The northern parking lot is the access point for Lake Pondilla, the beach and the Bluff trail. Locate the Bluff trail just beyond the picnic table and restrooms. You will start and end your loop here. Follow the trail as it heads southward along the bluff. Look down on the beach, then across the water for views of the Olympic Mountains.
On a foggy day, listen for the buoy just off the shoreline, or watch for marine life offshore. You may be hoping to spot a whale, but what you will probably see are large container ships and tugboats towing barges. Keep heading south, and take note; you are walking along the Pacific Northwest Trail, an epic trail that runs east to west from the Rocky Mountains west to the Washington coast. In a mile, you will come to the sight of the Fort Ebey bunkers and gun locations. The fort was built in 1942 as a World War Two coastal defense to protect Puget Sound, but luckily it was only used for practice. The bunkers are open to explore, but be sure to bring a flashlight.
In front of the bunker site is a nice open grassy area that ends in a sheer drop off. The spot is popular for paragliders. Have fun watching the gliders, or continue on the trail heading up on the bluff. The trail climbs up and across the bluff, alternating between the open bluff and salal filled woodland edge. This is your high point, with good views up and down the beach. To the south you can glimpse Peregos Lagoon, a lake right next to the beach and a good destination for another day.
The Bluff trail ends at the walk in campsites, cross the road, and pick up the Cedar Hollow trail on the other side. Whoever named it wasn’t up on their botany, as there are no cedars here, just Doug Fir and hemlock. This trail leaves the bluff and switchbacks down into a forested ravine. Our native large-leaved rhododendron is growing under the shade canopy created by the trees. When in bloom, hikers will be treated to trusses of baby pink flowers. Did you know that the bigleaf rhododendron is the Washington State flower? Once at the bottom of the ravine, the trail heads back up through the woods, until it meets the road that goes through the park.
Follow the road until you hit the trail marked ‘Campground’. There are three trails that take off from this trail. All of them follow along a forested ridge. Take either the Woodpecker Haven, or the Hoot In trail, and follow it until you reach the Watertower trail. On this trail find the wooden scaffolding base of an old water tower. Tempting as it may be for the younger set to climb on this, one good look will show you that the timbers are rotting and dangerous, so admire from afar. After checking out the tower, follow the trail downhill until you meet a road. Walk north along the road until you hit a sign for the Pacific Northwest Trail.
Follow this wide trail through the woods until you run into the sign for the park boundary. Turn left and began heading downhill. Soon you will see Pondilla Lake, where the trail will take you down and around the southern shore. If you fish, you might want to try your luck here. Once done exploring the lake, head back up the bluff and follow the trail back to the north parking lot.
WTA Pro Tip: Extend your hike! There are more trails here to be explored, and at low tide, it may be possible to walk along the beach to Ebey’s Landing, about 2 miles south. Before you try, check the tide tables and watch your timing. The park also abuts the Kettles Trail System, so longer hikes looping through here are possible.
Fort Ebey State Park is open from 8:00 AM to dusk year around. The campground is closed November 1-April 1. A map can be downloaded from the Washington State Park website: www.parks.wa.gov