A weekend on Orcas Island could be just what you need to decompress, enjoy amazing views, and break out your hiking boots. The San Juans have some amazing hikes. In this guide, I am going to share the best hikes on Orcas Island, the largest island in the San Juans. The amazing views begin on the ferry but never end, whether you’re summiting Mt. Constitution or taking a stroll along Pebble Beach.
It’s a great place to hit the trail in the morning and enjoy delicious seafood in the evening. If you’re trying to squeeze everything into a day trip to Orcas Island or staying for the weekend, you’re bound to have a great time.
So grab your hiking boots, because this guide has everything you need to explore the best hikes on Orcas Island.
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Ultimate Guide to the Best Hikes on Orcas Island in the San Juans
In this comprehensive guide to the best hikes on Orcas Island, I will cover everything you need to know for an adventure filled with miles of trails. Here is what I will cover:
- How to get to Orcas Island
- Where to Hike on Orcas Island
- What to Pack
- Best Hikes on Orcas Island
- Hikes on Other Islands in the San Juans
- What to Include on Your Weekend Trip to Orcas Island
The surrounding islands are beautiful, but some of the best hikes in the San Juans can be found on Orcas Island. Let’s start with how to get there.
How to Go to Orcas Island
Your trip to Orcas Island begins with the Washington State ferry system. The ferry terminal in the Anacortes serves as the starting point for your journey to the San Juan Islands, including Orcas. The ferry ride itself is an adventure. As you leave Anacortes and make your way through the San Juan Island, you get to experience the Salish Sea in a unique way.
If you’re coming from the Seattle Area, be aware that the drive to Anacortes is upwards of 2 hours. Take this into consideration when you’re planning!
Since this ferry terminal services all of the local San Juan Islands, pay close attention to what lane you need to be in for the correct on and offloading of the ferry.
The cost for the round-trip very is calculated to include the cost of your vehicle and per passenger. For example, for myself, two passengers, and my vehicle the round trip cost was $80.52.
To calculate your trip cost, you can use the Fares Calculator on WSDOT here.
Ferry Reservations (Winter)
There is a reservation system for the ferries that begin in the Winter. As someone who has missed out on boarding a ferry and needed to wait for a later one, I highly recommend this option when it is available.
Be sure to check the ferry schedules, make reservations when needed, and get ready to embark on one of the best hiking destinations in the Pacific Northwest.
The Washington Ferries have some of the best views in Washington on a clear day. Keep an eye out for Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, and even Orca whales.
Where to Hike on Orcas Island
The variety of trails on this island is one of the things that makes it truly unique. While there are trails all over the island, here are three of the most prominent areas where you will find the best hikes on Orcas Island.
Turtleback Mountain Preserve
Close to the ferry terminal, the Turtleback Mountain Preserve is a testament to locals’ desire to protect the land and animals from large construction on the island. Purchased and donated for a preserve, it now serves as a 1,576-acre preserve that has a variety of trails for all skill levels. With hikes through lush forests and impressive vistas, this is one of my favorite areas on the island to hike.
The parking lot is small for hikes here, so get to the trailheads early!
Moran State Park
Moran State Park is Orcas Island’s largest state park and has the largest trail system. The highest point on the island is contained within the park and visitors have the option to hike up to the summit and climb the infamous watchtower. Whether you’re looking for mountain lakes, picturesque waterfalls, or a dense forest, this park has something for you. There is also a picnic area, primitive campsites, and a full campground!
Obstruction Pass State Park
A smaller state park on Orcas Island, Obstruction Pass should not be passed up on your hiking adventure. Having just one trail in the state park, it still manages to be one of the best hikes on Orcas Island. This state park is located on the west side of the island, so I recommend spending some time in Doe Bay afterward!
Let’s talk about permits for hikes on Orcas Island!
Passes/Permits for Hikes on Orcas Island
When you’re hiking on Orcas Island, some of the trails are in Washington State Parks, which means that you will need a Discover Pass.
A Discover Pass grants you access to the miles of trails across all Washington State Parks. There is an annual fee of $32.
In preparation for your trip, you can purchase one here!
What to Pack for Hikes on Orcas Island
The hikes on Orcas Island take you through lush forest, along coastline, and up peaks. Here is a short list of what you should be bringing with you on your weekend adventure.
Since there is a good chance you will see the J-pod or Transient Orca whales on the Washington Ferry or from the coast, I cannot recommend bringing a pair of Binoculars Enough! My favorite pair of binoculars in terms of travel and useability are the NOCS waterproof binoculars.
I have been using the Osprey Tempest 20 for years and love it! It has held up well with regular use! For hikes on Orcas Island, you likely won’t need a much larger backpack than 20 L.
Cell service can be spotty on Orcas Island, so I would recommend investing in a GPS device. This could come in handy not only on hikes on Orcas Island but if you’re on a remote part of the island and need to contact someone. I use the Garmin InReach for hiking and backpacking.
It is no secret that the Pacific Northwest is known for rainy weather and Orcas Island is no exception. Don’t let a little rain keep you from enjoying the enchanting trail systems. Pack a rainjacket that is both breathable and has room for layers. My go-to rain jacket is the Black Diamond Stormline Stretch.
If you’re visiting Orcas Island during shoulder season, a mid-layer will be useful. A mid-layer is something you can take on and off throughout your hike depending on how you’re feeling. The better sweater is my favorite because it keeps me extremely warm, without being as bulky as a jacket.
Wool socks are going to help mitigate any potential blisters. I refuse to hike in anything but wool socks and on the rare occasion, anything but Darn Tough Wool Socks. They are an investment, but with a lifetime warranty, they are worth it!
Whether you’re looking for heavy-duty hiking boots or synthetic, I recommend you pack waterproof boots. The trails bring you near waterfalls which can make the trails muddy. You also might want to enjoy the coast and a rouge wave could leave your feet wet if you’re not careful.
Now that you have all the information you need to get to Orcas Island, where to hike on Orcas Island, what passes you will need to hike there, and what you should wear, let’s get a look at what the best hikes on Orcas Island are!
Best Hikes on Orcas Island
Hiking on Orcas Island can be as leisurely or heart-pumping as you would like! The best hikes on Orcas Island are accessible to hikers of all skill levels. Orcas Island is a beautiful place to hike and I can’t wait for you to see it for yourself!
Distance: 7.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,750 ft
The summit of Mount Constitution is accessible via the Mountain Lake and Little Summit Loop trail. The top of Mount Consitution is the highest point on Orcas Island and has an observation tower that the Civilian Conservation Corps built. In the summer months, you can drive up to the summit of Mt. Constitution, but if you’re up for a difficult hike with the most feet of elevation gain on the island, this one is for you!
Distance: 2.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 280 ft
Cascade Lake is the lake you drive along upon entering Moran State Park, you can take a short hike along the lake. A highlight of the trail is crossing the bridge on the far side of the trail. This is a family-friendly route but if you’d rather spend time on Cascade Lake, there are Kayak Rentals available too! This trail splits off with cold springs trail to the top of Mount Constitution if you’re looking to add onto your trek.
Distance: 0.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 150 ft
One of my favorite easy hikes on Orcas Island, Cascade Falls brings hikers past three waterfalls within Moran State Park. This short hike includes Cavern Falls, Rustic Falls, and Cascade Falls. In Spring and Fall, the lush forest is a rich green. This hike is even great to do on a rainy day since it is so short. This less than one-mile hike is one of the best hikes on Orcas Island.
Mountain Lake and Twin Lakes Trail
Distance: 6.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 560 ft
Deeper into the park, the Mountain Lake and Twin Lakes Trail is a little less traveled than some of the other busier trails on Orcas Island. Most of the elevation gain comes from the trek up to Twin Lakes, but the trail is easy to follow and well-maintained. Add this longer hike to your list!
Turtleback Mountain to Orcas Knob
Distance: 6.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,300 ft
If you are trying to find the best hikes on Orcas Island, you must hike Turtleback Mountain. This is the perfect place to find spectacular views of the Puget Sound. As one of the longer hikes on the island, it would be a great way to start your day! Along the way, you can do a quick side trail to Waldron Overlook where the trail branches from the North Trail to Turtlehead Trail where you will eventually reach Orcas Knob.
Be aware that mountain bikers and horses are allowed on this trail so make sure your dog is leashed!
Distance: 2.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 850 ft
Ship Peak is a popular trail in the Turtleback Mountain preserve. The assent is gradual, but consistent as you make your way around the loop trail to Ship Peak at just under 1,000 ft of elevation gain. Ship Peak looks over Massacre Bay in the West Sound which is a great viewing place for amazing views of nearby islands. Look for bald eagles on this hiking trail, they are truly magnificent.
Obstruction Pass Trail
Distance: 1.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 232 ft
This short trail brings hikers to Obstruction Pass Beach. This is a great trail for families looking for an educational walk as the interpretive trail has tons of signs that talk about the park, surrounding area, and marine animals.
The best hikes on Orcas Island are amazing, but there are spectacular hikes throughout the San Juan Island. In the next section, I list some of my favorite hikes on nearby islands.
Nearby San Juan Island Hikes
The San Juan Islands have so many wonderful hikes to choose from and while most of the hikes in this guide are bound to Orcas Island, I would be remiss to not mention some other spectacular hikes in the San Juans.
On your way back to the Seattle Area, there will be a quick stop at Lopez Island, if you have the time you should take an early ferry to hike on Lopez Island.
Iceberg Point is a beautiful trail. If you’re lucky you might even see puffins along the route!
You can read about this short, but spectacular trail here.
Not accessible via the Washington State Ferry, Cypress Island is a Natural Resource Conservation Area known for Eagle Cliff Trail.
Take a private boat out there for a weekend of camping and hiking!
San Juan Island/Friday Harbor
If you’re searching for an Orca Adventure, look no further than Lime Kiln Point State Park.
The Lime Kiln Point State Park Loop Trail is a short trail along the west side of San Juan Island where you can regularly spot pods of orcas in the distance. The last time I was there I saw the J Pod!
Make a Weekend Trip Out of Orcas Island
It is easy to spend a weekend on Orcas Island, heck if you’re me, you’d be saying “Should we move here” about ten times a day.
In addition to completing the best hikes on Orcas Island, you can also spend your time exploring the truly unique experiences on the Island.
From completing a Whale Watching tour to going on one of the ocean kayak tours, there is no shortage of adventurous activities.
If you’re more interested in the leisurely life, go wine tasting at Orcas Island Winery or grab a beer at Island Hooper Brewery.
All I know is that you MUST start your day at Brown Bear Bakery and get dinner at Doe Bay Cafe at Doe Bay Resort at least once on your trip.
Stop in the gift shops in Eastsound and grab ice cream at Clever Cow Creamery.
While making a trip out to the San Juans for the best hikes on Orcas Island is absolutely worth it, there is so much more you can do there!
Pack It Up
The San Juan Islands have spectacular views and if you’re looking to go hiking look no further than Orcas Island. Most of the best hikes on Orcas Island are family-friendly and dog-friendly, meaning you can bring whomever you’d like on your island adventure.
Taking the Washington Ferries out the San Juans has amazing views from the time you leave the ferry terminal in Anacortes until you reach Orcas Island. Be on the lookout for Orca Pods!
You can visit the San Juans year-round and the best hikes on Orcas Island are just as beautiful on the clear days as they are on the moody days.
If you want to access all of the trails for the best hikes on Orcas Island in one place, I created an AllTrails list that includes all of them.
Happy Hiking, Outdoor Bestie!