Island Experience

Reconnect with Nature on Orcas Island

Moran State Park is a great basecamp for exploring the beautiful natural places of this rugged island

SPACE

Turtleback Mountain Hike, Orcas Island, Washington, Photography by Monica Bennett
Cascade Lake, Moran State Park, Orcas Island, Washington, Photography by Monica Bennett

 

Hiking Moran State Park

With over 38 miles of trails, 5,200-acre Moran State Park offers something for everyone. The soft, wide trails around Mountain Lake take you on a 4-mile loop through old-growth evergreen forest. Cascade Lake has a shorter trail, or you can skip the woods and take to the water on a kayak or paddle-boat.

Mountain Lake

The coolest thing about the Mountain Lake Trail is that it is the perfect length for a leisurely two-hour outing, including time to sit on the lake’s dock and dangle your feet, or dive into the clear water to cool off on a hot summer day. There is a paved road all the way up Mount Constitution, so consider parking part way up for a leisurely and beautiful stroll. If you are facing the lake from the parking lot, you can go either direction, although I like to walk counter clockwise. The trail starts out, and remains, wide and soft, padded with duff. It has a gentle slope for most of the loop, with some interesting stops along the way, through forest of Western Red Cedar, Douglas fir, salmonberries and salal, ferns and an endless array of mosses and flora to photograph and discover. There’s also a weir, or concrete waterfall to cross, and a few felled trees to walk over or under.

Orcas Island Beach, San Juan Islands, Photography by Robert Harrison
West Beach, Orcas Island, Washington, Photography by Monica Bennett

 

Obstruction Pass State Park

Obstruction Pass is a small gem for those seeking the atmosphere of a wilderness escape that has some amazing little tucked-away beaches. Situated at the far southeastern tip of Orcas, Obstruction Pass State Park offers 80 acres of parkland to explore plus 10 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 interestingly shaped rocks that people stack on the beach—some smooth and strangely triangular—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. You can get down to the beaches by a few steep trails, so keep that in mind hiking this fascinating park.

Kayaking in the San Juan Islands, Photography Courtesy of the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau
Kayaking in the San Juan Islands, Photography Courtesy of the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

 

Kayaking the Shorelines of the Emerald Isle

The more protected waters of Eastsound on Orcas Island offer smoother kayaking, a boon for the beginner. With more than 125 miles of shoreline, Orcas offers kayakers a wealth of opportunity, from protected coves to wild, rocky shoreline. From the North Shore, experienced kayakers can make a several-mile crossing to access a number of marine state park islands, such as Sucia, Matia and Patos. Several kayaking companies lead multi-day tours so less experienced paddlers can explore the shorelines of these stunning islands, and jump ashore to explore their trails and forests.  YOu can rent kayaks on East Sound at Crescent Beach, where it is easy to put in, and the waters are usually calm. If you have your own kayak, consider visiting the two freshwater lakes in Moran State Park: Cascade Lake (which also has some rentals) and Mountain Lake.

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LeanTo Glamping, Moran State Park, Orcas Island, Washington

Camping & Glamping

Sleep like a babe in a cabin in the woods, in a yurt on the beach, or high in a treehouse with these lodging options on Orcas Island.