“Island Center's central route passes through the heart of Vashon Island.”
— 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.
Features: 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.
Just about any long run in Island Center will involve passing through Middle Fork at some point. With a few lightly challenging sections it's also a good practice ground for beginning trail users. The southern end of the trail splits off from Grinder
after the latter crosses over Judd Creek. Look for a sign marking the intersection.
Middle Fork begins as a dirt doubletrack, with some scattered marble-sized rocks making it just a bit uneven. A former logging area to the left is now in a regrowth stage, with trees more spaced out than in other areas of Island Center.
Just barely a tenth of a mile in, the trail comes to its largest intersection, a signed three way split with Techmo
and North Trail
. Two turnoffs for Jack's Trail
follow a few hundred feet later. After this spaghetti bowl-like section, Middle Fork comes upon an unexpectedly rocky segment. The debris here is scattered and consists mostly of smooth, baseball-sized stones, interspersed with some roots. It's trickier than just about anything else in Island Center, but it's not technical and experienced trail users won't even raise an eyebrow.
Middle Fork passes two connectors to North Trail
and starts a quarter-mile climb for its final portion. A few muddy portions are found along the way. The last several hundred feet pass through another restoration area, with signs posted on trees explaining the process.
The path ends in the northwest corner of the park at an intersection with Borrow Pit Loop
and Dump Run
. The Vashon Recycling & Transfer Station is visible to the left.
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 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.