“An inviting lead-in to the Island Center Forest trail system.
— Brendan Ross
Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek
Deer hunting in the main portion of Island Center Forest is permitted for a short period, typically in the second half of October. During this time, the trails are closed to non-hunters. Signs will be placed at trailheads, but if visiting during this period, it's a good idea to check King County's website at kingcounty.gov/services/par…
. The Natural and Gateway Areas, east of Landtrust Trail
, remain open.
Island Center Forest's routes are mostly flat and smooth. Road or trail shoes work fine on these easy trails. Expect to share them with other hikers, runners, cyclists, and horseback riders. Take note that there are several singletracks branching off the established trail system and leading to local residents' backyards.
Dogs are not permitted in the Mukai or Meadowlake Pond areas but are allowed throughout the rest of the trail. They are required to remain "either leashed or under strict sight and voice control," according to local regulations.
Generally, visitors should elect to use the 188th Street Trailhead, as it has the most parking. Paper maps are available here and at the Mukai and Cemetery Trailheads.
188th starts at Island Center Forest's main parking lot, leading trail users from the Natural Area to the center of the park. The well-maintained dirt doubletrack begins to the left of an informational kiosk; paper maps are available here as well. The path immediately enters a gorgeous old growth forest, with huge firs over forty feet tall. There are plenty of fallen trees around 188th and other area trails, but caretakers regularly cut them back, making for a smooth running experience. While about as easy as a forest trail comes, the underlying earth is fairly hard compared to the average dirt track. Visitors concerned with high-impact running may want to feel it out a little before committing to higher mileage.
The turnoff for Meadowlake Trail
is unsigned and only a short distance in, so don't miss it if intending to visit the wetland area. Look for a very small clearing to the right. 188th then makes a quick jog south and back to the west, passing the signed Landtrust Trail
intersection. Just ahead, the original route passes over a watery marsh crossing. An alternative bypass, 188th Bypass
, circles around it to the right and continues on the original path. Note that runners will have to backtrack a few hundred feet to reach Fir Hill Trail
on the other side.
An easy, slightly bumpy climb over golf and baseball sized stones finishes out the trail. Another sign marks the dead end intersection with 115th Bypass
. While only a half mile from the parking lot, by the trail's end, visitors will feel much further away from civilization.
Flora & Fauna
Originally a state-owned area logged to provide revenue for Washington's education system, Island Center Forest was passed to King County Parks in 2002 as a model for sustainable forest management. Owing to its history, the area exhibits a mix of both old growth and restoration areas. Many local tree species grow here, including enormous firs and one of the Island's largest areas of quaking aspens.
Animal life includes smaller woodland creatures and deer, but the biggest draw to Island Forest is wide variety of birds, more than eighty species in all. The wetland areas around Mukai and Meadowlake Ponds draw bird watchers from around the region.