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.
About as good as an abandoned dirt road comes, Grinder is the longest route in the Island Center Forest network and leads to no less than eleven trail connections.
Beginning from its southern end at the Cemetery Trailhead, Grinder starts on the other side of an always-closed vehicle gate. It is a flat, gravel single-lane road that was abandoned long ago as the County converted the area to a park. While in other areas Grinder might be considered a "nice" dirt road, the abundance of better foot trails throughout the island make this route pale in comparison.
Signs exist for many, but not all, of the intersecting trails Grinder passes as it goes. A brief descent follows the turnoff for The Gallops
, after which Grinder crosses the calm Judd Creek. Middle Fork
heads off to the north just after and is a good choice to connect to other area trails.
After this, it's a generally straight shot to the west. As it continues, Grinder slowly begins to taper, eventually leaving behind evidence of its origins as a road and appearing more like a traditional dirt doubletrack. The trail ends at a T intersection with Craig's Trail
and Dump Run
. The Vashon Recycling & Transfer Station is just visible through the trees ahead.
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.