The holidays came quick this year, despite the late Thanksgiving. I mean, they really snuck up on me! But I still had plans to #OptOutside on Black Friday and spend my day outdoors.
Unfortunately, my Opt Outside companion the last two years, Mama Boots, broke her foot, and was thusly unable to join me. I cajoled the boyfriendo to come along, with the promise of beer afterwards. Snow is already in the mountains, but I already had a specific snow-free trail picked out: Shinglemill Creek Preserve on Vashon Island. I had heard from a previous hiker that they saw Coho salmon spawning in the creek last November, so I was looking forward to that!
Shinglemill Creek is a little closer from the ferry than Dockton Forest. Google Maps didn’t quite take us to the parking lot, but between that and WTA directions we made it there. We got the last parking spot and stepped into the crisp fall air. Surprisingly, there was no board with trail information or a map, so we guessed and headed left at the fork out of the parking lot. That turned out to be correct, as we joined the “all-ages” trail, which I learned afterwards is called that because of the fact it’s accessible to all, by foot or strollers and wheelchairs or walkers. The all-ages trail is a flat half-mile loop, just added this October! Shortly after we reached another fork, this time with a sign for the Creek Preserve trail.
Excitedly, I read the posted notice about spawning salmon! Apparently they are best seen in November and December after heavy rains. I practically bounced down the steep trail to the creek, only slightly wary of the fact a return trip up was in the cards. We saw tons of families on the trail, and unlike more traditional hiking trails, we didn’t find one piece of litter or discarded poop bags. The trails weren’t crowded, which made viewing the creek even better. Unfortunately, there were no salmon we could see. We continued onward on the trail, as it traversed the creek and various tributaries a few times…still no luck. The trail dipped upward and we climbed out of the ravine, hoping for better luck.
On top of a bit of a ridge, we took in our view. Unlike Dockton Forest, the trails here were fairly uniform in surroundings. Apparently with all of the ravines the land trust and King County Parks have their work cut out for them managing erosion on the trails, but in the waning afternoon sun, everything seemed well. The trail continues downward, back towards the creek, which gets wider. We passed a spur with a sign for Bill’s Trail, and another unmarked spur, but we were wary of deviating too far from the trail we knew more about. Even searching afterwards, I still don’t know much about the other trails, with maps last being updated in 2015 and WTA only talking about the creek preserve trail.
At the end of the Shinglemill Creek Preserve trail, about 1.5 miles from the parking lot, is another, far smaller parking area. You can turn around here, but across the road is the spur for Fern Cove, which will take you right to the Sound. Apparently this area is prime for seabird watching, and dogs are not allowed so as to not disturb the birds. There was one blowdown to navigate around, but this side trip was well-worth it. I’d imagine tides could make beachwalking difficult, so if you have your heart set on birdwatching, I’d consult a tide table to be certain you won’t need to bring waders! We turned around, wary of the sun dipping underneath the ridges of the trail back.
The trail back seemed to fly by, even with the massive hills we had to ascend. We had walked past a sign at the beginning for a overlook spur from the all-ages trail, which we decided to check out. The spur was extremely short, and not much of a view, but it did give us another idea of how much elevation we had just climbed. Overall, while we agreed the trail was clean and that we’d use it frequently if we lived on the island, I vastly preferred Dockton Forest to Shinglemill Creek. Dockton Forest just seemed to have more variety in its trails, and a better mapping system. But given the new all-ages trail here, it looks like some TLC is being given, so hopefully updated maps or signage are about to come as well.
Distance: 1.5 miles end-to-end of the Shinglemill Creek Preserve trail, 3.5 RT with spur to Fern Cove and Overlook
Elevation: 300 feet of gain according to WTA (551 according to my Runkeeper)
Parking: No passes required