A day trip to Whidbey Island to hike Ebey’s Landing is the quintessential summer day trip for me and my family.
My kids (ages 9 and 11) and I, along with friends, made our way over to the island, visited the shores of Puget Sound, gazed at the mountains in the distance (the Olympics and Mount Baker), and hiked on a bluff. We even caught a glimpse of Mt. Rainier billowing high above the clouds. The bluff trail is a narrow path along a cliffside and requires a lot of single-file hiking. I recommend this hike for kids over the age of 6 who are able to pay attention to the trail and have good footing to stay in the middle of the path.
With so much to see and do we highly recommend a trip to Ebey’s Landing and to Whidbey Island. You will not be disappointed.
Whidbey Island is located to the north of Seattle and about 2-hours away. Take the ferry, drive to the island, or route a loop and do both –take the ferry one way and drive going back. On busy summer weekends, travelers may find themselves stuck in traffic or waiting for the ferry, but it’s well worth the effort. Remember to leave early in either situation and reserve ferry tickets in advance.
Got road-trippers who are antsy in the car? You’ll need lots of activities, snacks, music and/or audiobooks to survive the 2-hour drive.
Ebey’s Landing is located on the northern part of the island, 3 miles from the scenic little town of Coupeville and 11 miles from Whidbey’s largest town, Oak Harbor. For this trip, we ventured out to Ebey’s Landing on a warm and sunny weekend afternoon, skipping the ferry and driving to the bridge at Deception Pass, then crossing over to Whidbey. If you take this route, stop at the small parking lot (Discovery Pass needed) by the pass to walk across this bridge. The views are spectacular.
Time permitting, there is an opportunity to hike down the steep trail to the beach at Deception Pass, but we opted to take in the views from the top.
Where to park and what to bring
There are three parking lots at Ebey’s Landing Historical Park. The upper lot (off of Cemetary Road) has about 12 spots and the lower lot has 3 spots, with street parking by the cemetery. You may also travel to the Seaside parking lot (a Discover Pass is required there), closer to the beach, if that’s where you want to start your hike. Each lot leads to the Bluff Trail. The lots off of Cemetary Road add about a mile of flat terrain to the larger 5-mile trek. Arriving a little after noon, all three lots were full so we waited patiently for other hikers to leave the upper lot off of Cemetary Road.
Because it’s a popular hike with families, I recommend doing this hike earlier in the day or later in the afternoon. Bring lots of water, sunscreen, a hat, layers of clothing, and a picnic.
Hiking in the off-season is also recommended. In the fall, the foliage has turned and it is another truly spectacular landscape.
Restrooms are available at the upper lot off of Cemetary Road and by the Seaside parking lot, near the beach. Both are equipped with hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
Colonel Isaac Neff Ebey purchased Ebey’s Landing in the 1800s and the land has deep (and often turbulent) ties to both Native American and pioneer history. It’s now a sanctuary for wildlife and a national historical reserve.
The Prairie Trail
If you park off of Cemetary Road, you’ll start your 6-mile hike on the Ebey’s Prairie Trail, where you’ll see acres of tilled dirt, turned soil, and sprouting greens. Farmhouses and barns speckle the land — a good reminder that this is not only part of the national park system, but also owned by the farming community that lives there. The trail is well-maintained with some dips along the way. Wear sturdy shoes or boots and dress in layers for the weather.
We passed many dog walkers, families, runners, and solo hikers, making this one of the busiest trails we had been on.
A five- to ten-minute walk on the Prairie Trail takes you past the Ebey home, now a visitor center, and then past a blockhouse structure, which was used by the Ebeys as a barricade against Native American attacks. “It’s like a house with no windows,” my oldest son says.
The Bluff Trail
After heading down the Prarie Trail for almost a mile, we arrived at the Bluff Trail. Two extraordinary views greeted us. Puget Sound and Mount Baker in the distance, and behind us, mountains galore. We continued on our hike, stopping for many selfies along the way, while also veering off the path to make room for other hikers. The path is narrow at several points with overgrown brush. We all wore pants, which was a good decision. There were lots of flies and bees on the ground too, so be careful where you step.
Along the trail
The paths have just enough room for single-file hiking. Watch for steep drop-offs, especially with children. This hike will make you work your legs to get up and go down the many hills. We found that walking sticks helped tremendously. Many portions of this trail are closed off for plant and vegetation renewal (be sure to look out for wildflowers, cacti, and other pretty foliage). Be careful to stay on the path and watch young children on the steep portions of the trail, especially with hikers passing by. Carrying small children on your back would be ideal.
The views are astounding, especially as you wind around the path to see Perego’s Lagoon, a geologic anomaly. Bluish-green water fills this lagoon, along with driftwood, sand and rocks. A strip of land divides it from Puget Sound. Further along, we scrambled down the path to walk on the Beach Trail. This trail will take you along the other side of the lagoon and Puget Sound.
The path probably provides one of the best views to see both bodies of water up close. It will take you to the larger part of the beach too. We collected some interesting rocks, threw some stones into the Sound, climbed over some driftwood, checked out some impressive forts that other beach-goers had made, and baked in the hot sun. We even checked out the Lagoon and then got in some batting practice with a piece of driftwood and rocks. Finally, we found a space to rest our feet on washed-up logs and had a picnic on the beach.
After some time, we trudged back to our car with tired feet, rocks clink-clanking in our pockets, and ready for the long trip home. What was your favorite part, boys? “The BEACH!” both agreed. My favorite, “Everything!”
More than just a hike- visit the town of Coupeville
If you go:
- Ebey’s Landing is located: Parking lot, Ebey’s Landing Rd, Coupeville, WA 98239
- Discover Pass is required
- Wear sturdy shoes and dress in layers
- Wear sunscreen and bring a hat
- Bring lots of water
- Bathrooms are located at the beginning of the trails
- Hike best for kids 6+