Mount Constitution (Winter): 100 Classic Hike of Washington

Located on Orcas Island in Moran State Park, Mount Constitution is the highest point in the San Juan Islands. Hiking Mount Constitution offers beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding islands from the top of a constructed watchtower.

Mount Constitution in Winter

Table of Contents

Mountain Lake on Mountain Constitution Trail

General Information:

Region: San Juan islands

Distance: 8.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 2000′ gain

Difficulty Level: Difficult

Time to Complete: 4.5+ Hours

When to go: Year-Round*

Pass/Permit?: Discovery Pass

Dogs Allowed?:  On-Leash

Hiking Mount Constitution

There are a number of different routes to take up to Mount Constitution, some longer and more strenuous than others. The route in 100 Classic Hikes of Washington being the most strenuous route of the options.

Beginning of the Mount Constitution Trail in Moran State Park

Beginning at Mountain Lake, the trail winds along the lake for 0.8 miles and is almost entirely flat. The views are that of lush forest and a sparkling sapphire lake. This section of the trail can actually continue on along the entirety of the lake and is 3.0 miles long. 

Veering left towards Twin Lakes, the elevation starts to begin. This section of the trail is covered in plush moss and cascading ferns. This is also the section you will begin to experience the first taste of elevation gain. When you reach twin lakes, take the trail to the left towards Mount Constitution. This is where the switchbacks begin.

Trail towards Twin Lakes on Mount Constitution Trail

A switchback is a 180 degree turn in a path leading up or down a mountain. Switchbacks are used to make hiking up a mountain easier by decreasing the grade of the trail, but they also prevent erosion of the mountain. The steeper a mountain the more likely erosion is to occur.

Want to do another 100 Classic Hike in the San Juans? Check Out: Ebey’s Landing

There will be two series of steep switchbacks with a break of flat ground in between allowing you to catch your breath. It was a wonderful relief to reach these points. Since I was hiking in the winter, after the first set of switchbacks, snow began. It was pretty slushy but if you hike right after a freezing night the snow should remain solid to avoid sliding around.

Switchbacks on Mount Constitution Trail on San Juan Islands

After some meandering through the woods and following a steep path, you will eventually reach a road. This road will make you realize that there really was an easy way to get to the top of Mount Constitution. Drive!

With the watchtower in site, you climb up the four floors of stairs and reach the pinnacle. Surrounded by beautiful views of the sound, you can see for miles on a clear day. There are insightful plaques to read on the way up providing information on the history of the area and the tower. I highly encourage you to stop and read them.

There is a visitor center up there that is open for most of the year. When snow is heavy it is closed. Unfortunately they were closed while I was there, but I will definitely be back!

Visitor Center at Mount Constitution Summit

Just when I thought the views could not get any better, the descent front Mount Constitution has extensive views of the sound. It was breathtaking to have such a variety on this hike from walking along a lake, through ethereal woods, and along the cliffside.

For the remainder of the hike, the snow on the trees was melting enough to feel like it was raining. I ended the hike happy and a little soaked. I cannot wait to go back to this hike in the summer.

Should Mount Constitution be a Classic Hike?

As the highest point in the San Juan Islands, this should absolutely be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington. The views are magnificent and with so many ways to access the views of Mount Constitution, everyone can enjoy it.

Watchtower at Mount Constitution Summit

Some of the other ways include: 

  • Driving to the top 
  • Short and Steep (via Little Summit Trail) 

Like I said, I cannot wait to go back and do this hike again!

What to do after hiking Mount Constitution

Moran State Park has so many other wonderful hikes to complete including Cascade Falls. They also have an area for you to rent kayaks to take out on Mountain Lake on a warm summer day. You could also just go for a swim!

Trail towards little summit on Mount Constitution Trail

But if you’ve been following me for a while, you already know my favorite post hike activity is grabbing a post hike beer. Orcas Island only has one brewery, Island Hoppin’ Brewery. There is limited parking but plenty of parking and friendly staff. You’ll find that the island is full of friendly people.

If beer is not your style, on those hot summer days, you should visit the Orcas Island Clever Cow Creamery for some ice cream. 

Whatever you do, a visit to Orcas Island is a must.

Keep in mind when planning your hike

Getting to Orcas Island requires the use of the Washington Ferry. If you’re planning on completing this hike, I would suggest spending at least one night on Orcas Island. The ferry to Orcas Island is out of Anacortes and with the drive and ferry ride can be a long day.

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