Nolte State Park: hike the trail, catch a fish or stretch out for a family picnic

This is the seventh in a series of articles about local hikes.

This is the seventh in a series of articles about local trails, campgrounds, parks, etc. – simply about places to enjoy the outdoors without traveling too far. Ideally, this will encourage folks to get outside, get some exercise and forget that we have been cooped up for months.

The focus will be on destinations in our own back yard and all will be of the “day trip” variety. Previous weeks have featured outings like the Melmont Ghost Town Trail, Black Diamond Open Space, the Old Mine Trail, Flaming Geyser State Park, Mud Mountain Dam, and the Naches Peak Loop Trail; this week we’re headed to Nolte State Park.

The target audience is the novice or, at least, not a seasoned veteran of the woods. Nothing here will involve summiting Mount Rainier or spending days trekking the Wonderland Trail.

If you have a suggestion for a hiking/camping adventure, pass it along. Just email Offer a brief description from your personal experience.

All things to all people – perhaps that’s the best phrase when considering Nolte State Park.

You’re seeking a lazy day in the sun? Notle is right up your alley, offering a sloping lawn that reaches the usually-serene Deep Lake shore. Looking for a picnic spot? Nolte has open space galore to stretch out a blanket and there are plenty of tables for those who would rather not sit on the lawn. Wanting to drown a worm or two in search of fish? Deep Lake is stocked by the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. And if hiking is your game, the park offers a pleasant (though unchallenging) 1.4-mile path around the lake.

Add all that together and it’s easy to see why Nolte State Park is a popular destination. On a sunny Labor Day holiday, the parking lot was packed and the expanse of grass was filled with parents, kids and dogs. Deep Lake was active with swimmers, floaters, kayakers and even a couple of paddleboarders.

The park is a day-use facility, so there’s no camping. The grounds total 111 acres, with nearly 7,200 feet of shoreline.

Deep Lake is a prime draw, ringed with towering Northwest trees. Boats are allowed, as long as they are people-powered (no motors). And the watercraft are all on the small side because they must be carried in; there is no boat launch.

According to information posted at the park, fishing is allowed throughout the year but is best in May. Anglers might land rainbow trout, Kokanee, perch and crappie. Anyone dropping a line should know the rules as Deep Lake follows statewide guidelines when it comes to minimum sizes and daily limits.


Those who get their kicks from high altitude and rugged terrain are probably not headed to Nolte’s 1.4 miles of loop trail. But those looking for something close to home, easily accessed and suitable for the entire family will be pleased.

The path is generally smooth and well worn (no need for boots) and wide enough to allow for social distancing. There are benches around the loop to allow for a quick breather or to simply give visitors a chance to sit and enjoy the old-growth trees. Even when the park is crowded, trail users will find it doesn’t take long to escape the playful noise.

As with most trails, the experience can be enhanced by taking the road less traveled. There are plenty of side trails and most lead to the water’s edge. Don’t worry about getting lost because it is, after all, a loop trail. Everyone winds up back where they started.

There are a couple of dips in the trail, meaning a slight descent followed by a brief uphill climb. Even those in moderate condition will finish the loop in about a half-hour, unless they’re sidetracked by photo opportunities or give in when benches beckon.


Old-timers will remember a time when the state wasn’t involved in the forested land surrounding pristine Deep Lake. For years, the Nolte family operated a resort on the property, which has always been a popular spot for swimming, family picnics and other outdoor recreation.

The resort eventually closed and, decades ago, Minnie Nolte decreed in her will that the land be given to the state’s park system so the public could continue to enjoy everything the site has to offer.

She was specific in her desires, noting that the land should be used “for the benefit of the public and especially, and if possible, for children and young people.”

The park hit a rough patch in 2009 when the state of Washington, reeling from a significant economic downturn, was looking for ways to save money in the park system. Some properties were earmarked for possible sale and others, like Nolte State Park, faced “mothball” status. The thought was they could be shuttered until the economy improved.

Competing ideas were proposed, however, and Nolte remained open.

An offshoot of those statewide discussions was the Discover Pass, which came into play in 2011. The pass comes in two forms: an annual permit is $30 and can be shared by two vehicles; a single-day pass is $10. The Discover Pass is a motor vehicle permit only, so park visitors do not need the pass to access state recreation lands by boat or by non-motorized means (on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle, for example).


• Nolte State Park a quick trip from most anywhere on the Plateau and just 10 minutes from downtown Enumclaw. Take state Route 410 to the city’s eastern edge and turn left (north) at the traffic light onto 284th Avenue Southeast, which then becomes Veazie-Cumberland Road. It’s five miles to the park entrance, which isn’t particularly well marked (watch for a small sign on the right and enter to the left).

• Nolte State Park is operated by the state, meaning a Discover Pass is required to enter the paved parking lot.

• The parking lot is gated during the winter but guests are still allowed on the grounds. It’s not ideal, but everyone parks on the shoulder of the road and walks in.

• Dogs are allowed throughout the park as long as your furry friend is leashed at all times.