My best memory of walking at Fort Ward Park was on a rare snowy day, seeing the surreal beauty of Northwest evergreens like salal and laurel shrouded in white. This unique 137-acre waterfront park on the southwest side of Bainbridge Island offers many rewards. Its 4,400 feet of shoreline along the Port Orchard Narrows afford views of the Olympic Mountains and Mt. Rainier. Its flat paved main path runs parallel to the water and connects to private grassy paths leading to the beach. The paved path makes a pleasant walk, stroller stretch, or easy bike ride with kids. Along the rocky beach you can find sandy spots for picnicking. Look for tasty plums ripening in late summer on old plum trees.
Leaving the water, a 1-mile loop heads steeply uphill, through red-barked madrona, large old big-leaf maple, douglas fir, Oregon grape, rhododendron, and other Northwest flora. The loop eventually leads past a paved parking area with a bathroom and picnic tables before it heads back down again toward the beach. In recent years this upper loop trail has been expanded to include additional trail connections, including one that leads down to Blakely Harbor Park.
Old gun emplacements and other military sites can be found throughout Fort Ward Park, harkening back to its military history, including its important role in WWII where the Japanese Morse code was broken.
Park entrances: Take Pleasant Beach Drive south from Lynnwood Center through a residential neighborhood and a chain link fence and park by the boat ramp. The steep loop trail can be accessed from the parking area across from the water. Fort Ward also can be accessed off of Belfair Road, which leads to a large parking area at the upper part of the Park.
Photos by Julie Hall.