San Juan Islands A Guide to Exploring the Great Outdoors  by Dave Wortmand

San Juan Islands: A Guide to Exploring the Great Outdoors Guide Book

by Dave Wortmand (Falcon Guides)
San Juan Islands A Guide to Exploring the Great Outdoors  by Dave Wortmand
Just shy of the Canadian border in northwest Washington State, the San Juan Islands offer an abundance of culture, history, nature, and outdoor recreation opportunities to be explored and savored. A FalconGuide® to the San Juan Islands directs you to forty-two of the best scenic vistas, wildlife viewing areas, historical locations, and fishing and camping sites on the islands. Paddle through emerald bays and quiet coves to discover colorful tide pools and playful marine mammals on San Juan Island. Enjoy a lakeside stroll or climb to Mount Constitution's open summit on rugged Orcas Island. Cycle miles of rural roads through rolling countryside in the organic farming community of Lopez Island. Or enjoy a respite from mainland life on Shaw Island's tranquil shores. Whether you plan to stay for a day or a week, A FalconGuide to the San Juan Islands will enhance your next journey into this natural wonderland.

© 2005 Dave Wortmand/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "San Juan Islands: A Guide to Exploring the Great Outdoors" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 42.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 42.

An easy interpretive loop sharing the rich history of American Camp and the Pig War. The trail winds its way past the old parade ground, the Laundress’ Quarters, and the site of the Bellevue Sheep Farm, which traded wool and other agricultural products with the Russian American Company in southeast Alaska, as well as markets in California, Mexico, and China. Walk past the Officers’ Quarters, redoubts (fortifications), and earthen gun platforms. As the San Juans were little more than isolated outposts in the 1800s, it’s easy to imagine the boredom, bad food, and bad winter storms the soldiers must have endured—and for twelve years!
Friday Harbor, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.25
A lush stream valley with old-growth forest and a series of cascading waterfalls. Plunging through lush forest along a pretty mountain stream, you may find yourself forgetting that you’re on an island surrounded by salt water. The Cascade Creek Trail is one of the few streamside hikes you’ll find in the San Juan Islands, following Cascade Creek from the outlet of Mountain Lake to Cascade Lake. And while much of Orcas Island’s forest was harvested in the logging boom following World War II, here you’ll find some of the largest remaining trees in the park. Along the way you’ll pass scenic Cascade Falls, along with two other waterfalls, as the stream tumbles its way down the steep valley.
Rosario, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
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A pleasant, mostly level loop that hugs the shore of Cascade Lake, with views of the slopes of Mount Constitution and of the “Lagoon” on the west shore of the lake. One of the most popular hikes in Moran State Park follows the wide, well-graded and scenic trail that loops its way around Cascade Lake. You’ll closely hug the shoreline for most of the way, with scenic views across the lake, especially inviting for an early morning or evening stroll. On a hot summer day, the close-at-hand lake will tempt you for a swim along the way.
Rosario, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
A tour of the valley farms and shoreline along the south half of San Juan Island. This moderate trip tours the south half of San Juan Island, with its valley farms, sweeping south coastline, and quiet roads. The loop actually offers the option of a shorter trip of 12 miles, or a longer ride that takes in American Camp and Cattle Point on the south tip of the island. You can easily combine this ride with several hikes of varying lengths in American Camp.
Friday Harbor, WA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 12
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A short walk out to the scenic south tip of San Juan Island at Cattle Point. As one of the driest places in the San Juans, the area provides a unique mix of habitats that draws several species of butterflies to the host plants here. Goldfinches also nest here later in the summer season when thistle and Queen Anne’s lace go to seed, and it’s not uncommon to spot eagles. Encompassing Cattle Point itself is the Cattle Point Natural Resources Conservation Area, where you’ll find a short 0.2-mile trail out to the Cattle Point Lighthouse, built in 1935. The area is managed by the state’s Department of Natural Resources to protect its sensitive resources and to provide low-impact public use. As one of the driest places in the San Juans, the area provides a unique mix of habitats that draws several species of butterflies to the host plants here.
Friday Harbor, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.5
A traverse through grand forests high on the north slopes of Mount Constitution, crossing over the summit and down along its scenic ridgetop. This “high route” circumnavigates the upper slopes of Mount Constitution, climbing the summit ridge. And while it doesn’t offer the same up-close lake views as the loop from Mountain Lake, you’ll find fewer ups and downs on this trail, starting high at the Cold Springs trailhead and passing through forest much of the way. It’s generally less frequently used, leaving you to wander quietly past the cathedral-like trees on the north slopes of Mount Constitution.
Rosario, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
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A circumnavigation of a heavily forested, rugged, undeveloped island, with some challenging rips and currents, and overnight camping opportunities. Cypress Island, with its miles of wild coastline and lively currents, remains a mystery to many visitors to the San Juans, as it’s off the main ferry route and offers little to those who are seeking the comforts of civilization. Yet it’s these very qualities that make it a worthwhile and popular paddling destination. Only a small portion of the 8.5-square-mile island was homesteaded in the 1800s, and today over 90 percent of the island is undeveloped wild shoreline. Three camps on and around the island are part of the Cascadia Marine Trail (Cypress Head, Pelican Beach, and Strawberry Island), and an overnight stay will give you the chance to walk through the island’s quiet forests and experience its true wildness.
Cypress Island, WA - Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 15
A rugged loop over paved and dirt road with a steep hill climb, exploring the least developed section of Orcas Island outside of Moran State Park. This vigorous ride will take you to a wilder corner of Orcas Island by following Dolphin Bay Road, one of the least traveled routes on the island. The middle section of Dolphin Bay Road is gravel, and while theoretically passable by road bikes, the road surface along with the very steep climb makes a mountain bike a much better option for this ride.
Eastsound, WA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 14
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A mostly moderate ride with one large hill climb along the east shore of East Sound, past lakes and forests in Moran State Park, and through the rural landscape on the east side of Orcas Island.
Eastsound, WA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 11
A trip from the protected waters of East Sound, past a scenic state park beach, through narrow Obstruction Pass, and along the southeast shore of Orcas Island. The area stretching from the eastern shore of East Sound to Doe Bay offers scenic shoreline, some challenging currents, coves for exploration, and the opportunity to see abundant wildlife.
Rosario, WA - Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 5
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Three short hikes exploring the history of English Camp, the quiet shoreline of Garrison Bay, and the spectacular views from the summit of Mount Young. There are actually three separate hikes you can do at English Camp, all short and easily doable with a few hours at the park. The first hike is a loop past the historic buildings and grounds, the second goes out to Bell Point, and the third is a short but steep walk to magnificent views atop Mount Young. Mount Young TrailJuan Island National Historical Park. Here you can explore the other site of the Pig War standoff on an easy 0.5-mile interpretive loop through historic English Camp. The camp includes a historic log blockhouse, storehouse, hospital, and barracks, as well as a small restored formal garden and Officers’ Quarters site.
Roche Harbor, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.5
A moderate loop along the north half of San Juan Island, through the scenic farmland of the Beaverton Valley and past historic English Camp and Roche Harbor. This moderate loop from Friday Harbor gives you a good overview of the north half of San Juan Island. Crossing through the fertile center of the island, you’ll have opportunities to stop at farms along the way, take short walks in English Camp, tour Roche Harbor and an interesting sculpture park, and even do a bit of wine tasting. And while this route is also among the most heavily traveled by cars on the island, shoulders on both Beaverton Valley and Roche Harbor Roads help make the cycling experience safer and more enjoyable.
Friday Harbor, WA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 25
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A pleasant day paddle in a protected bay, with a stop at a pebble beach at American Camp. Griffin Bay, forming a large crescent on the southeast side of San Juan Island, offers a pleasant day’s paddling with the potential for a variety of stops along the way, including Griffin Bay State Park and Fourth of July Beach in the American Camp unit of San Juan Island National Historical Park. Currents in the bay are generally weak, although the bay is exposed to winds that can blow up from the south and east.
Friday Harbor, WA - Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 10
Combine this trip with a kayak trip along the south shore of Lopez Island to hike 1 mile of windswept bluffs with expansive ocean views. Iceberg Point, owned and maintained as an Area of Critical Concern by the Bureau of Land Management, contains some of the most spectacular landscape on Lopez Island, encompassing the open, rugged bluffs and rocky coast of the south shore of the island. Until an overland access point can be secured, your best bet for exploring this area is by kayak. You’ll find a small pebble beach on the north side of a small cove just north of Iceberg Point and its channel marker for landing.
Lopez Island, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
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A moderate loop through lush forest, past several ecologically rich lagoons to ridgetop prairie and sweeping views of the Olympics to the south and the Cascades and Mount Baker to the east. If you’ve got an interest in ecology, this is the hike for you. This loop hike will give you an idea of how just slight differences in landscape can result in big changes in the kind of vegetation that grows there. Here, you’ll start out in lush forest and wander past quiet lagoons, then climb to a ridge to big views over windswept prairie.
Friday Harbor, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
A short loop along the west shore of San Juan Island, where you can spot whales and learn about the past at the historic lighthouse and lime kiln operation. Better known as a whale-watching destination than a hiking area, Lime Kiln Point State Park offers a short loop hike that’s full of both cultural and natural history. During the summer Lime Kiln Point is often jammed with visitors who come to watch the orca whales feeding offshore. Whether or not the whales make an appearance, take the time to do this pleasant 1-mile loop.
Friday Harbor, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1
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Two short hikes through forest in Odlin County Park, passing large trees and views over Upright Channel. While they’re more short forest strolls than hikes, Odlin County Park nevertheless has two short trails for visitors that can be completed within about an hour or two. While they’re more short forest strolls than hikes, Odlin County Park nevertheless has two short trails for visitors that can be completed within about an hour or two. Both originate along the gravel road accessing campsites and make for a good choice for campers at the park or for those spending a day or two exploring the island. The aptly named Big Tree Trail, found next to campsite number 12, makes a short but pleasant loop through forest with some impressive Douglas fir and cedar trees.
Lopez Island, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.5
Rocky shorelines, numerous bays, and abundant wildlife on the wild south shore of Lopez Island. The south shore of Lopez is a paradise for paddlers, with quiet harbors, dramatic cliffs, abundant wildlife, the chance to spot whales in season, and islands and rocks to explore—all without the crowds you’ll find in many other kayaking spots. While launching areas are limited, you’ll have plenty of options for exploring once you’re in the water. The south shore of Lopez is a paradise for paddlers, with quiet harbors, dramatic cliffs, abundant wildlife, the chance to spot whales in season, and islands and rocks to explore—all without the crowds you’ll find in many other kayaking spots. While launching areas are limited, you’ll have plenty of options for exploring once you’re in the water. Guided trips are available in the area as well. MacKaye Harbor makes for the best launch spot on the south side of the island, where you’ll find a concrete boat ramp and parking.
Lopez Island, WA - Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 7
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James Island, located just east of Decatur Island, is a popular state marine park and a worthy destination for a paddle trip. It’s also part of the Cascadia Marine Trail. Lopez Island makes for a good jumping-off point for the island, either from Spencer Spit to the north or from the Hunter Bay dock on the south side of the island. The trip from Hunter Bay is probably the more interesting of the two routes, passing several small islands that are part of the national wildlife refuge system, and avoiding ferry and boat traffic in Thatcher Pass. Advanced paddlers also occasionally make the open and exposed crossing of Rosario Strait to James Island from Anacortes when currents and weather conditions are favorable. From Hunter Bay you’ll pass Crab, Fortress, and Skull Islands, all part of the national wildlife refuge system. While Lopez Bay is protected from currents, winds from the south can funnel across the south end of Lopez Island and create rough conditions here.
Lopez Island, WA - Sea Kayaking - Trail Length: 12
A scenic descent from the summit of Mount Constitution along open ridges, through beautiful forests, and past scenic lakes in Moran State Park. While Moran State Park is better known for its hiking, the park’s mountain-biking trails also entice campers and day-trippers from the mainland to try out its variety of fire roads and single-track trails.
East Sound, WA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 10
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