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Great Hikes On San Juan Island

If you want to wear hiking boots, experience some history, and see views that take your breath away, tackle Young Hill. Situated at the north end of the island, the 650-foot summit offers unmatched panoramas of San Juan, Canada’s Gulf Islands, Vancouver Island, and beyond. Pick up the trailhead across the road from English Camp, occupied by the British in 1860 and find traces of its history on Mount Young itself—watch for the 1860s Royal Marine Cemetery.

Distance: 2.2 miles

Elevation gain: 600 ft

From the parking lot at English Camp, find the trail in the eastern corner of the lot and head southeast. At the first branch in the trail, stay right, and the trail will start climbing almost immediately. Cross San Juan Valley Road at 0.3 miles. and continue until you see a signed path leading to the English Camp cemetery. This piece of history is worth a stop as you ascend or descend Young Hill. A memorial to seven Royal Marines who died on the island in the 1860s, this cemetery is surrounded by gnarled Garry Oaks that are part of an ongoing restoration project.

After your side trip to the cemetery, head back to the main trail and continue climbing. You will reach your first viewpoint at 0.8 miles with an informative plaque naming some geographic features visible on a clear day. Keep climbing, and at 1.0 miles reach the summit, with spectacular views of the Salish Sea and surrounding islands. If you’ve brought lunch, settle down and enjoy some of the best views in the area. You have the world at your feet.

You can also hike from English Camp to Westcott Bay Shellfish Farm, through lush forests and along the water.

Also known as Whale Watch Park, Lime Kiln Point State Park is a 36-acre day-use park with an iconic lighthouse set on the west side of San Juan Island. You may see orca whales swimming through the kelp beds in the waters off Lime Kiln, looking for salmon, since this park is considered one of the best places in the world to view whales from land. The shoreline viewpoint is about a 300-yard walk from the parking lot, restrooms, and seasonal interpretive center.

Distance: 2.2 miles

Elevation gain: 265 ft

The park, which features a richly diverse environment, includes the remnants and landscapes of a history filled with change, along the rocky shoreline and through the wooded uplands. Minke whales, porpoises, seals, sea lions, otters and bald eagles also cruise the shoreline. The lighthouse was built in 1919 and still serves as a navigational beacon for ships in the Haro Strait. Interpretive programs, an interpretive center with gift shop and lighthouse tours are available during the summer months.

Orca Sing

SOUTH BEACH AND AMERICAN CAMP

South Beach in American Camp National Historical Park is the longest public beach in the islands, with views over the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Mountains. All along this pristine two-mile pebble-and-sand beach, a wide swath of massive driftwood has washed up and been bleached in the sun for decades.

Distance: 2.8 miles

Elevation gain: 180 ft

A wonderful place to take photos, enjoy a brisk walk for exercise, or a slow stroll for beachcombing, South Beach also has broad golden hills where eagles and hawks reel, rabbits forage and red foxes hunt at sunset, a historic “redoubt” or temporary fortification made during the Pig War conflict between the American and English troops from 1859 to 1871 – a standoff during which no shots were fired. Now, the only flames you’ll see are the summer bonfires at sunset as locals and visitors gather to enjoy this stunning and special place.

Named after the first Cattle Point Lighthouse keeper, George Jakle, Jakle's Lagoon is located just south of the Fourth of July Beach on Cattle Point and is part of the San Juan Island National Historical Park. A forest loop hike takes you to the top of Mt. Finlayson, the highest point on San Juan's south end, with a beautiful view of Cattle Point Lighthouse towards Lopez Island.

Distance: 3.5 miles

Elevation gain: 350 ft

At 295 feet, this is not a challenging climb, although a few sections run a little steep. With South Beach, Jakle’s Lagoon, and Fourth of July Beach nearby, this hike fits very well into a day of south-end sightseeing.  From the Jakle’s Lagoon parking lot and trailhead, you can start at either end of the loop trail.

Head right on the wide Mount Finlayson Trail, which climbs gradually across golden grasslands lined by wind-blasted, contorted firs paralleling Cattle Point Road. The trail crests on the long ridge of Mount Finlayson, named for one of the founders of Victoria, B.C., which you can see from along the trail.

At 1.3 miles a trail leads left, near a group of large firs—your return route. But walk a bit farther for a grand view of Cattle Point Lighthouse. (Watch for eagles, plovers, sandpipers and hawks.) Loop back down into a cool forested ravine to reach a trail junction at Third Lagoon after 0.25 mile. Turn left onto an old woods road, 1.75 miles back to the trailhead.

Or at the parking lot, take the wide trail through the cool evergreen forest to the summit, then follow the high, open ridge and hike down the mountain back to the parking lot. From the summit you’ll have spectacular views across Haro and Juan de Fuca Straits to the Olympic Mountains and Vancouver Island.  Watch for whales in these waters.

Post Hike Grub

Reward yourself after a day of hiking with some of San Juan's finest local food.

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