Thanks to countless donors, the biggest Bainbridge Island Land Trust acquisition in its history, with assistance and management from our Park District, is now a reality open to the public. Trail workers are putting finishing touches on the main Hilltop Trail this week, finally completing access to this crucial tract of undeveloped land that connects East and West Grand Forest, creating the largest wildlife corridor on the Island.
The new Ron Williamson Trillium Trail is only .6 mile, but interwoven with existing trails the Hilltop area feels much more expansive. Work crews have done a very fine job of laying gravel for solid footing, even along the steep slope leading down to the west from the actual Hilltop hill top, which offers lovely vistas. There are plenty of connecting trails to keep you busy, especially if you extend your excursion into East and/or West Grand Forest. The really ambitious can take Hilltop via West Grand Forest to the Forest to Sky Trail across Miller Road, which ultimately leads to Battle Point Park, and, if you’re really energetic, the Ferry Dell Trail via Frey Road out of the north end of Battle Point.
Theoretically you could hike or run or even mountain bike for hours throughout this network of trails. (Mountain bikers be aware that the Ferry Dell Trail is not passable on two wheels.) But if you’re not familiar with the area, make sure you bring a sandwich and your cell phone!
My favorite route, after following the main Hilltop gravel trail down the slope, veers left onto a dirt trail toward Grand Forest West and eventually comes out near the big bridge. It gets muddy in places, because it dips down pretty low into wet, boggy territory, but most of the terrain is surprisingly dry even now and the scenery cannot be beat. You’ll find fat cedars that have out-lived us all, mossy big-leaf maples, reaching alders, unusual ferns, watery secrets that only the animals and trees really know the answers to, and, well, sweet peace.
BI Park District Park Services Supervisor Dan Hamlin told me the official grand opening of Hilltop is coming up, with the date still to be announced. He said signage will be put in place before the opening. Some of the muddy Grand Forest trails are slated to be worked on, and new parking plans are in the works but yet to be determined.
“It’s amazing how that little .6 mile trail opens up so much,” Hamlin said. Indeed.
The Bainbridge Island Land Trust has raised about 3 million of the 3.6 million it ultimately needs to complete its payment for Hilltop. Want to donate? Contact the Bainbridge Island Land Trust.
Here is an old Hilltop trail map. A more detailed one is currently being created, which we will post when it becomes available.
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Map courtesy of Dan Hamlin. Photos by Julie Hall.