The area was settled in 1879 by three men who were improving a trail and brought their families in. When a name for a future community was proposed, the names Vine Maple Valley and Maple Ridge were suggested. A vote was taken by writing the names on slips of paper and placing them in a hat. Vine Maple Valley won by 2/3, but the word "Vine" was later cut by the post office because it made the name too long.
The town's early history mainly had to do with coal, lumber milling to build homes, and a railroad which ran through town. Coal was brought in from Black Diamond to the south, but the town itself also mined coal from Cedar Mountain. The mine was used as late as 1947. Rail workers for lines like the Northern Pacific Railroad and the Cedar River Watershed, closed off by the City of Seattle, meant more workers for those things. More residents meant more lumber milling. More lumber milling meant more workers. Suquamish tribe chairperson Martha George was born near Maple Valley in Sheridan in 1892, at a logging camp where her mother and grandmother worked as cooks."
The town grew inward. Blacksmith shops, hotels, saloons and stores took up the town in the 1910s and 1920s. Schools went up as well. Early schools were shacks at best. A two-room school went up in 1910, but a larger school was quickly needed. Tahoma High School, a three-story brick building, went up in 1920. Students made up the name by combining the first two letters in the town names Taylor, Hobart and Maple Valley. The school still serves the Tahoma School District as a middle school.
More residents meant farming and fishing became staples in the area, with milk, poultry and berry farming becoming the main grown food staples in the area. Fishing out of the Cedar River also became popular.
Maple Valley also saw resorts beginning in the 1920s. Lake Wilderness, once the site of a county lumber mill, quickly became a resort lake with the opening of Gaffney's Grove, which opened with a ballroom, restaurant and roller rink. Later, the resort grew to include an airstrip, lodge, rental cabins, a nine hole golf course and a bowling alley. It remained in operation until 1964.
Increasing automobile use in the area gave rise to new roads being built. In the early 1960s, the construction of Washington State Route 18 between Auburn and North Bend ran through the city, requiring many landmarks to be either demolished or moved.
The city was officially incorporated on August 31, 1997. Today, the mostly residential city has shopping centers, gas stations, and housing. The Maple Valley Historical Society keeps records on the city's past, with two historical museums holding artifacts such as the city's first fire engine and photographs of old places in and around the city like Gaffney's Grove. The old Gaffney's Grove site is now a city park, and the Green to Cedar river trail runs through the city. The park includes a swimming beach, an arboretum and sprawling grass fields and sees the annual Maple Valley Days Parade each year in June. In 2011, Family Circle magazine reported that Maple Valley was in the top ten family cities, in the USA. The Maple Valley Town Square houses Fred Meyer, restaurants, a medical clinic, and others.