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Maple Valley Gnome Trail Offers Whimsical Fun for Seattle-Area Families

Search for forest gnomes with the kids along a delightful nature trail

Published on: April 09, 2021

Kid in plaid jacket standing by gnome in tree along Maple Valley gnome trail fun for Seattle-area families
Credit: Godfrey Guerzon

Looking for a sweet way to entice your crew outdoors to enjoy nature? Try the new Maple Valley Gnome Trail, perfect for a family outing with young kids. Walk the trail while searching the trees and stumps for statues of gnomes and other fun trinkets.

New trail, old gnomes

This new Maple Valley Gnome Trail is located at what's known as the Maple Valley Legacy Site (home of the Maple Valley Farmers Market, opening for the season May 1). The gnomes, though, have been lurking around in the forest before. They were rehomed from the old trail in Henry’s Ridge.

Very small and cute boy crouching next to gnome along the Maple Valley gnome trail
A small gnome admirer. Credit: Kate Lozano

Having hiked the old gnome trail with my kids many times, I was worried the new one might not measure up. But I am happy to report I was wrong! The new site has all the natural forest beauty of the old site, including plenty of nurse logs and pretty moss, but it also has much better parking and a shorter, easier trail for little ones to navigate.

Finding the gnome trail

To walk the gnome trail, park in the parking lot of the Maple Valley Farmers Market, right across from Rock Creek Elementary School and the Tahoma School District building. The trailhead is located in the northwest corner of the lot and it's marked with a gnome trail map on a post.

Maple Valley gnome trail big pile of gnomes on a stump nurse log fun for seattle area families kids
So many gnomes. Credit: Godfrey Guerzon

Trek straight up the hill (this is the only steep part of the trail) and when you get to the top, turn left. There is a sign to point you in the right direction. You'll walk a bit before you see your first gnome. Continue on until you reach a clearing. Here you will find lots of gnomes!

Once you drag the kids away from all of the statues in the clearing, to the right is a sign that marks the entrance to the heart of the gnome trail, which is a loop. While walking the loop, be sure to look up and down! Groups of gnomes are gathered on the ground, gnomes perch in the crooks of trees and some are several feet away, but still visible, from the trail. There are also a variety of animal and fairy statues. 

Happy siblings posing by a log along Maple Valley's gnome trail fun for seattle-area kids and families
Credit: Gina Powell

The creators of the trail made good use of the area’s natural features, placing gnomes along fallen logs, and in little hiding places. We saw a whole community of gnomes populating an upturned root ball.

Towards the end of the trail there is an area marked “Gnome Graveyard” that's filled with broken statues. We saw several painted rocks placed in front with "RIP" messages for fallen gnomes. It's a sweet way to make use of statues damaged from weather or age, or, unfortunately, vandalism.

There are lots of smaller trails that branch off of the main path, which can be a bit confusing, so just follow the gnomes, keep left and stay on the wider path. The loop will end back in the clearing where you started.

Maple Valley gnome trail graveyard where broken gnomes are placed
The "Gnome Graveyard." Credit: Godfrey Guerzon

Parents should know

The Maple Valley Gnome Trail is about .75-mile long and we walked it in about 45 minutes, with many stops for photos. The trail was muddy in places so I recommend boots for this outing if there has been any recent rain.

Trail visitors are welcome to leave gnomes along the path as long as they are weatherproof, so consider if your crew would like to leave a memento.

While the trail is well-groomed, there are several narrow spots that would be difficult to get a stroller through, but we saw plenty of parents with babies and tots in front packs and backpacks.

If you go...

Find it: Find the Maple Valley Gnome Trail at 25719 Maple Valley-Black Diamond Road S.E. in Maple Valley, in an area referred to as the Maple Valley Legacy Site (across the road from Rock Creek Elementary School).

Parking: Free parking is available in a large lot that was mostly empty the day we visited. Note that if you visit the gnome trail on a day the Maple Valley Farmers Market is happening (Saturdays, 9 a.m.–2 p.m., May 1–Sept. 25, 2021) you will likely find the lot much closer to full.

Open hours: The gnome trail is open during daylight hours.

Tips for families:

  • There are portable toilets in the parking lot, but these may not be open all the time. 
  • The trail is not stroller friendly.
  • We found the trail muddy in spots, so wear appropriate shoes.
  • Look at, but don’t touch the gnome statues!
  • Feel free to leave a gnome on the trail, but make sure it is weatherproof.
  • Check the trail's Facebook page for more information about the trail, pictures and up-to-date conditions.
  • If the kids need to burn off more energy, Lake Wilderness Park is close by and has walking trails around the lake and a playground.

Fuel up nearby before or after gnome hunting:

More adventures with kids:

  • Best Kid-Friendly Hikes and Strolls on Bainbridge Island
  • Kirkland's Juanita Beach Park Unveils a Brand-New Playground
  • Field Trip: Tacoma Nature Center's Private Family Nature Walks
  • 6 Sensory Playgrounds for Kids of All Abilities
  • 10 Urban Nature Adventures for Spring

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