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Explore the "Friendly Isle"

The third-largest of the San Juans, Lopez Island has gentler topography than its neighbors, making it a favorite destination for cyclists and hikers looking for easy routes. Lopez Island is full of shady paths, nature preserves, and opportunities to learn about the islands. Explore these five favorites!  

Don’t miss the Shark Reef Sanctuary on the west side of the island. A short 10-minute walk through a forest will lead to a rocky shoreline where you’ll get views over the water and an almost certain seal (and perhaps sea lion, otter, or whale) sighting —just be sure to follow the path around to the left!

Begin your journey through a thick forest carpeted in salal.  After a short descent, reach the rocky shoreline (elev. 20 feet) and turn south to reach the ledges along Cattle Pass. From here you can see the strong currents separating Lopez from San Juan Island. Directly in front of you in the channel are Deadman Island and a series of reefs and offshore rocks. At low tide, these areas teem with wildlife -  eagles, cormorants, kingfishers, and oystercatchers dining on seafood, and seals basking on the warm rocks. Shark Reef Sanctuary is an excellent destination for children and adults seeking outdoor discovery.

Across the channel on San Juan Island, Mount Finlayson rises above Cattle Point Lighthouse in the foreground. Mount Dallas, the highest point on San Juan Island, can be seen in the distance. Looking south you'll find the Olympic Mountains looming over the Strait of Juan de Fuca and east to Iceberg Point.

One of Lopez Island’s most popular hiking destinations, Shark Reef sanctuary was once a military post. Now the 39-acre sanctuary is a San Juan County Park.

Located on the south end of Lopez Island’s largest freshwater lake, 80-acre Hummel Lake Preserve boasts beautiful lakefront shoreline, a dock for fishing (but no swimming), and about two miles of trails through a second-growth forest that ends at Port Stanley Road. Enjoy quiet woodland roaming where you're more likely to run into deer than other hikers.  Walk through a cedar grove, a mature Douglas fir forest, and watch for local birds as you experience Lopez's slower pace of life. 

Fish species include largemouth bass, bluegill and planted rainbow trout.

Known locally as “the heart of Lopez,” Lopez Hill offers a forest escape for hikers and nature lovers. The area spans 400 acres, with the hill standing at 535 feet. An intricate network of trails (at least seven are mapped) offers challenging hikes through rocky knolls, canyons and prairie land. Plant lovers can feast their eyes on a range of island flora, from fungi to lichens to wildflowers.

The public trailhead is located off of the north end of Lopez Sound Road. From the Lopez School, go east on School Road. At 1.2 miles, take a sharp right onto Lopez Sound Road. At 2.35 miles, turn right onto the bumpy gravel entry road, which ends at the parking area. There is parking for 4-6 cars.

The San Juan County Land bank has a handout showing directions and very basic trail configurations. The printed map from Friends of Lopez Hill provides more detail of the trails and includes the key to the trail marker system.

Upright Head Preserve is the northernmost point on Lopez Island and is an important landmark recognized by many who travel the state ferry system. This 26-acre property includes 2,023 feet of medium and high-bank waterfront on Harney and Upright Channels. A small rocky preserve, protected by the San Juan County Landbank, Upright Haed is a perfect place to  watch boat traffic and wait for a ferry.

The 1.2 mile roundtrip hike is an easy walk from the ferry lanes and gains only 300 feet of elevation. The trail starts on the west side of the ferry terminal road, on a gated road signed "Penny Lane." Along the trail you'll find look outs, educational signs, and a wooden platform perfect for a picnic. Protecting this land prevents development and secures otter habitat, old growth forest, and interesting geological features.

Fisherman Bay Preserve is a 29-acre property that includes open meadows, woodlands, wetlands, and approximately 1 mile of shoreline. A sandy spit marks the entrance to Fisherman Bay and is a beautiful place for a picnic.

On the way to the preserve, you'll pass Otis Perkins Day Park. Stop here for even more shoreline and beach to explore. As you follow the signs to the preserve, you'll drive through a residential neighborhood. Upon reaching the small parking lot for the preserve, you'll find an outhouse and educational panels.

The preserve offers about a mile of trails with only 20 feet of elevation gain. Pass through an old orchard, stone ruins of a Lopez homestead, and through meadows of wildflowers. Enjoy views of Orcas Island's Turtleback Mountain rising behind Shaw Island and wave to passing boats headed to Lopez Village. 

Post Hike Food

Reward yourself after a day of hiking! Check out these dining options on Lopez Island!

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