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Hiking Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve

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Guillemot Cove Nature Preserve is one of my favorite Kitsap County day hikes, and great for kids (at least kids who will tolerate the uphill trek back from the beach). While you're there, visit the Stump House which (legend has it) was a hideout for an outlaw in the 1800s and would have been my clubhouse as a kid if it had been in my neighborhood.

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Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve is a 185-acre nature reserve, and a good Kitsap County day hike for families…or for anybody! A downhill hike toward the beach, over boardwalks through marshes, to a charming stump house I would have loved for my childhood clubhouse and, if you want to make it more challenging, there’s a ridge trail you can take, as well.

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Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve Hike

Woods, Water…and a charming Stump House

Hiking Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve

Guillemot Cove, named for the bird (though I’ve never been fortunate enough to see one there) was also called Frenchman’s Cove for a Frenchman who once inhabited the land at what’s now this beachfront park. Aside from guillemots, you can find plenty of other wildlife here: I’ve noted bald eagles and the occasional seal peeking out at me from the water.

The reserve has some other interesting history as well — legend says a criminal by the name of “Dirty Thompson” hid out in the Stump House in the 1800s, according to the Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve official web page, where you can learn some other fun facts about the park’s history.

Stump houses and Frenchmen aside, Guillemot Cove remains one of my favorite short day hikes in Kitsap County, at least in the summer. In June, multi-colored rhododendrons are in bloom, some wildflowers are starting to emerge, and the boardwalks across the estuary are navigable. I’ve attempted this hike during rainier months, only to find that the boardwalks (which you cross to get to the stump house) were flooded over with water.

Hiking the Park

I’ve added a GPS map and map with directions to another page to keep this one loading faster. You’ll also find a link to the official trail map there. You can usually find paper maps in a box at the trailhead. But put them back when you’re done for the next hiker to use.

The Descent

Guilletmot Cove Nature Reserve Sawmill trail sign

Take the trail, and when you reach the “Sawmill Trail” sign, take a right. If you go left, it will take you to a road which also descends down toward the beach. Sawmill Trail will turn into Margaret Trail and lead you down to the beach.

The trails here are a bit steep, with numerous roots, so watch your step. I’ve mostly done this hike without poles but found them helpful on my last adventure here.

Once you get to the bottom of the trail, you’ll see the estuary, cross boardwalks and stepping stones to get to the other side…if you’re here in summer. I’ve seen the boardwalks flooded over in winter.

Hiking Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve Boardwalks
Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve stepping stones

After you’ve crossed the boardwalks, you’ll see the sign to get to the stump house (or to the beach). Take the trail to the stump house.

Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve Stump House Sign
Stump House Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve Trail Maps

A Hilly Detour

Turn around and go back the way you came, then down the beach trail.

You’ll come to another sign. If you want to add even more elevation to your hike (remember, you have to hike out of here when you’re done), you can take the Ridge Trail, which loops around back to the beach. If not, go directly on to the beach (after you look both ways for ants, if you read the smaller sign).

Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve Ridge Trail Sign

The Beach

You might see signs for the “Beach House” trail. Don’t get too excited, the beach house is a small, empty house on the beach. It isn’t in good condition and is closed off to visitors trying to enter. However, there are small steps in front, which is my stop for taking a break, eating a snack, and enjoying this beautiful view of the Olympics across the cove and Hood Canal:

Guillemot Cove Beach Panorama

After you’ve enjoyed the beach, head back across the estuary. You’ll see a sign pointing up the Margaret Trail, which will get you back to the Sawmill Trail, and then to the trailhead. But to the right, you’ll see another sign: Maple Tree Trail. This leads to the Big Maple Trail and the River Loop and goes along Boyce Creek.

Maple Tree Trail Guillemot Cove

The Climb

Time to head back! Follow the Margaret Trail sign. Get ready for some uphill. After all, this was a beach hike, so of course it’s uphill on the way back (or so my daughter reminds me).

Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve Hike Maps

For an embedded hike map, a link to the official map, and directions, visit this page.

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