Features: Birding — Fall Colors — Spring
In a trail system filled with flat, well-maintained paths, just about any incline is going to add some challenge. Fir Hill Trail is that route, tossing a few curveballs to keep hikers interested. Experienced hikers won't find any trouble here, but this is a good spot for beginning trail users to test out their skills.
The beginning of Fir Hill is easy to miss if coming from the 188th Trailhead, as it requires backtracking on the main route after bypassing the marsh crossing. No sign marks the intersection, but the wide singletrack is easy to spot heading off into the trees to the south, splitting around a large tree in the middle of the path. Similar to 188th
in composition, Fir Hill adds more roots to the mix, so step carefully.
Mixing old and new growth, Fir Hill wanders between towering firs and short saplings. A few fallen trees have been cut or pushed back from the trail. Not long after the start, it begins a series of moderately-graded ups and downs. All are fairly short, so they're not particularly difficult, but it's a welcome change from the flat nature of most of Vashon's byways. As it goes, Fir Hill winds back and forth a great deal.
A turnoff for the Valley of the Firs
shortcut is about a quarter mile in. After this point, two or three singletracks branch off from Fir Hill. All lead back into the main route, so take any path. The sun spills through the trees as the trail makes one more climb and turns west.
From here on out, it's a flat and mostly straight trip. Fir Hill ends at the Cemetery Trailhead. Cemetery Run
, directly across the parking area, is an easy dirt singletrack connecting to a few diversionary loops. Alternatively, hikers can turn right and continue on Grinder
, a former dirt road connecting to several other paths.
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.