Gnome Trail draws visitors into Maple Valley’s whimsical patch of woods


Gnome Trail draws visitors into Maple Valley’s whimsical patch of woods

There is a small problem of broken gnomes and even cases of intentional vandalism.

By Bailey Jo Josie bailey.jo.josie@rentonreporter.com • June 2, 2022 4:10 pm

For those in the Maple Valley area who want a fun, outdoor adventure with the little ones or just a nice walk in the woods, the Gnome Trail at Legacy Site is just the ticket.

The Gnome Trail has become one of Maple Valley’s most interesting attractions as various garden gnomes of size, shape and origin line the trail, placed there by local gnome enthusiasts and visitors, everywhere. Located across the street from Rock Creek Elementary School, it is a whimsical sight to behold.

“For the most part, we’ve seen a pretty good response,” said Robert Eaton, Maple Valley’s assistant director of parks.

A combination of community effort and the city’s parks department, the Gnome Trail is part of the 50-acre Legacy Site Park off Maple Valley-Black Diamond Road, which is home to the city’s farmers market and is also an access point to the Green to Cedar River Trail.

The Legacy Site hasn’t always been home to the gnomes of Maple Valley. Before the trail’s opening day on August 10, 2020, the Gnome Trail was a small part of the almost labyrinthine trails of Henry’s Ridge Open Space, a 250-acre wooded area southeast of Maple Valley. Hikers would walk along different trails inspired by fairy tales such as “Once Upon a Time” or “Ogre” to reach the original Gnome Trail and find an open spot in the trees to place their own garden gnome.

Unfortunately, the popularity of the Henry Ridge Gnome Trail proved to be its downfall. Not only is the main forest road in a residential area with no dedicated parking, but many of the trails in the area are intended for mountain bikers. As these issues arose, King County approached the Maple Valley Parks Department with the opportunity to relocate the Gnome Trail.

At the height of the pandemic, a “bring the gnome home” event was organized where park workers and volunteers collaborated to bring all the gnomes from Henry Ridge to the Legacy Site, a move that Eaton describe as “a natural fit”. At the Legacy Site, there is a trail that even small children can ride, along with a parking lot, portable restrooms, and a large covered pavilion.

And although the path is very popular, there is a small problem of broken gnomes and even cases of intentional vandalism. On the one hand, the trail’s accessibility is a triumph, but it also means that the gnomes living within the trails are vulnerable.

Volunteers and park workers clean up the broken pieces as often as possible and place them in a place along the trail called the Gnome Graveyard, where destroyed gnomes are safely stored.

“We have routine inspections of our trails and it’s our due diligence to make sure vandalism isn’t a recurring problem,” Eaton said.

Despite the sad sight of broken garden gnomes that someone has gone to great lengths to place on the path, people are still encouraged by the magical attraction of the Gnome Trail.

“People get more creative with the placement of the gnomes,” Eaton said. “People will bring new gnomes, which I think is great.”

The Gnome Trail is located in front of Rock Creek Elementary School, 25700 Maple Valley Black Diamond Rd SE, Maple Valley. Photos by Bailey Jo Josie/Sound Publishing

The Gnome Trail is located in front of Rock Creek Elementary School, 25700 Maple Valley Black Diamond Rd SE, Maple Valley.  Photos by Bailey Jo Josie/Sound Publishing

The Gnome Trail is located in front of Rock Creek Elementary School, 25700 Maple Valley Black Diamond Rd SE, Maple Valley. Photos by Bailey Jo Josie/Sound Publishing

The Gnome Trail is located in front of Rock Creek Elementary School, 25700 Maple Valley Black Diamond Rd SE, Maple Valley.  Courtesy of Maple Valley Parks Department

The Gnome Trail is located in front of Rock Creek Elementary School, 25700 Maple Valley Black Diamond Rd SE, Maple Valley. Courtesy of Maple Valley Parks Department

The Gnome Trail is located in front of Rock Creek Elementary School, 25700 Maple Valley Black Diamond Rd SE, Maple Valley.  Photos by Bailey Jo Josie/Sound Publishing

The Gnome Trail is located in front of Rock Creek Elementary School, 25700 Maple Valley Black Diamond Rd SE, Maple Valley. Photos by Bailey Jo Josie/Sound Publishing



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Jennifer Ahdout

Jennifer Ahdout

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