Hiking · Local Adventures

Local Adventures: The Kettles Trail

In my quest to work on the Kettles Trails system on Whidbey Island, once again to hike all the trails, I knew I had to rehike the Kettles Trail eventually. When my oldest son was young it was a trail I hiked quite often. I felt safe on it, because it was in the open. I hadn’t walked on the second half of the trail in maybe 18 years, so it really jarred my memories. It’s not that I hate the trail, it’s just I hiked it so many times and it isn’t the most exciting. It was built I believe in 1996, a year before my oldest was born. I remember watching it being built as I drove to work. I wasn’t much of a hiker then. But when it happened, it was waiting for me.

The Kettles Trail is a complicated trail in some ways. Most people think of it as the section along Hwy 20, that is paved. But there is so much more to it. It spans rough single track trail, to smooth dirt “road” that 4 adults can walk side by side on, to the paved section along the highway.

To start the trail, we left my car in Coupeville at the Prairie Park and Ride. It is marked, but can be easy to miss while driving. The parking lot is at the far back of the lot. A quick walk takes you to Hwy 20 to start the trail if you are doing and in and out. However, I got my brother to pick us up, and drive me to the other end, at Fort Ebey State Park, so we could do a one way hike.

To find the start, drive into the park and head to the campground. Take the main loop, it is about halfway around. It is located by the parking area for walk in campers. If you are visiting the park and need to park, I suggest you park instead at the main parking lot for the bluff. It’s easy to walk the bluff trail to the campground.

The first section of the trail stay on the main path. At one point you will pass a trail leading to the left marked campground, ignore it.

The trail heads downhill and winds around, coming to a junction at the bottom of the woods. Looking back up the trail. Continue on till you come out of the woods to the park road. This is .45 of a mile in. Cross the road, and take a small jig to the left to find the trailhead across the street. The Kettles is the main trail, Cedar is to the right.

This section is short and climbs uphill, to cross under the power lines. The Scotch Broom is thick here, and as usual smells awful in spring. Thankfully once it quits blooming it’s fine. Ever wonder what a Kettle is? This area here shows it well. A Kettle is a deep impression left behind by the glaciers before they receded at the end of the last ice age. Here some of the Kettles you can walk down into and up, on old access roads for PSE to reach the power lines. Some are quite deep!

The junction here is .71 mile from the start. Take a right to stay on Kettles Trail, the other direction is Grancy’s Run.

This section it becomes a wide path, where you could walk 4 across easily. It’s a road trail, well maintained. It walks easily and fast. Pass many trails on both sides, plenty to dream about doing later.

Near the end of this section come to a fenced off area, belonging to WA DOT. When I was younger this wasn’t fenced off. It’s odd and jarring. It’s also full of unkempt Scotch Broom, which is an invasive weed and the state is ignoring it! Oh, and the car? Been there as long as I can remember.

As the trail comes to a T junction, you are at 1.7 miles hiked. Now the trail turns to the right and becomes paved.

The paved part goes fast though. The first section has rhody bushes and follows the forest. The trail has a fence separating it from the highway the whole way, and the first half the bushes and trees have grown up over the past 20 years, so you while you hear the traffic buzzing by, it’s not like how it used to be. You have a privacy screen.

Did I mention my hatred of Scotch Broom yet? This section of Hwy 20 is just awful for it.

Eventually you leave the forested section and come into the open section, passing farmlands the rest of the way. The final bit is mostly downhill and while exposed is a pleasant walk. If the clouds are gone, the views of the Olympics are so pretty over the Salish Sea here.

The last bit of trail is flat, and passes by the local school, and comes to the pedestrian bridge over Hwy 20. Here the trail ends. It is 3.87 miles from start to finish. The paved part is 2.1 miles.

The Kettles Trail is free to use. Parking at the park and ride is free. If you park in Ebey State Park you will need a Discover Pass.

See here for a map.

~Sarah

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