If there is something I have learned over the years about hiking, when conservancy groups talk about grand trail visions, you cannot 100% expect for the vision to materialize…or it could be 20 more years till it happens. Comes down to money, volunteers and the property owners willing to talk. The truth is, I am old enough to have seen some of these visions come true over long decade long slogs, but also waiting for others to still happen. I have a trail as an example I’d love to thru hike with support (get picked up nightly) but there is still a chunk in the center to finish – and this one isn’t safe to road walk. I wonder here and there…will it ever get done. Before I am too old to hike like this.
So over the years on our island, Whidbey, I have instead just gone and done these areas where it’s not done. As long as I am not on private property, then I’ll do it.
Walking Ebey’s Trail System is a good example ( <– click to see the printable map). It’s mostly done. It has 2 solid trails built now, with parking lot access. There are 3 separate areas you can park now to access it, including the Prairie Wayside Park.
When I first hiked the main trail, it was a year ago, not long after it had opened. A lot has changed since then, with it becoming less raw, and more mellowed as a trail. The second section is less miles, and is an easy short hike to get in.
But yet. A section remains. The Whidbey Camano Land Trust has said they want to develop this section as an easement on farm land, so that this newer trail system will connect to other trail systems in the Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. To connect it is so simple. It’s literally a 1.27 mile section of road. That’s it. With that, one could hike 60 plus miles of developed trails. Connect 2 state parks. Open access of beach and well…so much more. It will be a tourist mecca in the summer months, all those trails and green, open spaces.
But I am here to tell you that nothing stops you today from doing it yourself.
Yes, you are responsible for your own safety. Let us not forget that major point: Road walking has a risk. Always walk against traffic, be prepared to move when you encounter jerks, and walk safely. No headphones! Or children. Or dogs.
But it’s Cow Town. Coupeville isn’t that busy compared to big towns. The only time you need to be super diligent is when the Coupeville Ferry unloads ever 1.5 hours. The road you will be road walking is Engle Road, and for the most part it only sees traffic for 2 things: the ferry and Fort Casey State Park. Being October….the park is not that busy. The only tourists in town on Sunday were more obsessed with the 25th anniversary of Practical Magic the movie having been filmed there. I worked in Coupeville during those months, long ago, as Hollywood paraded through. Some were nice, some were Grade A Snobs. They sure were not hiking after shooting ended I can tell you 😉
As I mentioned above, there is a printable map of the current trail system. Just know that what is marked as “other trails” isn’t always trails. Some of that is road walking, but those roads have very little traffic (Sherman Road for example).
I found a friend who didn’t question my idea and agreed to join me. For sure, when it’s 26* out when you start, having an accountability partner goes far. That ensured I actually showed up.
To start the loop we started in the middle of Coupeville, off of Main Street. There is a park and ride you can use in the middle for free parking, my friend joining me lives in town nearby. This section has a sidewalk or path to walk on as you walk through town, and then cross Terry Road at the high school. It continues on, passing the school and bus barn. Passing a local 55 and up trailer park, the sidewalk ends and you will be road walking Engle Road (the name changes) across the prairie. The side of the road is wide, with plenty of walking space for 2 people. It’s farmland on both sides.
It steadily winds up the gentle hill and passes the Prairie Wayside trail. You could cross here to get onto the “official” trail there, but we stayed on the road, since we’d have to cross again quickly. No point in crossing roads if you don’t have to.
Looking across at where the official trail is below the road. The Wayside Park is to the far right.
Walking up Engle Road, passing Hill Road sign. The trail starts just beyond to the left.
We left the road walking and stepped onto the trail. It is far better marked now, than when we walked it in March.
This section starts right in farmland, and winds through many parcels. The views start with the Olympic Mountains, then you can see Mount Rainier to the far right as you hit the top of the elevation of this section. In front of you is the Central Cascade Mountains, and as you wind around you can see Mount Baker rising high, to the North. Also visible is Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island and Mt. Erie on Fidalgo Island, along with Sugarloaf just a bit lower.
Pastoral views, looking back to where we had come from.
In the shadows, where the sun doesn’t hit in late fall and winter, it was still very frosty. Here is where the shorter trail joins in on the longer trail. You go left at this junction. It is well signed.
This farm area touts Hazelnuts + Swallows. The fence on the left as you walk along it has little bird houses hanging. Very cute. They have added a lot in the last year on their farm.
Looking back even farther. The Olympics are still holding their first snows.
It was so clear out – and very sunny. The Olympic Mountains were simply gorgeous.
Eventually you go behind trees and lose views.
The trail winds a bit more through farm land, then drops to cross Fort Casey Road, Be very careful here. It’s a 50 mph road. Across the road is a steep staircase down to the trail on the other side. It follows the road, then turns right onto a long driveway. Walk it till you see the markers in the woods ahead of you (the driveway curves to the right here).
The trail goes into a wooded section that gets you warmed up. And pops out onto what passes for a rural road to properties. Cross it and jig to the left a tiny bit to see the trail. This is the only trouble section for marking. It won’t look like a trail, as it walks right against a working farm that now has a new barn. But stay straight on the mowed path. You are on the trail.
Aim for the woods in front of you.
And then you’ll see the real trail. Entering Rhododendron Park. The type of trail changes instantly. No longer is it farm fields and grass. It’s well walked dirt path. Easy on the legs.
The path is not long, but is very soothing.
The trail comes to a T junction. If you take a right, in short order you will come to a nice park bench to rest at, maybe have a snack. It sits in a grove of tall Cedar trees.
Follow this trail, and it ends in not too long at another T Junction. This is the Rhodie Road trail. It is the old paved road through the Island County park, where they can drive on for maintaining the trails and such.
Take a left onto it and walk through the park.
It’s a quiet walk, with lots of sun streaming down upon you. Many, many fungi were out. It’s been a great year for it.
Love the light on the path.
As we neared the end of the park you will pass the campground, shut for the season, and go through 2 gates. Once thru this, it’s a short road walk past WAIF (the animal pound), to turn onto the Rhododendron Trail, which follows Hwy 20 back to Coupeville.
Turn left onto the trail, which is the terminus of it from Coupeville.
The trail follows the highway, in the woods at first, then along farm land. It goes quickly, and is both wide and paved. You are separated from the highway but the noise can be loud.
It’s about 1.6 miles from end to end of this section.
We found this large mushroom growing out of a downed log while walking along the highway.
At the junction of Hwy 20 and Main Street (where there is stop lights and the pedestrian bridge that crosses the highway), this trail ends. Turn left onto Main Street and walk downhill. Be careful as it’s a mix of sidewalk and no sidewalks here on the south side of the road. Especially near the C-Store next to the highway. People drive like morons here, and how the road was built was so bad to get into the C-store (it’s the gas station in town).
Walk to wherever you parked, and well…you did the loop. It’s not wilderness at all. But it’s still a hike. And hey, you did a non official hike that isn’t done……
The flag is where we started and stopped.
The full loop was 7.2 miles with a shy 1,000 feet gain