Tacoma’s Puget Creek Natural Area

Veronica and I found ourselves not traveling for once on a recent weekend so we decided to find a park to visit in town.

The Puget Creek Natural Area is a gulch in North Tacoma, running from near Proctor Street to the waterfront and Ruston Way. There is a playground near the separate Puget Park parking area on the corner of Proctor and North 31st Street, with a trail descending into the Natural Area nearby. This trail switchbacks its way down a steep hillside, using a combination of stairs and steep pathways.

The trail which winds down the hillside to reach Puget Creek is filled with staircases to help hikers with the steep path.
The trail which winds down the hillside to reach Puget Creek is filled with staircases to help hikers with the steep path.

You eventually connect with the main trail next to Puget Creek, which is one of three salmon-bearing streams in city limits according to Metro Parks. The trail isn’t very long, totaling just .75 miles from the parking lot to Ruston Way, but is steep enough to provide a bit of exercise.

The park has a variety of trees and on this cool, cloudy day they gave off a fall atmosphere. All that was needed was some color in the leaves and it could’ve been October.

Catarina loved this trail because it was full of one of her favorite things in life - gravel.
Catarina loved this trail because it was full of one of her favorite things in life – gravel.

One drawback to this trail is the stench of sewer in the middle of it. There are plenty of manhole covers located near the path, but it’s unclear whether or not they are the source of the smell or if sewage is running to the Puget Sound from there.

Once you get away from that area, though, the path goes back to being an enjoyable walk in the woods.

Once we reached the bottom, we quickly turned around and headed back uphill. We took the switchback trail out rather than continuing on the main path which eventually goes under the Proctor Street bridge and returns hikers to an alternate trailhead on Monroe Street near North 34th.

Catarina and Veronica enter the Puget Creek Natural Reserve in North Tacoma.
Catarina and Veronica enter the Puget Creek Natural Reserve in North Tacoma.

All in all, this park isn’t a must visit but it is nice for a bit of exercise if you are in the area. A friend of mine uses it regularly as part of his running loop in north Tacoma as well. It is probably worth a visit in the fall, because the maple trees are surely full of color – though Kobayashi Park in University Place offers a similar floral array and doesn’t smell like the sewer.

– Craig Craker

Some of the trees that line the Puget Creek gulch.
Some of the trees that line the Puget Creek gulch.

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