“A fast route through towering firs leading to the middle of Island Center Forest.
— Brendan Ross
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.
Birding — Fall Colors — River/Creek — Spring
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.
Named for a local avid horseman who was a frequent sight along the trails until his passing, Jack's Trail is an interesting half-mile connection to the center of the trail system.
Jack's begins near the Westside Trailhead, a short distance into Dump Run
. Head east on a path that varies between double and singletrack. While this route tends to be muddier than others in the area, especially following wet weather, it's not hard to cut a dry path on the fast, gently graded descent. A few baseball-sized stones add some light challenge, but it's not a technical run by any means.
As Jack's proceeds, it weaves among towering firs that seem to rise up forever. Some signs along the way explain the growth of the new forest in this area; look for them posted on a few trees about two tenths of a mile in.
A quick succession of connectors are found as the trail bottoms out near the end, with Owl Trail
and Sunny's Trail
leading to Grinder
and a segment shortcutting to the Middle Fork
- North Trail
intersection. Jump over a tiny creek crossing between Owl and Sunny's. An inviting moss-lined curve finishes out Jack's a little further up Middle Fork
. Just about any path departing from this point will head somewhere interesting.
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 the 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.