There isn't too much in Illahee State Park in terms of hiking trails. The primary trail connects the campground area to the beach area. It is a dirt trail that wanders briefly through the thick forests that compose the primary ecosystem found in this park. While it isn't a long hike it does at least provide visitors with a view of what the temperate rain forests of western Washington look like. Older trees are riddled with woodpecker holes, and the chances of seeing small song birds, woodpeckers, and other small bird life is quite good. You must be patient, however, in order to stand a chance of seeing them. Also, the more quiet you are the better the chance they will not be scared away.
Bald eagles are common in the area, and it wound not be unusual to see one perched in the top of one of the trees, or even hiding halfway down it in the lower branches. The beach area affords them the chance to catch the fish they favor.
But, at the very least, enjoy the dense forest for the remnant of western Washington flora that it represents.
State Parks that are open to fishing and shell fishing require a fishing licence for the particular type of fish that you plan to catch, and you must be fishing for them in season. As with all of the shellfish hunting in Washington, it is important to also check to make sure the beach is not closed to shellfishing due to Red Tide or other marine biotoxins. These are not removed by cooking and may be fatal.
There is a sign on the beach that indicates if the beach is closed or open for shellfish hunting. It is located by the boat ramp. However, it is better to check the various web sites beforehand so that you do not arrive and find it is closed.
Shellfish seasons are variable at each state park, as it depends highly on the conditions of the shellfish and the water conditions.
Each May, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife issus a season schedule for all the beaches and what is allowed to be harvested and/or caught there. This schedule is located at the URL listed below. To find Illahee State Park on this list, you need to select Kitsap County from the menu system, then select Illahee State Park.
Unfortunately, in 1994, a small landslide covered the part of the beach that was most productive for clams and oyster reproduction.
For 2011 at Illahee State Park, the schedule for seasons was set to be:
Clams: April 1st through July 31st
Oysters: April 1st through July 31st.
You will also want to check the Washington Department of Health record of emergency shellfish closures due to Red Tide and other Marine Toxins:
As of this writing, Kitsap County is closed to harvesting of Butter Clams due to marine toxins, but this changes with the seasons.
First things first: you should be aware that the boat ramp here has a usability that is highly impacted by the tide level. It is a concrete ramp that only stretches part way to the low tide line. Know your tide tables, and if you have a craft that can not be hand-carried, then you may want to consider launching or trailering elsewhere if you are not going to be using the ramp at high tide.
Now, the second bit of bad news: Washington State Parks charges for use of a boat ramp. This fee has decreased a little bit since the advent of the Discovery Pass. Now everyone gets to pay a day use fee, but you pay a slightly higher fee if you want to use the boat ramp in a state park. At Illahee State Park, the payment for use of the boat ramp is made using a self-service payment station just south of the boat ramp. The post for the self-pay envelopes is located in front of the sign board on the right side of the main photograph for this tip, above.
There is a paved parking area at the beach level. There are restrooms at the south side of the beach parking area.
However, if you wish to launch a craft in this part of Puget Sound, then the options are somewhat limited. As long as you are able to work within the limitations of the boat ramp here, it is possible to launch and retrieve a boat from Illahee State Park.
Driving to Illahee State Park from downtown Bremerton is fairly easy: head north out of downtown Bremerton and then east along one of the minor roads. North on highway 303 to NE Sylvan Way and then directly east works best, as the park main entrance is at NE Sylvan Way and Ridgeview Drive NE.
Please Note: If you drive to the park you are required to purchase a $10 day use pass for the park, or have an annual "Discovery Pass" for the Washington State Parks system.
Please note that there is almost nowhere to park on local neighborhood streets, so you can't use that method to avoid paying the fee. You are better off paying the fee or taking the bus.
Getting here by bus is not too difficult either, but does require careful attention to the timetables, and also requires that you walk beside roads that have no sidewalks or foot pathways. This isn't quite as bad as it may sound as many of the roads are not that difficult, and the speed limit is only 35 mph at most (not that anyone actually goes the speed limit, but speeds are a little lower here than on certain nearby roads where people go blasting along at 70 mph most of the time).
Kitsap Transit operates bus services in this area, and two routes get reasonably close to the park:
Bus route 29 operates from the transit center at the downtown Bremerton ferry terminal to East Bremerton, then north along Trenton Avenue. There is a bus stop at Trenton Avenue and NE Sylvan Way. From here, walk east (downhill) along NE Sylvan Way. At Bootleg Hill Place NE, you will notice a trail going into the woods on the north side of Sylvan. This trail is part of the park trail system, and goes into the park campground. From here, you can get anywhere in the park without walking on any roads other than those inside the park. The total distance along the road you have to walk is about 400 meters / 1,000 ft.
Bus route 21 also operates near the park, but the closest stop it offers is another 400 meters / 1,000 ft further, at Perry and Sylvan.
Service is infrequent: on weekdays each bus route operates only once every two hours, with one operating on the even hours and the other operating on the odd hours. Service on Saturdays is hourly on #21 and #29, but does not start until fairly late in the day. There is no transit service on Sundays.
The Kitsap Transit schedules and maps are on the web site, below.
When translating a word from one language to another, the problem is that the concept conveyed may be one that is foreign to that of the target language. One can find some small examples of this in European languages (for example, trying to convey the several different types of love from Greek or Portuguese into English, which only has the word love for all of those concepts).
However, this becomes a fairly severe problem when the two cultures involved have completely different concepts that are foreign to eachother.
Illahee in the Chinook trade language may mean "earth or land" or "where one is from". It may also be "place". The people who spoke the Chinook language did not separate the spiritual and physical worlds the same as those in the "western" culture do. As such, Illahee may also carry a meaning similar to that of what we call "Mother Earth" or "Mother Nature" along with its connotations of home or place.
A small sculpture sits nearly hidden along the road between the beach and the main entrance, slightly uphill from the picnic areas. This sculpture depicts Eagle or possibly Thunderbird, both of which have significance in local First Nations culture.
As nearby Bremerton has a long history as a Navy shipyard, naturally there are any number of Navy heros that can be memorialized in their nearby state park.
At the entrance to the park there are two reasonably good sized anti-aircraft guns that are from one of the ships, and a small memorial picnic area by the guns.
The plaque is a generic statement "This memorial is dedicated in grateful recognition of the sacrifices made by the American People for the preservation of their heritage of justice and freedom."