Barnum Point is named for the Barnum family, who lived in this area for over 100 years. Sterling Jones Barnum purchased land and moved here with his wife Mary and their three daughters in 1904. Their granddaughter, Carolin Barnum Dilorenzo, lived here and ran an inn well into the present decade. See the Historical Note below for additional background.
To begin your hike, check the bulletin board near the parking area and note the color-coded routes of seven named trails (as of April 2019.) These are the Barnum, Bluff, Beach, Heavenly, Connector, Holly Loop, and Eagle Ridge trails. More trails are being constructed on newly-acquired land at the southwest end of the park so by the time you visit, the map may have been revised to show additional trails.
The county has done an excellent job placing trail signs throughout the park. All trail junctions and intersections are clearly marked.
As in any park, you are free to choose your own hiking route. Or, for a more structured approach that gets to the most interesting parts of the park, here is a suggested route.
Begin on the initially-level Beach Trail. (On the map, it's the trail shown in yellow.) When you are facing the bulletin board, it's the trail that begins to your left and slightly behind you. The Beach Trail is fairly wide. It passes a junction with the Bluff Trail, then bends around and heads steeply downhill, dropping about 120 feet. In spring, look for Oregon grape in bloom along the way, plus red currant and Indian plum.
The trail reaches the beach, where another bulletin board displays the same trail map. It also marks the northern park boundary, and there is a caution that you should not proceed farther north out of the park.
You can check the views along the beach in both directions. A lot of driftwood accumulates along the upper edge. Sand coverage can vary with the seasons, but most of the beach is quite stony, so sturdy footwear is recommended. Your best chance of finding sand is at the northern end at low tide. Check the tides at the NOAA site for nearby "Kayak Point, Port Susan".
When the tide is low you have the option of walking about a mile southwest along the beach all the way to the western edge of the park, and you can rejoin other trails there. Walking the beach will offer your best chance of seeing eagles, either soaring overhead or perched in trees at the top of the bluff.
Unless you are hiking the beach, return back up the Beach Trail. Along the way there are two tiny benches that you may not have noticed on your way down where you can take a break and look out toward the east.
When you return to the junction with the Bluff Trail, turn onto that trail. It begins with a sturdy bridge over a swampy area, then narrows and continues on above the bluff through a forested section.
Part way along, a viewing platform offers good views out across Port Susan Bay toward the Cascades. On a clear day look for Mount Baker, Glacier Peak and Mount Rainier. Next to the platform, along the edge of the bluff, note the remnant of a very old, low fence. This is one of several signs of former human habitation that you will see on your hike.
As you near the western end of the Bluff Trail, follow signs toward the Carolin Loop and Barnum Point. You will reach the end of the Bluff Trail at a large open area at Barnum Point.
An ongoing trail continues around the seaward side of the open area. At one point a rudimentary side trail descends to the beach, which looks much the same here as at the northern end. Volunteer crews are working to establish new trails at this end of the park. As of spring 2019 these trails already could be walked, with paper signs indicating the routes. Unless you find a route blocked off for ongoing work, you are free to explore here.
If you encounter any of the volunteers, be sure to offer them a big 'Thank You' for their efforts. You even could offer to join in if your time and energy permit.
Continue on the new trails to the western end of the park at Carolin Point, where the new trail reaches the beach. There are views looking up Triangle Cove (a nursery for juvenile salmon) and across at the row of homes that now line the former sand spit.
Head back toward the forest via the Barnum Trail. Some years, in early spring, you may need to step carefully to avoid flattening any of the numerous small fuzzy caterpillars that may be exploring the grassy tread.
On your way back to the parking area you have some choices of routes, all of them forest walks:
One option is to follow the Barnum Trail, turn right on the Heavenly Trail, and turn right again on the Eagle Ridge Trail (despite the name, you are less likely to see eagles from this forest trail than by hiking the beach.) The Eagle Ridge Trail rejoins your incoming route on the Bluff Trail. Turn left there and, when you reach the Beach Trail, turn left again to return to your trailhead.
Another option, one that does not duplicate any of your incoming route, is to stay on the Barnum Trail, bypass the junction with the Heavenly Trail, and continue on to the next trail junction. That will be with the Holly Loop Trail. Turn left there and enjoy this short forest loop that returns to the Barnum Trail. Turn left again and continue back to your trailhead.
This area provided a home for three generations of the Barnum family, spanning over 100 years. Sterling Jones Barnum purchased land here in 1904 and he, with his wife Mary and their three daughters, relocated from Parma, ID, to create a new life for themselves in this very different setting.
Their granddaughter, Carolin Barnum Dilorenzo, still resided here and ran an inn well into the present century. Her recollections of former days were recorded in an August 2016 interview with local resident Jason Dorsey, and they are recounted in his Sunnyshore Studio blog.
As most of the Barnum land and some neighboring parcels became available, the Whidbey-Camano Land Trust organized fund raising campaigns to purchase it for addition to the county park. Find details of their efforts, and additional information about the park, here. As a result of these purchases, the park has continued to grow.
On Your Way Home
On your drive back home, when you reach the intersection of Sunrise Road and Highway 532 continue on across Highway 532 and turn right into the mall that has a few shops. You can find a good coffee bar hidden behind the Camano Scoopz ice cream shop. (The coffee is roasted right around the corner at Camano Island Coffee Roasters.) If you are up for more serious eating, look for the Naked City restaurant. (It had a former presence in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood.) Additional establishments offer good pizza, sandwiches, sweets and other options. The mall also has an outdoor music venue.