This park in south-central Mercer Island is known for its sports facilities, but it also offers about 1.5 miles of forested hiking trails that are worth exploring. Find a good trail map here. Note the trails are not named. While most trailheads sport a small blue sign proclaiming "Trail," the trail junctions in the park are unsigned.
As in any urban park, you are free to explore the trails on your own, perhaps with a map in hand. Or, if you prefer a more structured approach a route is suggested here.
This route includes occasional short jaunts along adjoining, quiet residential streets, or next to sports fields. This approach allows you to hike all the major park trails, while minimizing backtracking.
Begin at the northern edge of the parking lot and take the graveled trail heading northwest past a "Trail" sign. In about 200 feet, turn sharply right at a junction. Loop around the head of a steep-sided ravine, then continue north next to a school yard fence.
Soon, you will approach a street. Head down a rustic set of stairs, then turn left along the street (it's SE 53rd Pl.) In a short block head left again on Landsdowne Ln. When that street curves around to the right, look along the left side for another "Trail" sign. (This one sometimes is obscured by vegetation.)
Initially, the indicated path is wedged narrowly between neighboring yards, but it soon widens and continues back into the park.
Head downhill a bit and cross a low wooden plank bridge over a moist ravine - it's the same ravine you looped around earlier. Then continue on, slightly uphill.
At an obvious trail crossing, explore the short side trail to the right that seems to dead-end where a stairway descends between two metal posts. A sign beside the trail reads "Be Careful - Suspension Bridge - slippery when wet."
But, as of summer 2017, there is no bridge. The ongoing trail just disappears into a prickly swamp, and it's best not to go there. There once was a suspension bridge here, you can find a good photo (scroll down) in this blog.
The same blog reported that a distinguished engineering society had added the bridge to a list of the most hazardous bridges in the nation. You can skim the item here. But caution; this item is dated April 1!
Hazardous or not, the former bridge definitely is absent today. But there is hope. A check of current city budget items reveals an Island Crest Park entry to "construct new suspension bridge." So, by the time you do your hike, the bridge may once again be in place ready for your use.
For now, backtrack to the ongoing trail and continue on south. At a three-way junction, take the left-most trail and begin a short loop that will return you to this same junction. Just head uphill, climb a few stairs and dodge around the convenient rest room. Take the path south behind the ball field, heading for the small "Trail" sign. Descend a few stairs, turn right, and take the trail back downhill to return to the three-way junction.
Now, head left and cross a (different) ravine on a low wooden bridge.
At the next triple junction begin another short loop. Take the left-most trail and follow it out to 84th Ave SE, head right for a short block and, at the "Trail" sign, head back into the park and return to the junction.
To continue, take the trail heading left (north) and soon pass the metal posts at the western end of the missing suspension bridge. At the next trail junction, begin another short loop. Take the left trail fork out to 84th Ave SE, go right and hike a long block north, then find the obvious trail - perhaps lacking a "Trail" sign - heading back into the park.
This trail branch offers some good views down into the ravine that you looped around at the beginning of your hike, and the ravine is much deeper here. Please stay on the main trail, and avoid minor social trails that seem to descend into the ravine. Soon, you will be back at your most recent trail junction.
At this point you have to backtrack a little, so the next part of the route should look familiar. Head back south past the west end of the missing suspension bridge. (If you find the bridge has been restored, cross it!) At the next trail junction, go left and cross the low wooden bridge. And at the next junction go left again.
At an obvious junction take the right fork that heads uphill. At the next junction stay right, and that will return you to your trailhead.
These park trails wind through some fine forest with some large Douglas firs and Western redcedars. There are large alders and maples too, and they are most impressive when they are leafed out. There is a lot of moss, particularly in moister areas near the ravines.
In season you will see a few wildflowers. Early in the spring look for trillium and bleeding heart. Later for foxglove, avens, miner's lettuce and ocean spray. In early summer you may find a few ripe salmon berries and thimble berries.
Many birds make the park their home. Often you will see - and certainly will hear - crows, jays and woodpeckers. Robins are common here, as are many smaller birds. Squirrels likely will appear for you. Raccoons do live here, but venture out mostly at night.
As a final thought, if you are hiking with young children today be sure to take them to Deane's Children's Park so they can see the dragon and other attractions. There are a few trails there too. Deane's is located at the NE corner of Island Crest Park, near your trailhead. Just leave your car where it is and walk on over. Entry is free.