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Kathleen Ballard

Best Wildflower Hikes In The San Juans

Check out this list of must-hike routes during wildflower season. Whether you explore the bluffs along San Juan's west side, the sweeping views of Turtleback Mountain on Orcas Island, or the interisland peace of Fishermans Bay Spit Preserve on Lopez, you're sure to find sweet reminders of spring and new life!  

Park at Jakles Lagoon where the slopes of Mt Finlayson divide South Beach from Griffin Bay. Walk through the woods and wildflowers up a steep trail opening to the prairie high above the Strait of Juan de Fuca. See Cattle Point Lighthouse, the snow covered Olympics and Mt Baker in the distance, before returning on an easy prairie trail to your car. On your 3.5 mile round-trip hike around Finlayson, you might see a variety of wildlife including foxes, bunnies, owls, Bald Eagles, hawks, seabirds, seals, and sea lions. You'll also enjoy views of San Juan Island’s longest and wildest beach - South Beach. This seemingly endless stretch of shoreline boarders American Camp National Historic Park and offers stunning ocean views.

Mt. Young's flowers begin in English Camp in a traditional English garden. From there, begin your climb of Mount Young.  A steep hike through old-growth Garry oaks and a carpet of wildflowers will release you onto the moss-covered summit of Mt. Young and reveal panoramic views of the Olympic Peninsula, the Canadian Gulf Islands, Henry Island, Pearl Island, Spieden Island and Garrison Bay. Explore the trails up top and respectfully observe the eagles nesting up here. On your  2.2 mile back-tracking route, you might see Bald Eagles, hawks, owls, woodpeckers and other forest birds. Deer can be seen grazing or keeping cool in the shady forests, and an occasional fox might run by!

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.

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.


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.

Wildlife Watching Tips

San Juan Islands are home to a rich variety of wildlife. Check out these helping tips for wildlife watching

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