome reads (and movies)
Editor's note: This article was originally published a few years ago and updated for 2019.