Good beginner hikes in Central Kitsap

Clear Creek Trail and Illahee Forest Preserve are both just under three miles roundtrip

Now that the sun is starting to consistently shine toward summer’s end, there is still time to go out for a couple of scenic hikes in the Central Kitsap.

We’ll focus on a couple of beginner hikes: the Clear Creek Trail and the Illahee Forest Preserve, which are both vastly different from one another. While worlds apart, the hikes are still similar in length, at around two- to three-mile roundtrips, a perfect length for those who are just starting out.

Clear Creek Trail is a great hike to get some sunshine, thanks to few trees surrounding the trail. Most of the walking paths are paved, so the trail is great for casual walkers, runners, bikers — and for bringing your dog along.

There are a number of starting points to this trail, but perhaps the most popular and accessible one can be found at Silverdale Rotary Gateway Park, near the skatepark and dog park. Along the main paved path are a few side trails that take visitors deeper into the nearby wetlands, where birds such as blue herons, swallows and hawks can often be seen. Vegetation includes willows, skunk cabbage and cattails.

Toward the end of the quick hike, visitors will reach a bridge with a covered shelter, a perfect stop for a picnic and to take in the views of recent wetland and floodplain restoration efforts. This part of the trail leads to the Trigger Avenue exit of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, where expanded views of the valley and historic farmlands can be found.

For those seeking a bit more rugged terrain within denser woods, Illahee Forest Preserve in East Bremerton is the place for you. The roundtrip distance of the hike is nearly the same as the Clear Creek Trail, but that is pretty much where the similarities end.

Visitors may be daunted by the numerous paths off the beaten trail, which finger throughout the preserve. While trodding the well-maintained trails, using a GPS-enabled map application could be helpful for the more navigationally challenged visitors. Trail markers are also placed along the trails to aid wayward walkers in navigation.

Many a fallen tree lay across the forest floor throughout the preserve. And those that still stand will often creak in the breeze as if to keep visitors company during their excursion. The density of the forest keeps out most of the sunlight, making for a cooler and relaxing summertime trek.

Large moss-covered trees overhead stand out as focal points of the preserve’s many trails and the somewhat hilly terrain is noticeable in certain places, providing a bit of a challenge for visitors. As with all hikes, water is a must-have item, since the trails throughout the Illahee Forest Preserve can cause visitors to work up a sweat. Even though the distance is rather short, the terrain can make it challenging at times.

Most of the hike is nice and quiet, although some trails lead toward Wheaton Way, where the rumble of cars can bring back the sounds of urban life. Some paths also lead to Rolling Hills Golf Course — so stay alert for airborne golfballs.

Whether you’re looking simply to get some sunshine and walk on paved paths, or hoping to embark into the mysteries of a dense forest, the Clear Creek Trail and the Illahee Forest Preserve are both great starting points for those looking to get outdoors and appreciate nature while staying close to home.

—Tyler Shuey is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at tshuey@soundpublishing.com

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