The two-hour walk through Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island offers opportunity for inspiration and reflection. (Jennifer Bardsley)

The two-hour walk through Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island offers opportunity for inspiration and reflection. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island showcases nature

The 150-acre wonderland, the former home of a timber magnate and his wife, is a beautiful place to visit in any season.

The next time you’re searching for a memorable day trip, put Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island on your list. Virginia and Prentice Bloedel established a 150-acre wonderland of forest and flowers, and opened it to the public in 1988.

When my family visited Bloedel Reserve for the first time this April, none of us knew what to expect. I had pre-purchased our timed entry tickets (you can’t just show up buy them), and we waited as an attendant opened the gate and directed us where to park. After zipping up our warmest raincoats, we took off on foot.

The two-mile walk through the estate is on a wood-chipped path. They also have an accessible route, which I considered taking since I was recovering from a torn calf muscle, but I limped my way along by going slow. If you had small children with you, an umbrella stroller wouldn’t cut it. A backpack or jogging stroller would be better.

The path starts you off across a lonely field, like you’re crossing a school playground on the way to a soccer game. I mention this because the first 10 minutes aren’t very impressive and if you have teenagers with high opinions of what they should be doing with their free time, you might hear grumbling. But then — in our case — the sounds of nature captured everyone’s full attention.

First, we heard owls hooting; then, frogs croaking in chorus. The timed-entry tickets meant we were the only people on the path. We were alone in nature.

As we walked deeper into the reserve, it was like being Alice exploring Wonderland. Nothing was as it seemed. At first glance, we were walking through a meadow, like you might find lots of places in Western Washington. But looking closer, it was artfully planted with daffodils. The gardener’s hand was hidden. Forest paths reminded us of woods near our home but seemed to have more flowers. It felt like every native plant in Washington was blooming around us.

When the forest path ended a large pond, mansion and lawn appeared. I love historic homes and being able to explore the downstairs of the Bloedel residence was my favorite part. I scraped my shoes off on the boot brush out front, but still felt guilty for walking on the carpet. But that’s what visitors are encouraged to do; walk right into the Bloedels’ former library and gaze out the window at the jaw-dropping view.

From there, we headed off to experience the formal Japanese garden, which was absolutely incredible. That area alone was worth the price of admission. Luckily, we saw it before the weather turned.

It hailed at the end of our walk, and that was exciting in its own way. The forest protected us from the worst part of the storm, but once we were exposed in the field, the hail gave our raincoats a good pounding.

Bloedel Reserve would be a beautiful place to visit in every season. If you go, wear sturdy walking shoes, purchase your ticket ahead of time and get ready to be awed. You can find more information at

Jennifer Bardsley is the author of “Sweet Bliss,” “Good Catch” and more. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as @JenniferBardsleyAuthor. Email her at

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