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.
One of Island Center Forest's longest routes, yet still under a mile, North Trail
runs along the boundary of the trail system.
The path begins halfway through Borrow Pit Loop
's eastern side, marked by a sign. A winding dirt singletrack, made a bit bumpy from underlying rocks but well-cushioned by fallen pine needles, it weaves through the trees. Fast and free-flowing, the initial section is one of the area's steepest declines – but as with the length, that's a relative comparison, as the grade never exceeds a meager 10%.
A clearing emerges a few hundred feet into the trail, near one of the area's information signs on new forest growth. Afterwards, North Trail
spends most of its time in semi-dense tree cover, with ample openings to the sun and sky above. The trees here are both old growth and new, leafy and pine.
The shortcuts at West Fork
and East Fork
are unmarked but easy to see. Two or three more branch off to the left, but these are all connections to private residential property, so stay on course. As the path turns south a little after the half mile point, the trees close in, blocking out the sky. A few scattered baseball-sized rocks creep onto the trail as well, but it's still an easy journey.
ends in the middle of the park at the three-way intersection with Middle Fork
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.