Hiking recommendations on San Juan Island

Mary Jo Manzanares


As spring weather starts warming things up, it's a great time to schedule a getaway that gets you back to nature, allows for social distancing, and puts you in tune with the great things about Washington State. There are lots of things to do on San Juan Island and hiking is one of the tops things on the list.

San Juan Island is the most populated of the 172 islands that make up the San Juan Islands, and is second in size, right behind Orcas Island. Most residents and visitors get to San Juan Island on a Washington State Ferry. Anacortes is the main hub on the mainland to get to the islands. Take a close look at the schedules, it changes throughout the seasons, and make sure that your crossing includes a stop in Friday Harbor (they don’t all go there). That's the getting off point on San Juan Island.

As we creep closer to summer, a lot of people are going to head to the islands. If you don’t want to be stuck in line for what can be hours, make reservations for your ferry crossing. Check the ferry schedule to San Juan Island here.

Hiking on San Juan Island runs from quiet forests to rocky bluffs, from driftwood-covered beaches to nature preserves. Even if you’re a casual hiker like me, there will be something to fit your skill level.

Here are five recommendations:

  • Young Hill – Located at the trailhead across the road from the English Camp, this trail has a steep grade and is reasonably difficult. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the views when you get to the top. You’ll need the rest.
  • Wescott Bay – Hike through the forest along the water from the English Camp to Westcott Bay Shellfish Farm. This is a reasonably easy hike. If you don't know about the English Camp and American Camp, you can learn more about them and the Pig War here.
  • Lime Kiln Point State Park – This is an easy hike along the shoreline. It also has a built-in advantage - watching water life. You may spot whales during the season. Orcas are generally here between March and October. Humpback and Minke Whale whales as late as November. If you're not lucky enough to spot a whale, you may see porpoises, seals and sea lions, otters, and other water life.
  • South Beach – Located in the American Camp, at two and a half miles, this is the longest public beach in the San Juan Islands. Walk along the sand and pebble beach at your preferred pace, taking in the views and doing a little beachcombing.
  • Jakle’s Lagoon – Located in the San Juan Island National Historical Park, this forest loop hike will take you to the top of Mt. Finlayson, the highest point on the island. There are a few steep sections, but overall, it’s not as difficult as it sounds.

Use common sense precautions when setting off on your hike. Take plenty of water and snacks. Wear sturdy shoes and comfortable clothing. Apply. and reapply sunscreen.

You can trail maps and hiking trail information here.

Photo credit: author

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