With lush forests abloom with rhododendrons, hundreds of miles of publicly accessible beaches and breathtaking views of Mt. Rainier and the Olympics, the Kitsap Peninsula is the perfect place to take a hike this weekend or any time, according to Craig Romano, author of Urban Trails: Kitsap.
“The trails scene on the Kitsap Peninsula has been growing wonderfully over the last 10 years,” he said. “It’s exciting. There are lots of new trails and preserves and parks and linking of trails.”
Romano, who lives in Skagit County, said the Kitsap Peninsula is a convenient and less crowded alternative to hiking areas near Seattle and Tacoma. “The Kitsap Peninsula trails don’t get a fraction of the crowds the urban areas do. It’s worth checking out for people in Seattle and Tacoma and it’s just a short ferry ride away.”
Unlike trails in higher elevations, Kitsap Peninsula routes are accessible year-round and are a special treat in late spring and early summer when blooming rhododendrons provide delicate accents of pink amid the evergreens.
“It’s the Washington state flower, but only about 10 percent of the state has it,” said Romano. “The Kitsap Peninsula has some of the best rhododendrons and that’s happening right now.”
We asked Romano to share some of his favorite Kitsap Peninsula region hikes:
- Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve – This family-friendly Seabeck gem pictured at the top shows off the Kitsap Peninsula’s “wild side” with four miles of trails, stunning views of the Olympic Mountains, a large beach and a historic cedar stump house. Info here.
- Hansville Greenway and Community Trails – More than eight miles of trails take you from Puget Sound to the Hood Canal. Along the way, you’ll pass Otter Meadow, Hawk’s Ponds and Buck Lake. There’s even a connector route to Point No Point County Park and Lighthouse. Click for a map and info.
- Grand Forest Park – This popular Bainbridge Island park has well-maintained trails through a mature evergreen forest that includes “ferny gulches, babbling brooks and wetland pools.” The 1.2-mile Main Loop in Grand Forest West is a kid-friendly choice. More.
- Best short hike: Manchester State Park, Port Orchard; Theler Wetlands, Belfair; Fish Park, Poulsbo – These short, relatively flat routes are great for all ages and abilities.
- Best long hike: Green Mountain State Forest, Bremerton; Banner Forest Heritage Park, Port Orchard; Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park and Hansville Greenway are trail systems you can spend a lot of time exploring.
- Best for kids: Theler Wetlands, Belfair – There’s a learning center, boardwalks, a short loop and gorgeous views. Also try, Guillemot Cove, Seabeck; Clear Creek Trail, Silverdale; Foulweather Bluff Preserve, Hansville.
- Dog-friendly – Most Kitsap Peninsula trails allow dogs on a leash. Rotary Bark Park, Gig Harbor, which includes an off-leash area, is a favorite of Romano’s, as is Hansville Greenway.
- Most scenic – Guillemot Cove, Seabeck; Foulweather Bluff, Hansville; Anderson Point, Olalla; Theler Wetlands, Belfair, and Penrose Point State Park, Key Peninsula, are all gorgeous. Mountains + water views = ahhh!
- Best beach hike: Anderson Point, Olalla, is one of the nicest sandy beaches around with a view of Mount Baker and Vashon Island. Also try Foulweather Bluff and Point No Point, Hansville; Fort Ward, Bainbridge Island; Maple Hollow Park, Key Peninsula.
- Best hike in the woods: Guillemot Cove, Seabeck; Twanoh State Park, Union; Grand Forest, Bainbridge Island, and Green Mountain, Bremerton, all have glorious mature trees.
- Best urban hike: Clear Creek Trail, Silverdale, wends its way through the heart of the Kitsap Peninsula’s commercial shopping area and connects wetlands and historic farmland with Dyes Inlet and Old Town Silverdale.
- Best rhodie hike – Look for Washington’s beloved state flower at Mountaineers Foundation Rhododendron Preserve, Bremerton. The 180-acre preserve includes old-growth forest and the famed “Big Tree,” a Douglas fir with a trunk over 30 feet around. Also try Twanoh State Park, Union; Green Mountain, Bremerton; Banner Forest, Port Orchard; Guillemot Cove, Seabeck; Anderson Landing Park, Silverdale.
With so many amazing hikes in the Kitsap Peninsula region, you’ll want to spend at least a couple of days exploring. Go to VisitKitsap.com for lodging options and even more to do on the Natural Side of Puget Sound.