Two in Tow & On the Go: Kitsap County’s Anderson Park an uphill climb for kids
When Gig Harbor Now’s very own Kitsap crackerjack, Mr. Ed Friedrich, in all his infinite wisdom as a tried and true local, says to you, “Yo, new girl*. You miss sand? Like, real sand? Because I’ve got just the place for you …”
You go, right?
Kitsap beach of dreams
Heck yeah, you do!
Soon, we headed north on Highway 16 to neighboring Kitsap County to scope out the rustic allure of Anderson Point Park’s hidden gem beach beneath the trees.
Before we left, Ed also told me: “There’s a wide trail that used to be a driveway down to the water. No swings, but incredible beach. Sand on one side of the point, gravel on the other. Great for hunting beach treasures. Big ships go by.”
Well, I don’t know about you, but I was officially sold on this Kitsap beach of dreams idea. Particularly the part where we could trade pokey pebble shores and water socks for bare, tanned footsies dug deep in the warm and fluffy sands of summer.
Anderson Point Park is roughly 6o-acres of forested open space in rural Olalla that leads down to the shores of Colvos Passage. It’s known as mostly a hidden gem, though it’s certainly been in the spotlight with local media. I read that the journey to open this spot up to the public was rough and spanned several years of compromises with Kitsap County to get it to the point of how the public uses the land today.
NOTE: There’s a free parking lot here, a marked trailhead, some info signs, a trash can — and that’s it. No restrooms. The beach access and views of Colvos Passage and Vashon Island are nice features but the walk back to your vehicle is long and entirely uphill. More on that last part in a bit.
Marvelous mounds of sand
You guys, the beach was everything Ed said it would be.
The mounds of sand were marvelous: billions of tiny grains weathered down from the rocks and shells of the past were softly blown into little heaps and piles sloping toward the tide. Boats did, in fact, pass in the distance. We arrived at the beach just before dusk during what photographers call the “golden hour” when the sun glows a warm, sleepy hue that magically pours soft light all around you. I don’t know if it was that or me looking through the lenses of sandy-rose-colored glasses, but those little boats seemed especially dreamy as they quietly slipped by on their crisp triangle sails pulling them along in the breeze.
The kids were ecstatic. It was a very rare “California beach” scene right here in the PNW. We brought sand toys and my cutie-patootie sibling pair giggled as they constructed moats and mini castles for a whole hour. We haven’t seen sand this soft since we left the Golden State. I don’t understand the geological science behind it, but the slice of shoreline at this particular park has a makeup of textures usually reserved for lands that meet the open ocean. It’s as though Mother Nature replaced Washington State’s rustic overlay of broken rocks and shells – characteristic of almost every other glacier-carved inlet beach across the Puget Sound – and replaced it with a sprinkling of magical-dust sand at Anderson Point Park and nowhere else.
With no sharp or pebbly textures in sight, I slipped off my shoes and had a moment of true summer happiness as my toes sank through the layers of sifted warmth underfoot. However – warning – the soft pads of my feet eventually found a few tiny stickler balls near the coastal grass line. So be watchful not to wander too far inland during your barefoot beachcombing sesh.
The sand was a treat of course, but the water was also a delight. Especially for the kids. Except, they weren’t initially sold. The odd thing is, the north side of Anderson Point Park’s coastline, which we hit up first, sported some super stinky seaweed bundles wrapped up in the debris of high tide. I don’t know if it’s an everyday thing, but a bunch of yellow jackets buzzed all around those tangles of mossy green kelp, landing on them, climbing in and out, flying to the next piece. Seriously, the wasps were everywhere. We had to be extra mindful not to step on these little ground-nesting insect foes, which made for some pretty nervous shrieks from me and two little kids I know.
Always hopeful though, we pressed on. Heading south along the shoreline, we eventually found the arguably much nicer side of the beach where the driftwood shelters are expertly stacked and secret hideout-ready.
The sad truth
All of this to say, we were certainly impressed by this magical beach. Which is why I hate admitting … I don’t actually recommend bringing your kids here. I know! It’s terrible. How could I build up this beach so high only to topple all its kid-worthiness to the ground?! Well, here’s the reality: the trail there and back is absolutely brutal. First, it’s a switchback trail that spans roughly 3/4 a mile. The route from Anderson Point Park’s small dirt parking lot off to the beach is entirely downhill. Everybody talks about that part. We even packed light in anticipation of a long walk. But very few of the people who ventured there before us discerned that downhill one way means relentlessly uphill the other. I’m in decent shape for a 40-something mom. But holy freaking cow – the non-stop elevation on the walk back up to the car was so difficult I almost threw up — twice. I’m not even kidding. It was also “that time of the month” for me, which was quite unfortunate, but still. I was curious if perhaps I just missed these key details in my initial Google search of the park prior to going. Ed mentioned to us that there was a “wide trail to the water” so I knew *some* walking was involved. As such, we brought limited gear down to the water to avoid having to haul it back to the convenience of the car. But, for the most part, the online searches turned up a wide array of magical rainbows and fairy dust on this park:
“This is a great beach for local families simply looking for a place to run with the dog and children.” – Craig Romano, WestSound Magazine
“Anderson Point is a county park in the south sound area and is a quick little hike down a hill on a well laid gravel bed path.” – ExploreWa.org. youtube caption
“10-15 minute hike down on gravel road that leads to a nice private beach that overlooks the ferrys.” – Google reviewer
An uphill battle
I don’t know if the people giving Anderson Point Park five stars for kids don’t actually have kids or what. But I’ll tell it to ya straight — don’t take ’em. The kids that is. Maybe, instead, get a babysitter and head back without them to make the hike a date-day challenge with your significant other. Because I don’t even want to think about the parental torture one would have to endure getting a wet and sandy toddler crew back up that beast of a hill without at least 3.7 complete and epic meltdowns.
I present my case:
Exhibit A: Clara and Wyatt are also in good shape — they’re in sports and run around like banshees all day with the energy of 10,001 rhinos. And they still got tired! Too tired. So tired that they almost refused to walk anymore. The real question is: are you physically prepared to carry your children back up the trail? Because that could very well be your reality there. My kids are ages 7 and 9 and, personally, I can’t pick them up anymore. Or, at least, I can’t pick them up and actually walk. We’d be 100%, totally stuck if I hadn’t convinced them that wild animals could totally eat us for dinner if we didn’t keep walking.
Exhibit B: There’s zero chance wagons or strollers are bumpin’ down the trail’s “well-laid gravel bed path.” That “gravel” feels a lot less like traction support and a whole lot more like baby fist-sized rocks scattered with just enough space to make you always feel about two seconds away from a twisted ankle. And that’s not even my complaint — Wyatt said that!
Exhibit C: One of those Google Review people said the trail is a “10-15″ minute walk…” Ha! There’s no way! Maybe down? But it took us at least 40 minutes (and a year’s worth of complaints) to get back up to the parking lot.
Exhibit D: The trail’s edges are also not kid-friendly. Someone, maybe Kitsap County, installed a black fence along the edge of one of the more questionable cliffside segments, which I so appreciate. But other dropoffs definitely look like certain death for your smallest hikers. So keep those kids close to the middle of the path if you still go.
Exhibit E: The steep trail with the scary cliffsides is the only option from your car to shore and back, other than approaching the beach water-side via boat/kayak/paddleboard. In which case, I don’t know where you’d park or how far it’d take to paddle in.
Exhibit F: It’s not just me who thinks this. I asked both Clara and Wyatt whether finally finding some “California sand” was worth the uphill walk back. They both said no way.
After I got home and searched more. I found some naysayers. One person on the KitsapTrailGuide.com even posted a 3D model image of the elevation gain to get a better picture.
Then again … there’s also this gal:
Are you still willing to brave it for yourself?
If that’s the case, more power to you, my friend. Here’s the info:
IF YOU GO
Address: Millihanna Road, Olalla WA 98359
Size: 66 Acres
Run by; Kitsap County
Features: Beach access, views of Colvos Passage and Vashon Island, free parking lot. Leashed doggos OK.
Hours: The park is accessible daily during daylight hours. Make sure to check the tide chart before you go!
*Ed actually said it nicer than that 🙂
Tonya Strickland is a Gig Harbor mom-of-two, longtime journalist, and Instagram influencer in the family and travel niche. Her blog, Two in Tow & On the Go, was recently named among the 10 Seattle-Area Instagram Accounts to Follow by ParentMap magazine. Tonya and her husband Bowen recently moved to Gig Harbor from California with their two kids, Clara (9) and Wyatt (7). Find her on Facebook for all the kid-friendly places in and around Gig Harbor.