Strawberry Bay Trail

Southwest coast to interior of Cypress Island


Every day Never Closes


The Strawberry Bay Trail offers visitors an opportunity to combine a look at an interesting coastal site with a hike through an unusual upland plant community resulting from the occurrence of serpentine soils. One of the few rare lowland plant communities in Washington located on serpentine soil, this is the most publicly accessible.

The location of the trailhead seems surprisingly remote given that the greatest concentration of private homes on Cypress is just a short distance to the north. Animals sense this seclusion also. Otters in particular enjoy this part of the bay and can frequently be seen dining on the shoreline within feet of the trail’s beginning. Directly across from the trailhead, little Strawberry Island frames the outermost extension of the bay. Eagles, murrelets and numerous waterfowl can be seen enjoying the natural bounty of this often quiet bay.

Turning landward, the uphill hike begins on a less than attractive rough and tumble old road cut. Even so, among the dense shrubs and growing forest an interesting assortment of plants and amphibians can be found. Small intermittent streams and springs provide for a wetter environment along this section of trail than you might expect.

In only about a half mile of uphill hiking to the south, a junction is reached. Continuing to the south, the Reef Point Trail leads to the sharp southernmost tip of Cypress Island (see article this website). Turning northward however, the Strawberry Bay Trail continues the upward journey into the heart of Cypress Island and the serpentine plant community. Before going very far, look closely along the trail and old road cuts. The serpentine soil is close to the surface here and exposed in places showing its easy to spot orange oxidized form. In the open sunny areas a small pod fern can be found. This fern is an indicator species for the presence of serpentine soils and has the wonderfully poetic name "Indian’s Dream". Unlike its forest relatives that appreciate rich deep soil and lots of moisture, this fern willingly accepts and thrives under the opposite conditions.

Three quarters of a mile ends the moderate elevation gain and marks the beginning of the steep hillside climb up to the center of Cypress Island. Take your time along this trail. Westward facing, the forest canopy opens and bits of sky and distant water appear through the trees. The vegetation changes also. Many of the common trees and shrubs can be found but in stunted forms, attempting to grow under conditions that are both nutrient poor and somewhat toxic to them. Increasing in density however, a few species flourish under these conditions. Specially adapted to poor soils and lack of water these species would not be able to compete against the more common plants if conditions were better. Here, their special adaptations allow them to flourish. In small outcrops, the Rocky Mountain junipers can be found. These were the plants that were so unexpected that the early European explorers named this island after them (their former family name was Cypress; see article "Strawberry Bay" on this website). Occasional majestic madrones with their beautiful ruby bark are an uncommon inland tree. Nearly forming thickets in their density, a shrubby diminutive cousin of the madrone, the hairy manzanita is abundant, sporting similar dark gray-green leaves and clusters of red berries in the summer.

The half mile of steep hiking ends at the junction with the Cypress Mainline. If you still have time and energy to explore, there are a number of nearby options to consider including Cypress Lake (natural preserve, no dogs allowed), the Airfield Forest, Bradberry Loop Trail, and further connections requiring longer and downhill hiking to Reed Lake, Cypress Head, and Eagle Harbor. For a variation on the return you might consider hiking down the Cypress Mainline to Reef Point and circling back to Strawberry Bay. Many examples of the serpentine outcrops and unusual plants are easily visible along the way.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 3/9/2010


The trailhead for the Strawberry Bay Trail begins logically enough on the shoreline of Strawberry Bay. Located at the far south end of the bay, the trail begins where the last flat ground along the bay meets the very steep forested shoreline of Cypress.


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