I’m a big fan of the campaign by Seattle-based REI to get people out of the stores on Black Friday and into the great outdoors. Maybe that’s because there is no better place to be outdoors than the Kitsap Peninsula.

The snow-dusted Olympic Mountains are etched against the sky to the west and Mt. Rainier looms large on the horizon to the east. It’s almost impossible to hike, ride or walk in Kitsap without running smack into a knock-your-socks-off view of water or mountains. Oh, and have I mentioned the bald eagles and great blue herons you’re likely to see along the way?

In the spirit of #optoutside http://optoutside.rei.com/, here are some ideas for exploring the Kitsap Peninsula. The mall can wait!

  • Go waterfall hunting – There are at least 17 publicly accessible waterfalls on the Kitsap Peninsula and geography student Micah Kipple has charted them. Click here to read his blog and start planning your roaring-water adventure.
  • Grab your mountain bike – Check out the Port Gamble/Stottlemeyer Trails, 35 miles of mostly single-track with a 500-foot elevation gain. The Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance maintains the trails and has more info here, including suggestions for where to grab a beer or a bite after your ride. Here’s a trail map.
  • Explore a park – Kitsap’s parks are spectacular and family-friendly. Most have water views and beach access. They’re perfect for picnics, walking or just getting the kids out into the fresh air. Stand-outs include Salsbury Point County Park with its view of the Hood Canal Bridge, Poulsbo’s Fish Park along an active salmon stream and Scenic Beach State Park, where you can almost reach out and touch the Olympic Mountains. More ideas at Visit Kitsap Peninsula.
  • Gardens, we’ve got great gardens – The Bloedel Reserve is beautiful in any season and a serene respite from holiday hustle and bustle. Features include a bird refuge, pond, Japanese garden and waterfall. For something completely different, visit Elandan Gardens and see Dan Robinson’s world-renowned bonsai collection, set amid ponds, waterfalls and sculptures.