Hike Highlight: The Grand Forest

This winter, life has brought me to Bainbridge Island where I’ve had plenty of time for wandering. If you ever find yourself on Bainbridge and want to get a little lost, I recommend seeking out the Grand Forest. This forest has a definite ethereal vibe, and I was delighted to find that it was absolutely bursting with ferns. My paternal grandmother’s name was Fern, and though she died when I was young, I always feel close to her when I’m in a fern forest.

I imagine that there are certain times of year when amber sunlight filters down through the trees and makes this lush, wet wonderland just glisten. I did not go on such a day. I went on a very dark, very wet, very Pacific Northwest kind of day.

And it was still beautiful.

The Grand Forest is a trail system that includes a total of about 240 acres with 8 miles of trails. You can mix-and-match the trails to come up with a shorter or longer hike, depending on what you want to do. I recommend taking a picture of the map at the entrance of the park that you can refer to if it is your first time exploring here. Throughout the trail there are numbered markers with helpful QR codes that can help you find where you are if you happen to get lost by plowing down a trail without really checking where you are going first. Not that you would do that, or that I would admit to doing that.

Most of the trails are generally flat, so it is a great option for hiking with kids. There are so many things to discover–mushrooms, slugs, nursing trees, streams, bridges–so if you can tap into the curiosity of your young companions, they will be very entertained.

It is also a great place if you are just looking for a tranquil stroll with a companion, or some alone time. I went with my daughter, Maryn. There were other hikers out, but we were mostly by ourselves. The forest creatures were very active and noisy, and we were treated to a near constant chorus of birdsong and squirrel whistles and chirps. (There was also definitely something going down with some animals down by the stream, but we chose not to involve ourselves.)

I was looking forward to discovering the pond as a highlight where I could take some pretty pictures. But, if I’m being honest, the pond wasn’t cute, at least not in a a best-part-of-the-hike kind of way. I think the strengths of the Grand Forest lie elsewhere. But I will concede that it was relaxing to watch the raindrops hit the dark surface of the water.

Overall, the Grand Forest is a wonderful place for forest bathing. It smells amazing, the trail was generally soft and spongy and pleasant for walking, and there were plenty of nature-y things to see and hear. If you find yourself on Bainbridge Island with a bit of time on your hands, go check it out!