Hikes on Orcas Island
Mount Constitution/Moran State Park
If you want the challenge of a steep hike and the reward of breathtaking views, grab your hiking boots and a packed lunch and head to Mount Constitution in Moran State Park, the highest point in the San Juan Islands—2,409 feet. It’s not a hike to be rushed, however, as there is a lot to appreciate on the way up. Hike from the cool shade of old-growth forest to sunshine and wildflowers in alpine meadows.
From the summit, you’ll have 360-degree views of the San Juan Islands, Vancouver, and the mainland, bracketed by snow-tipped Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier. Enjoy an added touch of historical interest in the watchtower, built from hand-cut stone by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936.
If you have small children or just fancy something less strenuous, there are a multitude of easier hikes farther down the mountain. Or arrange to be dropped off at the top and have someone pick you up at the bottom for a leisurely downhill hike. There is a paved road all the way up Mount Constitution, so consider parking partway up for a leisurely and beautiful three-mile stroll around Mountain Lake—you can even jump in for a cooling swim. Beyond Mountain Lake, trails lead out to Cascade Falls and Twin Lakes. With over 38 miles of trails, 5,200-acre Moran State Park offers something for every fitness level.
The distinctively shaped Turtleback Mountain is a much-loved area for hikers—at 1,520 feet, the second-highest summit in the islands. For hikers and nature lovers, that translates into fantastic views and fascinating flora and fauna. The south-end approach, up the turtle’s “head,” is for those willing to tackle a steep ascent. You’ll enjoy wide-open vistas for much of the climb, but this also means more exposure to the sun. For those less inclined to pant up an exposed climb, choose the north ascent. Here, conifer forest and wetlands replace the grasslands and Garry oaks of the south face.
Obstruction Pass State Park
Obstruction Pass is a small gem for those seeking the atmosphere of a wilderness escape. Situated at the far southeastern tip of Orcas, Obstruction Pass offers 80 acres of parkland to explore plus 10 primitive campsites. The main trails run well under a mile through lush vegetation and forest. The easterly trail leads to a 150-yard beach unique in the islands, covered with marble-sized multicolored pebbles—as well as views of Lopez Island, Blakely Island, and Obstruction Island. The westerly trail ends in a panoramic water view and great picnic site.
Halfway up Orcas Island's Mt. Constitution in Moran State Pakr, is beautiful Mountain Lake, with its dock, boat launch and easy, gorgeous hiking trail that takes a 4-mile loop around the lake. There are campsites on the lakeshore, which fill up in summer, but are the perfect quiet retreat during other seasons. From the 2,409-foot summit of Mt. Constitution, you can see Mountain Lake below, and hike down (or up) to enjoy its serene natural beauty. [more...]