A Winter Trek on Whidbey Island

Whidbey Island

Whidbey Island: Ebey's Landing Trail

2010 was apparently the seventh rainiest year in recorded history for the Seattle area. The last couple of months of it were certainly pretty brutal with heavy rains, high winds, snow and sleet in the northwest. The skies however cleared for the final few days of the year and into the new year, and the morning of Thursday, December 30th, I woke to the glow of the rising sun hitting the Olympic Mountain Range. As usual, I wasn't about to let the blue skies and sunshine go to waste without hitting a trail...despite the fact it was only going to reach the mid-30's for highs in Western Washington.

Snows are deep now in the mountain's higher elevations, so with hiking boots instead of snow shoes or skis, we drive up I-5 and grab the Mukilteo ferry to Whidbey Island. The bitter winds make standing outside on the ferry deck a bit brisk, but I quickly snap a few shots of another ferry passing by, with the backdrop of blue skies and a shimmering Mount Baker being hit by the surprising sunlight. We then drive halfway up the island before veering off on Sherman Road, shortly after the island's main route turns into Highway 20. After less than a minute we turn right onto Cook road and park. We are at the trailhead for Ebey's Landing. The small parking lot has only a couple other cars (there is another lot, on a different route below, but this seemed to offer a better viewing start for the hike). The Prairie Overlook Trailhead begins the trek to Ebey's Landing.

We begin by meandering down a trail that hooks up with a small, local, gravel road. The road is access for a handful of lucky homes on the right side of it, that grab views of the farming pastures below, Mount Baker to the east and the Olympics to the west. It's a few short minutes before the road ends and you do a short climb up to the trail that takes you westward to the bluff. On the right of this initial trail is a fence, on the left are the farming pastures just below...looking ahead a short distance is the Sound, the Olympic mountains, and soon, Mount Rainier pops into view as well. After about a mile, we reach the bluff and a trail intersection. Go straight and you fall down the cliff, going left will eventually lead you down to the beach of the Sound, going right takes you upward about 250 feet or so, climbing what is called one of Washington State's highest bluffs. It doesn't really matter if you go right or left, it's a loop trail. We turn right and begin the easy climb.

To the right of the trail are interesting shapes of wind-swept trees, some are evergreen and others are bare and broken yet beautiful in their own way. To the left, you see the Sound down below, the Olympic peninsula and mountain range. Look behind you and you see a long, curving inland of high bluffs and beaches below. Looking downward from the bluff, you soon start seeing Peregos Lake. The trail along the top of the bluff rises to high points with the view of this lake the entire way. From up here, the lake doesn't seem that significant, more like a body of water trapped between the bluff and the Sound. When we look hard, we see the movement of a few other hikers down below, looking like ants along an ant trail.

At the end of the lake below, the high bluff trail we're on begins its descent. At this point we see several bald eagles soaring above us in the sky, and a couple of seagulls flying along with them likely harassing them a bit. Reaching sea-level at the north end of Peregos Lake immediately gives a better perspective of where we were above on the bluff...and how differently the lake itself looks when you finally reach it. The lake is nestled between the bluff and a smaller hill that obscures the view of the rocky beach of the Sound. Massive amounts of drift wood surround the west, trail-side of the lake. Occasionally we climb up the driftwood-cluttered hill, to look upon the crashing waves. We decide to stick to the trail that treks on the west side of the lake, knowing we'll eventually be hitting the beach at the northern end of the lake anyway. Again, we spot eagles flying above us in the blue skies with the sunlight hitting their white heads and seemingly glowing for miles.

At the end of the lake, you hook up with the beach of the Sound, with only the bluff to the east between you. Looking ahead, again we see Mount Rainier, sometimes hard to make out because the sun is hitting it so low in the sky during winter months, but we imagine that at sunrise and sunset, it gets lit up like it's on fire. Eventually, we reach the Ebey's Landing Wayside, some public outhouses and informatative posts detailing the wildlife and views you're seeing of the area. From there, we climb back up the bluff to once again view the farmlands, Mount Baker and the Cascades. From this point, it's another rather breathtaking, 360-degree, view. We head just a bit further north on the trail of this bluff before we reach the cross-point of the loop, and then back along the trail and road to the smaller parking area.

The day was perfect, the views spectacular. If you're looking for an easy 6-mile roundtrip with incredible views of the Cascades, Olympics, Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier and the Sound, this is one worth taking. We climb back into the truck and continue northward on Whidbey Island, stopping to enjoy the views at Deception Pass before leaving the island as the Winter sun is setting.

Ebey's Landing Trail: Quick Points

Coming from Seattle, head to Mukilteo to catch the ferry to Whidbey Island, which will drop you off on the south side of the island in Clinton. After driving off the ferry, head north on State Route 525. After about 20 miles or so, keep right onto SR 20. Continue about another six miles to Sherman Road, there's a traffic light there, and turn left. Less than a half mile from there, turn right on Cook Road.

Cook Road quickly dead ends into a small parking lot. Park your car and you'll see the signs for the Prairie Overlook trailhead. That's where the nearly six mile walking journey begins. You'll climb to an elevation of only 260 feet on the highest point of the bluff, before heading back down to sea level. Once you reach the bluff, the loop begins.

Whidbey Island
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