Guillemot Cove transports you to an enchanted hideaway; one where the mountains meet the sea and offer a haven hiding in the trees. A perfect all-season and easy-to-moderate hike, you don’t want to miss this adventure in the woods clocking in at 2.5 miles, roundtrip.
Getting to the enchanted forests
Head towards Scenic Beach State Park in Seabeck on the Kitsap Peninsula and you will begin to see signs for Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve. Stay on Stavis Bay Road for 4.5 miles until you see the trailhead on the left. The parking lot is a widened dirt shoulder, butting up to a cliff on the right. There are only a few spots. If you are unfamiliar with the trail, grab a map from the bulletin board. Since the trail forks at many different points, it will be useful to have this guide.
Heading down the Guillemot Cove Trail
The trail system branches off considerably at sea level and there are two main routes down from the parking lot. The Main Access Trail is about a mile of gravel gradually sloping downhill and is wide enough to allow cars to pass. Alternatively, the Sawmill Trail is a smaller footpath, cloaked in conifers and ferns, riddled with switchbacks before it merges onto Margaret Trail. This trail can be muddy in the rainy season and there are no rails to keep your little ones on the path, but it is well maintained. The descent down 360 feet is fast, from the trailhead. You will feel its difficulty on the way back up.
Explore the wonderland
There is no one correct way to explore. The wonder begins at the meadow near the kiosk near the beginning. If you did not grab a map at the start, you have a chance to view the route here. This part of the trek is easy and flat. Depending on the amount of foot traffic, we usually cross the cattail-lined bridge over Boyce Creek and head towards the waterfront.
You may encounter a water-bogged stretch along the Beach House Trail. I suggest wearing waterproof boots. Boggs are our favorite brand and they have spared us the pain of soggy socks on many of our adventures. Look all around as you walk for all the wildlife in this forest. Keep an eye out for the invasive European Green Crab and call 1-888-WDFW-AIS if you spot this critter.
As you round the grassy meadow and pass the petrified driftwood, the Olympic mountains welcome you, mirrored on the water. Take some time to skip stones, build a waterway, and bring binoculars to spy the Pigeon Guillemot seabird. There is an abandoned and dilapidated building that you may see. You should avoid this building, but can hike the steep Ridge Trail behind it.
From seas to trees on the Guillemot Cove Trail
Double back through Beach House Trail to Stump House Beach. Just after the boardwalk, there is a beautiful mossy overhang that we enjoy running through as we reach Stump House Trail. The Stump House is a hollowed-out cedar stump with a roof. The rumors are boundless, but legend has it a criminal called Dirty Thompson hid away from the law here. The joy it has provided families and my toddler is boundless. Let your imagination run wild– reenact Trolls or, for the young at heart, Ferngully. Across from the treehouse is another hallowed stump that may entice the brave of heart.
Note: Please be respectful and avoid damaging the Stump House. Although tempting, try not to add to the carvings and graffiti.
Pack up and motivation to head back up
At this point, you have hiked a little less than two miles. Remember that descent? Well, it’s time to make your way up. My son and I chose to return by taking the Margaret and Sawmill Trail. Little ones may want to rest along the steep mile up. I tried to entice my three-year-old with the game “red light, green light” and that worked for part of the way (until he tripped over a root). After some reassurance, he started back up with me pushing him up the rest of the way. If my apprehensive toddler can fuss his way through the ascent, so can you. I like to tell him “you can cry, you can be mad and scream, but you cannot stop. You have to work through it.” Some encouraging words help motivate kids to keep going.
The Reynolds family discovered Guillemot Cove in 1939, which led to their eventual 158-acre purchase. The original name of this area was Frenchman’s Cove, but then changed over to its current name to honor the commonly sighted seabird. The area was once inhabited by farmers in the 1800s with numerous abandoned shacks. The land was then cleared for the Reynold’s family barn. When the family retired in 1993 they sold the land to the Trust for Public Land so the community could enjoy the beautiful landscape.
If you go
- Remember to check the weather and dress appropriately
- Hiking trail is 2.5 miles, roundtrip
- Grab a map at the beginning of the trailhead to avoid confusion
- There are only a few spots in the parking lot, so choose to go on a weekday
- The steep and quick descent will be easy, but climbing back up will be challenging- bring treats and lots of motivation
Short hikes perfect for toddlers