Calling the RIGHT Bluff at Ebey’s Landing

Yet again, I was faced with a choice to watch Tom Brady in yet another super bowl or to opt outside. No-brainer!

Depending on what teams are playing, Super Bowl Sunday can be a great day to hit the trails or slopes. This year, even with what felt like record-breaking crowds everywhere I held out hope. Work had been finally slowing down from nonstop October-January 70+ hour workweeks, so Sunday looked prime for hiking. We wanted to take it easy and certainly avoid any avy danger–this winter has been one of the deadliest ever for outdoor recreators. Luckily, the Puget Sound area has a bevy of safe, lowland walks and hikes.
Perhaps the most well-known is Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island. It is actually a National Historic Reserve and part of the NPS system (no NPS passport stamp or visitor center in COVID times, but normally you can learn more with a ranger here). This is the hike I meant to do a few years ago, but had stopped at Fort Ebey State Park instead. While this hike is doable year-round I would check tide charts in advance, as parts might be impassable during particularly high tides.
Map and info from the trailhead.

There are two parking lots for you to choose from, which helps cut down on crowds. Both options have pit toilets and signage, the ‘lower’ Ebey’s Landing Road lot does require a Discover Pass (which I thought would thin out the crowds, but not the case). The pit toilets at Prairie Overlook are brand new, and this route takes you past the historic Jacob Ebey house and blockhouse, so I’d recommend this route personally, but either will get you to the bluff trail.

The Jacob Ebey house.
The view from the top of the bluff. Note how close the waves are to covering the sand!

From the Prairie trailhead, we kept left on the Prairie Ridge trail rather than the Pratt loop. The trail borders some private property, so make sure to be respectful of that here. Past the still-standing buildings from some of the most prominent 1850s white settlers of the island, the Ebey family, and you will soon reach a T junction. This portion of the trail is a loop, and I’d recommend counter-clockwise. You go upward onto the bluff, which soon joins the Pacific Northwest Trail. On a blustery winter’s day, the wind here was a force to be reckoned with! I felt like my ears were going to snap off, and we both enjoyed keeping our masks on just for the warmth. We saw at least one soaring bald eagle that appreciated the windy weather, and the choppy waves crashing below us were a sight to see.

All too soon, the time to drop down to the water’s edge came. The tide had recently crested a bit higher than I would have liked, but as it was receding by the second, we plunged down the steep switchbacks. Years ago when I had run this trail for cross country camp, I remember it being a bit more of a straight trek down, so switchbacks were helpful. You can of course return how you came if you have any limitations. As soon as we turned south for the first switchback, the unrelenting wind was at our backs, and we could hear ourselves speak again! That relief continued the entire beach portion of the hike.
Headining south with Fort Warden and Port Townsend across the water.

Barring a very low tide, this portion will be rocky. There was not a ton of kelp on the rocks and the wind had them pretty dry already, which was nice, but it still isn’t the easiest on your feet. At the water I could see more waterfowl battening down in the surf. In calmer days, binoculars here and on the bluff might have you seeing all sorts of marine wildlife! While many people were unmasked here, the beach is nice and wide to spread out. We made our way in no time to the lower parking lot. If you parked here, your day is done, but if parked at the Prairie lot, you have one last slog up to that T junction mentioned above. While the interpretive signs are a bit weathered, they are worth taking a peek at for more on the geography and history.

This hike feels a lot shorter than 5 miles, is great for kids, and is doable year round. Not for nothing is it considered a quintessential Washington hike. It was great getting to show it to the boyfriendo, especially once my ears thawed back.

In summary:

Distance: 5.6 mile loop according to WTA (my GPS said 5.0); longer if you tack on the Pratt loop from the Prairie parking lot

Elevation: 260 feet of gain (and loss!)

Parking: No pass required at the Prairie Overlook lot, Discover Pass required for the Ebey’s Landing lot.

Bathrooms: Pit toilets at each lot.

Best Beer Bet: We stopped at a nearby brewery on the way back, but we hightailed it out when we saw they were not COVID-compliant, so I cannot recommend them. I have not visited in COVID times, but know I enjoy Double Bluff Brewing and the Taproom at Bayview Corner (both on the way home, if taking the Mukilteo ferry) for beer normally. Dancing Fish winery (also along the way home) has a great rosé, roaring fire pits, and was very COVID-safe.

2 Replies to “Calling the RIGHT Bluff at Ebey’s Landing”

  1. Very nice! I love Ebey’s landing and exploring Whidbey Island!

    1. It’s close, but far enough to be exciting!

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