“Every October, trail racers gather to do 1, 2, or 3 loops of this course. Beautiful rolling trails!
— Shaun Henderson
Race - Oct 7, 2017
If you are in Tacoma for a visit or already live here, Point Defiance has the best trails in town. You would never guess you are in the heart of Tacoma when on these trails. Sure, there are better trails in the Cascades and Olympics, but none within minutes of town. Enjoy great views of the Olympics and Mt. Rainier. The trails are well-maintained but can be muddy in spots in the winter, but if we didn't like that we would be road runners :)
The park is open sun up to sun down.
The map shows the start at Salmon Beach, but its better to start in the park at Owen's Beach and run SE along the water front. When you get to the boathouse turn right up the stairs to a play park. Turn right again and run along the edge of the cliff overlooking the water. At the first car park, cut across the road and start a gradual incline up to the zoo trailhead. Then take an almost 180-degree right turn and run down the main trail avoiding the small side trails.
Once at the covered picnic area, take a loop through the Rhododendron Garden before heading up the hill. At the top of the hill, keep on the main trail and cross two one-way roads; then in about 1/4 mile you cross another. Keep on this trail until the first right hand turn and roll downhill until you come out on another road, just left of a vehicle pull out.
Run through the pull out back onto a trail closest to the cliff. Wind along that trail avoiding the side trails until another vehicle pullout and again run through that one and back onto the trail. Very shortly, that trail ends at the Gig Harbor view overlook and picnic area. Here turn 90 degrees left past the covered picnic building. Take the first right and wind along those. Avoid the first right turn onto the road (there is a big log here beside the trail). Take the second right across the road (another vehicle pull out) and enter the trails again next to the cliff.
Stay on the trails close to the cliff, through another pull out until you get to Fort Nesqually. Go around the building anti-clockwise, across the field, aiming for a gap between the poll fence at the far side of the field. Turn right here and very soon take another right to run down the hill past the fort again. Cross the road, take a quick right, then a left at the T. Run down the hill past a dog park sign at a trail intersection. Take an immediate right, up and down a short hill towards the water.
At the cliff fence take a left along the cliff for about 100ft. Then turn left onto a narrow winding singletrack. If you get to a bunch of garages you have gone to far. Wind along that singletrack, across a couple of trail intersections until you are running through a lovely pine forest. Stay right on the trails, cross a road, start up a hill and take the first right. Follow along that until it opens up under some powerlines. You can see garages to your right, and you turn up a steep short hill to your left. At the top of the hill take the first left back downhill. Stay straight on the trail, go straight across a road and start up the other side.
At the top of the hill take a right and then another right onto a fire access trail. Run down that to the gate, past that an past a gravel entrance on your left. Immediately after that gravel entrance road there is a small singletrack back into the woods. Run down that staying left until you hit another road. Cross it back onto a trail and turn hard left. Run along that staying on the main trail and avoiding any major left or right turns. Run across two roads and start gradually descending. You'll reach an intersection, turn right and then at the next turn left. Run down that until the first right. Wind along that trail again staying straight wherever there are any turns or intersections.
You'll come to a T, on your left will be a road, ahead is actually a very faint trail, but you are taking the main right turn. Wind up the hill until an intersection and go straight. Take the first left onto a small singletrack and run that until it rejoins the main trail. Turn right and then the next right. Take the next left which quickly opens onto a road. Here you run down the right side of the road for 1/4 mile. You go past three silver fire hydrants. The third (#25) has a trail heading to the right and sharply downhill. Run down that and turn right at the bottom. Take the second left, run a cut out log, and turn sharply right down the hill. Scramble down to the bottom and turn right.