The other day I wasn’t planning on hiking, but a super low spring tide meant I couldn’t take the ferry off the island, so I opened up my phone for inspiration of where to go, with time on hand. As I was whining about there being nowhere I wanted to go, Kirk reminded me over Messenger that….I wasn’t stuck at work, and that people plan entire vacations to visit our island. OK, point taken. I got thinking about my goal to rehike all the trails in the Kettles Trails System/Fort Ebey State Park, and which trails I had not hiked (as they were built in the years we were living on the main land).
So I drove into Fort Ebey State Park, and drove to the end of Hill Valley Drive, parking in the loop at the end, which is near a pit toilet and picnic table. I chose Cedar Hollow trail, which had been bothering me since my last visit. Not long ago (OK, maybe 15 years…..), this trail went out to the bluff, and had picnic tables with a view. It also back then had beach access, with stairs going down to the water. That doesn’t exist anymore – and where the trail used to go straight, it is now barricaded. Instead, the trail turns left in a switchback. Beaches change, and the bluffs change even faster with erosion on the West side of Whidbey Island. Back then, this was the PNT trail, and it dropped to the water then. There are options though to complete the PNT in this section.
See here for a map (which is great to also download onto your phone).
I started on Cedar Hollow trail, right out of the parking lot. Make sure you don’t go to the right, or you’ll head uphill to the Bluff Trail. Most trails are marked, but not all are, so pay attention.
Cedar Hollow switches back and forth, with every bump out to the bluff you get views of the Salish Sea.
One of the last gives wide open views down the beach, to Perego’s Lagoon (Ebey’s Landing). When my oldest was little, we did the entire hike on the beach, making a massive loop. The tide wasn’t low that time. Oops. The bluff is very loose here, so stay back. I could hear rocks tinkling down to the beach.
The forest is just waking up to spring. I believe wild Elderberry.
Looking across the Salish Sea to Port Townsend and the Olympic Mountains. The low tides this time of year are fantastic.
I followed Cedar Hollow down, on the side of a valley, in the open forest. Coming to a junction I took Cedar Grove. This trail follows the ridge, going downhill, till it comes to the end of this V notch valley, and curves around.
It then shoots straight uphill. And up and up. It traverses the other side of the valley.
It wastes no time getting to the top. It was the workout I needed, even if I didn’t want it. Haha. And at my age, going uphill is easier than going down.
At the top it popped out to views over the Salish Sea, just on the other side of the notch in the bluff. Pretty cool. I finally had stood on an area I had seen for a long time from the ferry. The trail here had plenty of Oregon Grape and Salmonberry plants starting to bloom. The ferns were also awakening.
The trail turns inland and continues plodding along. Pass a short loop to the right that offers more potential views, then it starts heading downhill.
Come to a junction. Cedar Grove goes to the left. Cedar trail goes to the left. Why not…I decided I needed more steps. Cedar isn’t a full trail, it’s a rough cut trail, an access trail if you will. One that was probably cut by bikers and made legit. It also is marked on only one end fyi…more about that later.
Cross under the power lines for the island, into a sunny spot. The trail goes to the left, and will connect with the mainline trail, Kettles Trail if you go that way. I wandered to the right.
This dead ends quickly – there are 2 private “roads” with No Trespassing signs and gates. Ignore those. Those are old school access points for property owners long ago. Turn leftish onto the Powerline Trail. You might feel a bit lost (the Cedar Trail isn’t marked on this end, nor is the Powerline Trail), but you have only one direction to go, so don’t worry.
The Powerline Trail is actually quite pretty. And the trees along it provide some shade. It’s just quiet back here. About halfway down the trail pass a junction to the right. If you look into the woods you will see a sign hanging on a tree with a blue arrow. There is also a sign on the left side of Powerline Trail. This marker is for the newly built trails that go between 2 private properties, and are a newer area that is home to Orca View and Juggernaut trails.
Powerline Trail pops out at Kettles Trail, about halfway to the Kettles Gate trailhead off of Hwy 20. This sign is tucked into the Salal. 20 years ago there were no trails back there, and as I said, the homeowners had access back there (they could open the gate off of Hwy 20 to enter). Now though? They have built trails, legitimate ones. Ignore the sign. It’s not often anyone drives back there to be honest – Powerline trail is yes an old road but it’s a wide single track now. I will be going back to visit the newer trails.
To make it a loop I turned left onto Kettles Trail, and headed back. It is a well maintained road trail, and is wide enough for 4 or more adults to walk across. Be wary though, people do bike fast on this trail because of how smooth it is. You will pass Cedar trail, and eventually as it winds around, at where a Y junction occurs at Grancy’s Run, here the Kettles Trail narrows and becomes an actual trail, heading downhill to the leftish. The next junction is Cedar Hollow/the road. At this point you could take it to complete the loop and head back uphill. Or as I did, instead walk the Hill Valley Road back uphill to the end of the road.
It wasn’t a long hike, at 1.78 miles logged. Still, it is a pretty hike and quite lonely. I only passed 2 on bikes on Kettles, and saw 1 trail runner early on.
To park in Fort Ebey you will need a Wa State Park Discover Pass. Most areas of the park (you can buy a pass by turning into the park before going to the trail down the road). Unless you are deep in a valley (or kettle) you will have some bandwith access on a smartphone, even on T-Mobile. Most of these trails in the system are multi-use, so keep an ear open for bikes and possibly horses in some areas.