Getting Kids Out Into Nature

Whidbey Wanderings

Wilbert trail, south whidbey state park, hiking with kids, fall hikes
The Kids and Big Fir Tree

You know it’s going to be a good day when your adventures include a ferry ride. And sleeping in, and hot cocoa. We had a fun trip two Fridays ago up to Whidbey Island to explore and do a short hike and some bird watching. After sleeping in, we gathered our gear for the day and headed up to the Mukilteo ferry. Lines were short, and we got on the first boat.

Whidbey Island, Hiking with kids,
Calm Ferry Ride

It’s a quick ride over to Clinton, and we drove from there over to Possession Beach park to see what we could see.

whidbey island, hiking with kids
Possession Beach Park

The last time I was there was when I was very pregnant with Gabe and needed some time out in nature. I had seen whales and a kildeer nest. No such luck this time, and it was kind of dreary under the grey skies and with the wind blowing cold in our faces.

hiking with kids, whidbey island
A Cold Day at the Beach
possession beach park, whidbey island
Holdfast

We saw some grebes, cormorants and gulls, but otherwise it was pretty quiet. I do look forward to checking the park out in warmer weather another time; it has picnic tables, BBQ grills, restrooms, and there is a short trail you can access from there.

We were only there for a short time, and then drove on to our main destination, South Whidbey State Park. We hiked on the Wilbert Trail, a mellow and kid-friendly path through mature forest.

south whidbey state park, hiking with children
Wilbert Trailhead
south whidbey state park, hiking with children
Still a Lot of Green on this Gentle Trail

Autumn mushrooms were popping up all over, and we were interested in the wide variety.

south whidbey state park, hiking with kids
Pretty Brown Mushrooms
south whidbey state park, hiking with children
Shaggy Shroom
south whidbey state park, fall hikes
Looks Like a Coral Mushroom
south whidbey state park, fall hikes
Medium and Tiny
south whidbey state park, fall hikes for kids
Thin and wispy
south whidbey state park, Wilbert trail, fall hikes for kids
Witch’s Butter?

Chickadees and juncos flitted in the bushes, and the kids squawked back and forth with a talkative raven. We skipped the 1.9-mile Ridge Trail this time, but we explored part-way up the Fern Gully Trail. (This trail branches off from the Ridge Trail and Wilbert Trail if you want to add a little more distance to your walk.) Subdued yellows and browns of giant big-leaf maple leaves provided most of the color, carpeting the path and the shrubs along it.

south whidbey state park, hiking with children, wilbert trail, fall hikes
Browns and Golds

We marveled at a couple of ancient cedars that led this tract of land to be protected back in the 1970s.

south whidbey state park, wilbert trail, huge cedar, fall hikes for kids
Annika and a Cedar
south whidbey state park, fall hiking, best hikes for kids, wilbert trail
The Ancient Cedar
south whidbey state park, fall hiking, best hikes for kids, big old trees
Ancient Cedar Info

The WIlbert trail ends in the far end of the campground area of the park. We walked through the empty spaces and then took the Beach Trail down the bluff to the shore.

south whidbey state park, beach trail, hikes for kids, fall hiking
Over the Edge

Some steep steps end and leave hikers right above the high tide mark on the beach.

south whidbey state park, beach trail, fall hiking
Glimmer of Brightness
Beach trail, south whidbey state park, hiking with children
Driftwood
south whidbey state park, beach trail
Water Girl
south whidbey state park, beach trail
Stairs Up

There wasn’t much beach to play on, but it was sheltered from the wind, so it was pleasant to sit and have a snack. We watched some grebes and red-breasted mergansers out on the water, and a huge sea lion poked its head out every so often.

We walked back up to the car, and drove a little bit farther north to the southern end of Fort Casey State Park.

fort casey, whidbey island, birding whidbey
Driftwood Park

There is some beach access on a low spit of land, and there are ponds that attract waterfowl and raptors. The wind was really screaming along here, and it was cold, so we just stayed long enough to try to identify some of the birds. We mostly saw buffleheads and red-breasted mergansers, and one great blue heron.

driftwood park, whidbey island birding
Curvy
whidbey island mushrooms, fall hiking
Delicate

Since it was getting dark so early, we stopped at a cafe and bought cocoa and coffee instead of making it on the stove. This was a real treat for the kids, since I rarely stop to eat out while on trips. I think they appreciated it, and we ended the day with a ferry ride back to Mukilteo. This was a great adventure for late fall or early winter.

whidbey island, sunset
Fire in the Sky

If You Go: South Whidbey State Park has 3.5 miles of hiking trails. The Wilbert Trail runs 0.8 miles end to end. It starts just across the street from the entrance to the park. You can park at the entry or drive into the park to the big parking lot.You’ll need your Discover Pass, or you can buy one at the park. You can add on the 1.9 mile Ridge Trail, or the Fern Gully Trail (I’m not sure what the distance is for this one) for more distance. The Wilbert Trail is mostly level with gentle ups and downs. When you reach the end you can either turn around and hike back, or cross the road and walk back through the campground. The Beach Trail is about 1/2 mile down the bluffs to the shoreline. Find a map of the trails here. There is also the Hobbit Trail (0.2 miles, no beach access), and the Bluff or Discovery Trail if you still want more exercise. You will find bathrooms, water, and picnic tables (some of them covered) at the park.

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