Put down the shells. You can't take them all home.

Trail Name: Guillemot Cove

Rating: Easy

Distance: 2.5 miles round trip

Guillemot Cove, one of the best-kept secrets on the Kitsap Peninsula, protects almost 200 acres of stunning beach and stately forest on the Hood Canal. The former private estate is now a nature preserve and one of the crown jewels of the Kitsap County Parks Department.

Start your hike on a bluff and begin descending 300 feet through mature forest. Ignore side trails veering left. After passing through a beautiful flat of alders garnished with bouquets of ferns, the trail turns east, dropping sharply into a cool ravine shaded by cedar, hemlock, and the occasional yew.

Soon you'll come to the old estate residence and barn at the edge of a pasture. Here an information kiosk helps you with your hiking options. For the cove, take the short Beach House Trail. After crossing Boyce Creek on a good bridge, come to the old beach house and the gorgeous beach.

The Brothers, perhaps the most identifiable of all Olympic Mountain peaks, towers directly across this stretch of Hood Canal. In low tide, Boyce Creek slithers across a muddy oyster bar where shorebirds scamper for oyster shooters. See bald eagles sitting watch in tall firs on the water’s edge. And the namesake guillemots? They’re here. Look for the pigeon-sized, penguin-like seabirds in the canal and nesting in coastal bluffs.

Watch For: The cedar stump house, a Great Depression-era domicile.

Getting There: From Seattle take ferry to Bremerton. Follow State Route 3 north and exit onto Newberry Hill Road. Continue west and turn right onto Seabeck Highway. Follow to Seabeck and turn right onto Miami Beach Road. In one mile, bear left onto Stavis Bay Road and follow for 4.5 miles to Guillemot Cove Nature Preserve.

Note: Dogs prohibited.

Craig Romano is the author of nine Washington hiking books, including the newly released Day Hiking Eastern Washington.

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