As communities throughout Washington state slowly begin to reopen, Kitsap County has been able to reopen some of its outdoor spaces. The 426-acre Rhododendron Preserve owned and managed by Keta Legacy Foundation (also known as Mountaineers Foundation) is among the places Kitsap residents can now visit for a breath of fresh air and mind-clearing scenery.
The Preserve, located off Seabeck Highway in Bremerton, is one of the region’s largest remaining lowland virgin forests and home to the Chico Creek watershed, with 68 miles of streams. Chum, steelhead, Coho and cutthroat trout cut their way through the lush habitat under the cover of soaring western red cedar, pine trees and Douglas fir.
The Preserve’s trail to Big Tree is a moderate 1.5 mile roundtrip walk for families and children to enjoy together. This time of year is an especially good time to enjoy the flowers of the Pacific rhododendron – our state flower, and the inspiration for the name of the Preserve. Visitors can also glimpse young salmon in quiet pools within Wildcat and Lost Creeks.
“Nature is good for our health. At a time when many people are feeling unsettled, we welcome people to visit this ecological treasure and reconnect with the outdoors. We take enormous pride in our stewardship of this property and making this a place of discovery and connection.”
-Jeff Wirtz, president of Keta Legacy Foundation
The Preserve’s trailhead for the 1.5 mile Big Tree Trail is near The Mountaineers Kitsap Cabin and Kitsap Forest Theater Complex. Admission is free. Visitors are reminded that it’s important to avoid crowds, stay six feet apart, and bring a cloth face covering in case you come across other visitors. Note that parts of the trail are steep and require steady footing. Please leave pets at home to avoid stressing native animals. For more information, see our visit page.