Hiking · Local Adventures

Local Adventures: Kukutali Preserve

After we moved back up to Whidbey Island I was doing research on places to hike that I hadn’t done before. I found Kukutali Preserve by accident, through a page on the Friends of Deception Pass State Park website, and I was intrigued. I in fact had never hiked any trails in the La Conner area before this, so it was a completely new area to explore.

Looking across Similk Bay towards Mt. Erie, on Fidalgo Island. 

Kukutali Preserve is a unique state park, as it is jointly run by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and Washington State Parks. It falls under Deception Pass State Park due to it being the only one nearby, though it is a number of miles apart (Though it is also on Fidalgo Island, as part of Deception Pass is).


Kukutali Preserve is the first Tribal State Park in the history of the United States to be co-owned and jointly managed by a federally recognized Indian tribe and a state government.

  • The Preserve is located near La Conner, WA, and lies entirely on the Swinomish Reservation.
  • The preserve encompasses 83 acres spanning 3 islands with over two miles of natural shoreline, and is adjacent to 38 acres of Tribally owned tidelands.
  • The sensitive ecosystem within the preserve needs to be protected.
  • Please leave dogs at home.

On June 16, 2014, Kukutali Preserve was officially opened to the public, marking the success of the first four years of a significant and mutually beneficial pact between the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (SITC) and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. More important, it symbolizes a coming of full circle for the Swinomish people, who now have access to traditional lands and tidelands and can, once again, guide the stewardship and protection of Kukutali for future generations.

Getting there:

Coming off of Hwy 20, turn at the Chevy dealership and follow Reservation Road to where Snee Oosh Road goes to the right and continue down. If you miss the brown park sign on the right at Kiket Island Road, you can turn around just a bit farther at the 1000 Trails on the right. The parking lot is small, holding about 6 cars, and has an outhouse. A Discovery Pass is required.

Start walking downhill on the road, you will pass one private home and the caretaker home for the park. As the trail dips down, you will see the lagoon on your right, a vital part of the ecosystem. It was full of birds early in the morning for us.

Looking at the lagoon and up the hill.

The Entire-leaved Gumweed (Grindelia integrifolia), which is in the Aster family, dots the tombolo as you walk out.

Ahead you see Kiket Island (with Fidalgo Island and Mt. Erie in the distance). The road turns into beach and drops down low to cross a tombolo — a long, sandy mound area stretching from the mainland to the island. This was brought back through hard work recently, and the road bed was removed, to allow the water to cut across both sides. As we walked across it, there was sections of wet and muddy, but being summer the high tides are still low. Coming in winter could definitely be an issue. While the restoration is much needed, it drops the area to below high tide, so do know when the tide is out! Otherwise, it was an easy walk.

Looking across the other way, at Kiket Bay. The area does get tide pools even in summer.

The trail comes up high to match the old roadway and continues on uphill. There are three trails to choose from that split off not much farther beyond. here is the low trail that follows Kiket and the sandy beach below. The roadway is the middle trail, and to the right is the upland forested trail. All are short and take you to the end of the island. There is another spit/low lying area at the end, and another island – but it was shown as being closed, so don’t go out there. As well, the Similk side is closed to use. Tread gently here.

I will be back to explore more (we were very short on time so could only explore the first part).


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