Pratt Preserve Loop Trail
When I lived on Whidbey Island, my first hiking I did was local ones, at Ebey’s Landing. Pre-internet days it was a lonely place. Not these days. Even in winter it is filled with people. Can’t blame them though. It is a gorgeous area. A lot of it changed after the National Park system took it on, for protection (and the internet – for sharing just how pretty the Ebey Reserve is).
This is one of the remaining blockhouses left. An odd thing is I had never visited it, even in all the years I worked in Coupeville. It’s an odd one, it is in the middle of the cemetery. The Island was reached at Ebey’s Landing in 1850, although the Native tribes had been there for a considerable longer time, tending to the prairies and doing agriculture. This blockhouse is worth visiting, as it is open year round and is located in the older section of the cemetery. The large headstone to the left of it is one to read. If you enjoy history, do take the time to visit this area. Some of it is very sad and maybe it leads to a lot of questions from your children, but I am OK with that.
I left the Island in the early 2000’s, around the time Robert Y. Pratt’s legacy would be known. He had inherited and owned an amazing section of land there – and when he passed away it was given to a distant relative, who had never seen it. And they followed his request and the land was purchased to be protected. However, as with all things, the land sat for a number of years and is now being developed a bit for hiking and similar. Which is great!
When coming into the town of Coupeville, on Hwy 20, turn down Sherman Rd, then head up to the cemetery on the hill. There is a parking area and one of the best overlooks on the islands. On a clear day you can see from Mt. Baker to Mount Rainier and everything in between in the Cascades – and the Olympics across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In the old days, a trail went down from the overlook to a dirt private road, which you could walk past the few houses on the prairie. The “trail” then cut up an easement between the last house and a farming field. Then a real trail followed the fence line that followed Pratt’s land. It then joined the Ebey Bluff Trail. Now though? You can park at the same overlook and follow signs and you enter the old Pratt land. The new loop trail follows around the edge of his old fields. As you can see above, there is 4 different groups involved in ownership: The National Park, Washington State Parks, Island County and The Nature Conservancy. The National Park service is in charge of the new loop trail, the Pratt Preserve Loop. It is a mix of where the tractors drove around the fields, and then actual trail in the woods. There are 2 junctions now, one to join the Bluff Trail, and a new extension to connect to the Kettles Trail out on Hwy 20, that goes to Fort Ebey State Park and the Kettles Trail System.
One of the gems of this area is the two buildings in Pratt’s Preserve.
I used to walk by, looking over the fence, and wish I could walk up closer. The buildings were in bad shape back then. They have been restored by the NP. A second blockhouse sits here, next to the Ebey’s House. It is open in summer.
The views though. I don’t think I could ever get tired of them. When I lived on the Island, in my hiking years, I used to hike this area 2 to 4 times a month.
It’s not a long hike. It might not even qualify as a hike. But it is enjoyable, with plenty to see. It is a great leg stretcher, and kids will love it. PS: Halfway through, in the far back, byt the Kettles Trail extension connection, is a number of falling in outbuildings and barns. Kids will will love that section.
As with most hikes on the Islands, while it isn’t cold in winter, it can get very windy and feel a great deal colder. Parking didn’t require any passes at the overlook, but if you park at Ebey’s Landing a state park Discover Pass is required. There isn’t many great resources on the trails there, but one older book can be of some help.