Scenic Trails on Orcas Island Are a Special Treat
Whether you’re an avid hiker, seasoned explorer, or just a newbie nature nut checking out the San Juan Islands for the first time, there is something for everyone to see on Orcas Island afoot- make Orcas your island hiking destination. From flat, easy terrain, to steep, cedar bark-lined foot paths, to rock studded shores, the island offers magical vistas, majestic “secret” waterfalls, pristine Puget Sound shorelines, brightly lit forests and tranquil spring water lakes to fall in love with – all easily accessible to novice and veteran hikers alike. Note: you will want to have a car to get to, from and around the island, unless you also happen to be an avid cyclist, because this island’s attractions are very spread out and there is minimal public transportation available.
Orcas Island’s State Parks
Arguably, Orcas Island, due to its mountainous nature and horseshoe shape, offers the greatest variety of hiking trails, from “difficult” to “super easy,” and from “short and rewarding” to “long and even more rewarding.” One can fulfill their hunger for scenery via a challenging scramble up a steep two mile rocky pathway to the top of Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park, or opt for a more leisurely meander around a soft, flat trail that hugs the pristine waters of Mountain Lake – the options for difficulty level and scenery are vast. The island’s two noteworthy state parks, Moran State Park and Obstruction Pass State Park, primarily attract guests for overnight camping in the summer. However, the parks are also accessible to island visitors from sun up to sun down who are staying at boutique properties and hotels. Most notably, three star accomodation Otters Pond Bed & Breakfast, a 5 suite inn nestled in the quiet forest, is conveniently located just a stone’s throw from Moran State Park’s East entrance. Guests of Otters Pond B&B can effortlessly wake up, stumble from their luxury rooms in their plush bathrobes, enjoy an included hot chef-prepared breakfast overlooking Otters Pond, grab a fresh baked scone to-go for a hiking snack on their way out of the door and wander over to Moran for a short stroll to two Insta-worthy “secret” waterfalls just inside the park’s boundaries. Or, if driving is the feel, they can opt for an easy journey by car to the top of Mt. Constitution which brings guests to several trailheads spidering out in different directions, each leading to unique, beautiful vistas overlooking the San Juans. From atop Mt. Constitution on a clear day, both Mt. Baker and Mt. Ranier can be seen. Vancouver BC and Bellingham are also usually visible.
At a lower elevation, but nonetheless still breathtakingly beautiful and studded with nature’s eye candy, Obstruction Pass State Park’s trails provide access to quiet rocky beaches and accessible views of stunning red Madrone trees clinging to the jagged shorecliffs. Nesting bald eagles can easily be spotted with the naked eye above Obstruction’s heavily tree lined trails. Both are beautiful parks to explore on foot.
Other Noteworthy Trails of Orcas offer Stunning Visuals
Up the hill from Deer Harbor Marina on the west side of the Orcas “horseshoe,” Turtleback Mountain boasts some amazing vistas which can be attained via both the North and South trailheads, accessible from the main driving road. There are parking lots by each trailhead. Turtleback Mountain vistas face the South and Southeast, giving way to views to Waldron Island, Lopez Island and the farmland and shoreline below of Orcas. Complete a whole mapped-for-you trail circuit and reward yourself with several miles of accomplished uphill forest bathing, or simply take a shorter, aerobic stroll up the path from the parking lot on the South trail, and easily grab a glimpse of sunrise behind you, through the first forest clearing. Make it up to Ship’s Peak to see over the valley of Orcas and all the way to the mountains. Everyone who takes the journey up any of Turtleback’s trails agrees it is worth the effort. Memorable vistas await.
For more information about Moran State Park go here:https://parks.state.wa.us/547/Moran
For more information about Obstruction Pass State Park go here:https://parks.state.wa.us/533/Obstruction-Pass
For more information about Turtleback Mountain go here:https://sjpt.org/visit-our-preserves/turtleback-mountain-conservation-easement/