When I lived on Whidbey Island in Washington State, my first hiking trips were local ones, such as the hikes at Ebey’s Landing in Coupeville. Pre-internet days it was a lonely place. Not so much these days. Even in winter it is filled with others enjoying being out there. However, compared to the crowds of hikers around Seattle, the numbers are still low. I cannot blame them though. It is a gorgeous place to hike. A lot of it changed after the National Park Service took on the Ebey area, for protection (and as well the internet, for sharing how pretty the Ebey Preserve – and the Pratt Preserve are).
This is one of the remaining blockhouses left in the Ebey Preserve. An odd thing is I had never visited it, even in all the years I worked in Coupeville, and hiked near it. It sits in the middle of the pioneer part of the cemetery, on the hill.
The Island was reached at Ebey’s Landing in 1850, although the Native tribes had been there for a considerable longer time, tending to the prairies and doing agriculture. This blockhouse is worth visiting, as it is open year round and is located in the older section of the cemetery. The large headstone to the left of it is one to read. If you enjoy history, do take the time to visit this area. Some of it is very sad and maybe it leads to a lot of questions from your children, but I am OK with that.
I left the Island in the early 2000’s, around the time Robert Y. Pratt’s legacy would be known. He had inherited and owned an amazing section of land there – and when he passed away it was given to a distant relative, who had never seen it. And they followed his request and the land was purchased to be protected. However, as with all things, the land sat for a number of years and is now being developed a bit for hiking and similar. Which is great!
When coming into the town of Coupeville, on Hwy 20, turn down Sherman Rd, then head up to the cemetery on the hill. There is a parking area and one of the best overlooks on the islands. On a clear day you can see from Mt. Baker to Mount Rainier and everything in between in the Cascades – and the Olympics across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In the old days, a trail went down from the overlook to a dirt private road, which you could walk past the few houses on the prairie. The “trail” then cut up an easement between the last house and a farming field. Then a real trail followed the fence line that followed Pratt’s land. It then joined the Ebey Bluff Trail. Now though? You can park at the same overlook and follow signs and you enter the old Pratt land. The new loop trail follows around the edge of his old fields. As you can see above, there is 4 different groups involved in ownership: The National Park, Washington State Parks, Island County and The Nature Conservancy. The National Park service is in charge of the new loop trail, the Pratt Preserve Loop. It is a mix of where the tractors drove around the fields, and then actual trail in the woods. There are 2 junctions now, one to join the Bluff Trail, and a new extension to connect to the Kettles Trail out on Hwy 20, that goes to Fort Ebey State Park and the Kettles Trail System.
One of the gems of this area is the two buildings in Pratt’s Preserve.
I used to walk by, looking over the field’s fencing, and wishing I could walk closer, as I headed out towards the Bluff Trail at Ebey’s Landing. The buildings were in bad shape in the 1990’s. They have been restored by the National Park Service and are now open at times to visit. There sits a blockhouse, one of the last 4 remaining, and Ebey’s House.
The views. I don’t think I will get tired of them, as you look over Ebey’s Landing, and the prairie. There was a time in my life I used to hike this area 2 to 4 times a month.
Hiking the loop around Pratt’s Preserve isn’t long, it is at most 1.25 miles and is overall flat. It is a great choices for older adults, and young children – and anyone who loves history.
One tip: Always have a hat, thin gloves and a jacket for hikes on the island. The wind howls here, even in summer. In winter it is often pleasant temps, but the wind cuts coldly.
Parking: Park at the overlook below the cemetery, or near the Preserve (just pass the overlook, well-marked) for free. If you park down low at Ebey’s Landing you will need a Discover Pass from the state.