The Path Less Beaten Part 6: Kobayashi Park

  • Trailhead: 6420 Chambers Creek Rd W
  • Length: ~2 miles
  • Overgrowth: 1-4
  • Difficulty: Easy

Of all the trails in this collection, this one is probably the most well known. Nonetheless, you won’t find any useful trail maps online and the park itself is hidden in a neighborhood with no signage on the main road. The land was previously owned by the Kobayashi family who donated it to the city when they moved to Japan. The picnic shelters next to the parking lot are the hollowed out remnants of their home.

The majority of the worthwhile exploration exists in the two mile canyon beyond the official boundaries of the park. Technically the park is just outside of Tacoma’s city limits, half in U.P., half in Lakewood, but it’s such a great spot I had to make an exception. There is a plan to eventually build a proper trail along the entire creek but the timeline for that has not yet been established.

There are multiple ways to access the canyon but for the sake of simplicity, these directions assume you’re starting at Kobayashi Park. Once you get about a quarter mile from the parking lot, it turns into a sort of “choose your own adventure” story. There are several fallen trees that act as bridges between the north and south banks and a chaotic network of trails on either side that roughly follow Chambers Creek. Theoretically you could make it all the way to Chambers Bay and the accompanying Chambers Creek trail without walking through the creek but it would be wise to anticipate getting wet and wear appropriate shoes.

*Important note* If you visit the park and walk on the trails anytime between September and January, please stay out of the water all together. Around that time, Coho, Chum, Chinook, and Pink Salmon use the creek for spawning. This is one of the only remaining waterways the salmon have around here and walking through the gravel beds can destroy their nests.

The whole area is just overflowing with life. Critters you’ll likely encounter include garter snakes, cascade frogs, and signal crayfish. Unlike other similar environments around Tacoma, blackberries are mostly kept at bay and allow more room for native plants to flourish.

The most obvious and easy to follow trails go about half a mile up to the confluence of Peach Creek. Just before you get there, you’ll see the trunk of a 200’ redwood spanning Chambers Creek. There are a couple nice river rock beaches just past that at a wide slow-moving portion of the creek. If you continue past that, you’ll eventually find the rusting hulk of 1970s Oldsmobile.

The trails beyond that point are not heavily used and you’re still nearly a mile short of the Chambers Creek trail. If you decide to venture into that area, be prepared to spend a lot of your time in tall grass or up to your shins in water. The trails that do exist are thin and hard to find. If you start walking in the creek, it’s easy to forget where you stepped in and end up walking a lot further upstream. You’re not exactly in danger of getting lost in the wilderness but it might lead an awkward conversation when you go stumbling over the back fence of some millionaire’s backyard in an effort to get back to civilization.

Check the rest out here:

  1. My wife and I had two weddings. The first was a small, intimate gathering at Kobayashi! I have lived in Tacoma since 1992 and never heard of this place until I met her in 2015 and we had our first, sort of, date at this very park.

  2. Not as big a deal as a wedding but I had a little birthday party there in August. I love Kobayashi Park.

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