Hiking · Local Adventures

Local Adventures: Artillery Hill

Fort Worden State Park sits just outside of Port Townsend’s bustling tourist zone on the Quimper Peninsula in Washington State. It’s just up and over one huge hill, only a few minutes from the ferry dock if driving. It offers over 11 miles of hiking trails (see here for a trail map), and so much history to see/experience. And if you stop moving, you might imagine what it was like so long ago when it was men in uniform running back and forth, as they sat in the Triangle of Fire, of Worden, Flagler and Casey overlooking the Salish Sea and the entrance to the Puget Sound.

The beauty of homeschooling is this was education. Our boys are learning, deeply immersed. We’ve hiked most of the trails in this park, but a few alluded us – the ones in the deepest of the park. Normally when we visit Fort Worden, the boys and I walk onto the ferry from Whidbey Island, get off and walk a short mile to the bus stop at the Co-op grocery store, then take the free transit bus to the park. Then we start hiking.

The wildfire smoke was less on the Salish Sea as we crossed on the ferry. Fort Worden is the far right of the land across the water, as it runs into the water.

This time though, we took our RV and went camping for 3 nights to really experience the park.

And honestly? That is way to do it. It gives one so much freedom to hike, hike some and repeat. No driving needed once there. Fort Worden is very walkable. I’d argue it’s easier to walk the park, than to drive it.

And we kept up on schoolwork. We’d hike in the morning, come back and I’d make lunch, then do school work. And then go hiking again.

The sun rising above Fort Worden. Walking out of the Forest Campground (there are two campgrounds at this park, the forest one is easier to get a site in, where as the lower one is off the beach down low). The bathrooms for these campgrounds are top notch, all single use rooms, including the showers. Very secure, with locks and heated well lit as well. The campgrounds are tidy as well. This is a busy state park, with a lot going on and to do.

The trailheads are just above, a short walk away, to head up into the forest, to Artillery Hill.

For this hike we started on Battery Way East, which is a paved road that heads uphill right away. Pass Battery Hill West, to your right not far up, you will come out that road.

As the road winds uphill you come to a bend and Tolles Battery is in front of you. If you turn to the left on the road, you can wrap around the front of the battery, up high.

Grass roof and all. This is the Bluff Trail, and it traverses across a meadow above the battery.

Looking down at Tolles Battery from above, on the Bluff Trail. There are stairs going down, along with a trail you can take as well.

Walking through Tolles Battery, there is a privy bathroom and a bike rack on the outside.

Take your time and wander through this battery. It’s got a lot to look at, and to climb up into. This is where one of the large guns sat.

Looking down Tolles Battery.

After that we headed up The Bluff Trail, which has a steep section to hike up, and comes out just above Artillery Hill’s batteries (you can see a couple tops).

The trail passes a junction for the JFK Trail, then comes to a wide 3 way trail junction. We visited Memory’s Vault, that was built in the late 1980’s.

Memory’s Vault is an art and poetry display.

In the low sun of fall, it is cold and eery, yet draws you in. Each cold concrete pillar has a metal plaque with a different poem or topic on it. Wander through them.

I am not quite sure what this one represented though.

It is a quiet place, with the wind and sun dappling through. It silently encourages one to stop and let their mind clear.

We returned to the 3 way junction and took Gun Line Road.

41 large guns would have been quite a sight. At Fort Casey, across the Salish Sea, they have found and restored a couple big guns (they had been sent to the Philippines long ago). It would be neat if they could get 1 or 2 to add here as well, to show just how big the guns were.

Gun Line Road walks through the batteries. Above it, to the left, is the Upper Gun Line Road, which is about 3 to 10 feet above, as it walks along. The upper road is more stroller friendly. If one uses the Battery Way East Road (trail) a powered wheelchair could visit this area.

Looking back. The batteries have held up for their age. There are tunnels to explore. This is a kid’s dream come true if they like exploring. Lots of hollering and hiding.

The upper batteries are neat in that much of it is still there, and not shut off like it is at Fort Casey across the water.

120 years old, which for the PNW is old.

We bumped to the upper road, and came into an area that is full of old foundations but is also home to a number of ancient crabapple trees in a meadow.

The upper road goes above Benson Battery. If you stayed on the lower road, you can go through a tunnel to this battery. It connects at the end, and there are also stairs to come back up.

Just after Benson, we took a left onto Cistern.

Old concrete pillars that once held towers.

Cistern is a quick trail and passes a number of areas returning to nature. Many foundations, that have been gone so long a forest grew up in them, and then was cut down. This building was still standing.

This one is still standing as well. It is near the junction where a large white building faintly painted “theatre” on one side is. The trail comes out at Battery Way East. We decided to head back to the 3 way junction where you pass Memory Vault, and took Battery Way East down back to where it meets up with Battery Way West, and completed the loop.



We walked about 2.5 miles. The elevation gain is here and there, but not hard. It’s in short sections. Some roads are old asphalt, others are jeep track roads, and the Bluff Trail is actual trail.



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