A beloved island landmark, the Grand Forest is a 240-acre conservancy park with a complex network of flat and at times steep trails, through forest and riparian wildlife habitat, over bridges, and past the occasional picnic table. Most visible from Miller Road, its second-growth forest is among the oldest and largest on the island, which was clear cut in the late 1800s when Bainbridge was home to the largest sawmill in the world at Port Blakely, employing over 1,000 workers.
The Grand Forest was purchased by the Bainbridge Park District through a voter-approved bond in 1991 and has since expanded through acquisitions made by the Bainbridge Island Land Trust and generous contributions of adjacent parcels by private owners. It has an estimated 54,000 trees, including over 50-year-old native Northwest Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, and Hemlock, providing crucial habitat for deer, fox, raccoon, pileated woodpeckers, band-tailed pigeons, douglas squirrels, winter wrens, frogs, salamanders, and much more. The Forest to Sky Trail is a corridor trail across from Miller Road, leading west down to Battle Point Park.
Accessed from Mandus Olson Road, the eastern or upper section of the Grand Forest trail system is a less-traveled but better-marked network of somewhat hilly trails on higher and drier ground than the area off of Miller Road. This section of the park tends to attract fewer families and more dog walkers, who often unofficially let their dogs off leash for free-range running and sniffing.
Both East and West Grand Forest sections make for fun and challenging all-terrain biking. Wear your mudflaps in the wet season!
Grand Forest West/Miller Road Trailheads: Look for parking and multiple trailheads along the east side of Miller Road.
Grand Forest East Trailheads: Trail access points on Mandus Olson Road, either off of Koura on the north end or off of New Brooklyn Road on the south end.
Photos by Julie Hall, 2011.