Turtlehead: 100 Classic Hike of Washington

Located in the Turtleback Mountain Preserve, the Turtlehead Trail offers one of the best views in the San Juan Islands. There are a number of lookouts along the way that provide hikers a glimpse of the views that are to come.

Explorenborgen on turtlehead trail in San Juan Islands

Table of Contents

View of San Juan Islands from Turtlehead

General Information:

Region: San Juan Islands

Distance: 5.9 miles

Level: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 1,300′

Time: 3+ hours

When to go: Year-Round 

Pass/Permit?: None

Dogs?: On-Leash 

Hiking Turtlehead Trail:

The parking lot is small and is situated next to the Crow Valley School Museum which is open seasonally. Beginning on the North Trail, the trail is wide and flat. The elevation gain begins almost right away and is quite the lung burner! The surrounding forest is beautiful and lush.

Trailhead for turtlehead in Turtleback Mountain Preserve

Approaching the first lookout, the view is of crow valley and is a good stopping point for anyone who wants a breather. Continuing out to Waldron Overlook is the first view of the Puget Sound. After the overlook, the trail forks to the right which is the beginning of the Turtlehead Trail.

Explorenborgen hiking turtlehead trail on Orcas Island

Up until this point, the trail was wide and gravel-y. The Turtlehead trail takes on the form of a more traditional narrow trail. The trail drops in elevation by 300 feet which will have to re-gained to get to the “turtlehead”

Check Out Another Orcas Island Hike: Mount Constitution

Lookout #2 on Turtlehead Trail on Turtleback Mountain

Each section of the Turtleback Mountain Preserve has its own story. The Turtlehead(name of trail) was donated to the San Juan Preservation Trust by Ruth Ellen Helsell Winter. On many maps it is referred to as Orcas Knob, since its absorption into the Turtleback Mountain Preserve, Turtlehead has some of the most spectacular public views in San Juan Islands.

View of San Juans from Turtlehead or Orcas Knob on Turtlehead Mountain

Regaining the 300 feet to get to the Turtlehead of Turtleback Mountain, the trail meanders through thick forest and along ledges. Approaching the end of the trail, the forest opens up to a grassy area for hikers to take in the views. Make sure to take some time to enjoy the views of the surrounding islands and Olympic Mountains.

Should Turtlehead be a Classic Hike of Washington?

Turtlehead trail should be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington. The work that has gone into protecting and preserving Turtleback Mountain preserve demonstrates the importance of this greenspace. Not only does this hike offer spectacular views of the San Juans, but it is truly meaningful to the people that live there.

Turtlehead is a Classic hike of washington

What you should do after Turtlehead

I completed this hike on a brisk morning in March and I had time to go explore another Island in the San Juans, Lopez Island. If you’re looking to stay on Orcas Island, the jewel of Orcas Island for outdoor adventure is Moran State Park!

Orcas Island in San Juan Island is a must visit destination in Washington

Otherwise, there is plenty to do in Eastsound! Eitherway, enjoy your trip to Orcas Island and happy hiking. 

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Turtlehead Trail pin #1

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