Location: Whidbey Island
Land Agency: National Park Service and Washington State Parks
Roundtrip: 5.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 260 feet
Special note: Dogs permitted on leash.
Access: Take Washington State Ferry from Mulkiteo to Clinton on Whidbey Island. Continue north on SR 525 for 19 miles to junction with SR 20. Bear right onto SR 20 continuing 6.3 miles. Turn left onto Sherman Road. Proceed for .3 mile turning right onto Cemetery Road reaching Prairie Overlook trailhead in 0.3 mile.
Good to know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly, historic, snow-free winter hike, beach hike
Puget Sound sure has changed much since Captain George Vancouver sailed this way back in 1792. And if the good captain were able to make a return trip, he wouldn’t recognize the area—except perhaps for the island he named in honor of his subordinate, Joseph Whidbey. For only on Whidbey, at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, could the colonial-era seafarer still catch more than a glimpse of an undeveloped Puget Sound coastline.
And only at Ebey’s Landing could Mr. Vancouver take such an incredible hike that includes towering bluffs, salt-sprayed maritime forests, rolling prairie, and lonely beaches. Named after the first European settler on Whidbey, Ebey’s Landing is comprised of state, national, and private parcels totaling 17,400-acres. This area invites “explorers” of all ages to set sail on its trails and beaches.
For the best of Ebey’s Landing, begin at the Prairie Overlook for a 5.2-mile lollipop loop-hike. Pass a restored 1850s homestead now a visitor center; then continue across emerald lawns towards Admiralty Inlet. You’ll feel as though you’re hiking in Ireland. But, look upward—the snowcapped Olympic Mountains in the background quickly remind you that this is the Pacific Northwest.
Beyond the prairie, turn right at a well-marked junction and begin climbing golden bluffs. Rounding heights 300 feet above the Sound, the views are divine. Gaze out toward Vancouver Island and the San Juan Islands. Watch ferries and ocean vessels ply Admiralty Inlet. In springtime, admire a mosaic of blooming wildflowers swaying at your feet. Look for majestic eagles perched in ghostly snags. Be captivated by the stark beauty of Perego’s Lake—a lagoon formed by a narrow spit—directly below you.
Then descend the bluff and head south on the beach. Bird watch at Perego’s, and scope the surf for seals. Hike the wild beach to the Ebey’s Landing Wayside, and then follow trail back to the prairie to close the loop. This hike should give you the same appreciation that ‘ole Captain George had for this gorgeous area over 200 years ago.
Ebey’s Landing is one of 50 featured hikes in my Winter Hikes of Western Washington Card Deck. The destinations make for great spring hikes too. Check it out!
For information on where to stay and on others things to do on Whidbey Island, consult Northwest Tripfinder.