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Turtleback Mountain

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Turtleback Mountain, Mountain Lake, Mount Constitution and Mountain Lake, Obstruction Pass — Oct 16, 2013 — explorerdogs
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
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I went on my most ambitious island adventure yet. Headed up to Orcas Island for a few days of ...
     I went on my most ambitious island adventure yet. Headed up to Orcas Island for a few days of R&R and a little bit of hiking. This is the perfect time of year to do this, in my opinion. The weather was perfect and the crowds non existent. This amounted up to some peace, solitude and amazing views.
     After disembarking from the ferry on Orcas Island I had a few hours before being able to check into my beach cabin. Not too far from the ferry dock is the south trailhead to Turtleback Mountain. This is off of Deer Harbor Road, a little lane - Wild Rose Lane- leads to a small parking lot. There is a map at the trailhead but it doesnt show the little side trails I ended up taking. The trail from the south TH to the North TH is about 4.7 miles long so I figured I would do the south end today and save the north for another day (or do the full thing). I took the main trail up, which turns into a service road for awhile. Shortly after starting up the main road there is a side trail name The Lost Oak Trail. I ignored this for now seeing as I didn't see it on the map and wasn't sure where it went. There are benches along the way with terrific view points. Soon I came to a small trail labeled Morning Ridge Trail, I took this and it wound its way up along the bluff with outstanding views most of the way up. It connected with the main trail and we followed this to Ship View Point where we had our lunch while overlooking all that we could see. At this point there were signs directing us to the South Trailhead back the way we had just arrived or going onward to connect with the Lost Oak Trail back to the South Trailhead. Opting for the loop we continued on until we saw the sign diverting us down the correct trail. This was a delightful little loop. Spotted an owl watching from above and a deer crossing the bluff above.
     Day 2 I decided to head to Moran State Park. Not knowing exactly what I was going to do I parked at the Mountain Lake trailhead and picked up a brochure which outlined several hikes with their distance and level of difficulty outlined. I decided, after gaining a little elevation yesterday to do the easy Mountain Lake Loop, just about 4 miles of easy hiking, and do the more challenging Mount Constitution Loop the next day.
This loop was perfect. The trails in this park are in great condition with a nice tread. Hardly met a soul on the trail and the lake was very serene. Very relaxing but I still had some time and energy left.
     I decided to head to Obstruction Pass State Park after hiking the Lake Loop. This is a short distance from Moran State Park and is a short hike down to a secluded beach. If I had known it was to be such a warm afternoon I would have packed a book and spent an hour or two lounging on the beach. This hike was also a loop, about 1.5 miles or so, the upper portion was enchanting as it wound through some mossy rocks and trees. The quiet was amazing. There are several camping spots available but no campers around.
     On Day 3 I was ready for a little more of a challenge. Heading back to the Moran State Park and the Mountain Lake Trailhead I started up the Mountain Constitution Loop described in the brochure. The elevation gain, starting clockwise, was about 1590 ft with more than 2/3rds of that gained in the first mile up to Little Summit. After stopping for a breather and the views at Little Summit the final 2.2 miles up to the Tower at the top seemed easy. Walking along the ridge you get views most of the way. Beware of the deer watching from the trees. We reached the top, ate lunch and then headed down towards Twin Lakes. Here it seems most of the elevation is lost in the top portion as it switches back down and then at Twin Lakes levels out for the last 2 miles or so back to the start.
     Being a morning person I normally am at the trailhead by 8am. I discovered on this trip, however, the joys of island life in the autumn. There was no need to rush out early to get to the trailhead before the summer heat brought out the summer crowds. With trailheads only 15 minutes away, the best temperature to hike mid day and afternoon, and no crowds to contend with it was relaxing to take my time in the morning and not begin hiking until almost noon. What a concept. Ah, Island life.
     I will be back to Orcas some other time. There are still a myriad of trails in Moran State Park as well as the North End of Turtleback Mountain (or the entire Mountain to traverse).
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Turtle's Head — Jul 25, 2013 — SJITC
Day hike
Issues: No water source
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A group of volunteers met at the North Trailhead of the Turtleback Preserve on Orcas Island at 9:30a...
A group of volunteers met at the North Trailhead of the Turtleback Preserve on Orcas Island at 9:30am for a final workparty to complete the new trail to the Turtle's Head. The trail was made possible by a recent acquisition by the San Juan Preservation Trust. Earlier this spring WTA volunteers had begun the work and then the WCC and others had stepped in. We met the last WCC group coming out as we were going in. The Land Bank truck transported the group and tools 1.6mi.up to the Waldron Overlook where the new trail takes off and winds another 1.6mi. to the overlook on the Turtle's Head. The group broke for lunch up on the Head and enjoyed one of the most spectacular views in the San Juans. In the afternoon we worked our way back to the truck. The trail is now unofficially open and in great shape. Overall rt distance from the North Trailhead gate is about 6½mi. Trail climbs to a little over 1000' elv. at the Waldron Overlook then drops down across the Turtle's Neck and back up to a little over 1000' at the Head.

link to article and more photos and link to maps etc.

Map of the Turtleback Preserve with driving directions. (does not include the new trail yet)
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Turtleback Mountain — Apr 02, 2013 — Amber
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming | Fall foliage
Issues: Water on trail | Bugs | No water source
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This was my first hike in years and it was very easy to follow the path with a few outlooks along th...
This was my first hike in years and it was very easy to follow the path with a few outlooks along the way. The trail has two entrances (North and South); we entered at the North entrance. The trail starts to incline from very beginning and can be very challenging as the elevation quickly increases but don't let this discourage you if you have your heart set on the hike as the overlooks are breathtaking.

Tip: take plenty of water and maybe a snack. The trail does not loop back around so you go back the way you came. There are a couple of loops after the long trek (I did not make it this far) but you go back to the main trail to get back to the trail head. Overall a very fun trail and worth the trek.
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Turtleback Mountain — Oct 25, 2011 — treeana
Day hike
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The views from the Wild Rose trailhead begin within minutes. Within a half mile up the trail, the S...
The views from the Wild Rose trailhead begin within minutes. Within a half mile up the trail, the San Juan, and Canadian gulf Islands, and views out over Orcas are visible. Reflections in the still, calm water added another dimension to the hike.
Wide open grasslands, and Garry oak woodlands cover the southern slopes of the mountain. Ship Peak gives a view of farmlands, and fields of Crow Valley. (with Mt Constitution as a backdrop) Sitting quietly, and gazing out over islands, and farm fields, ( with no other hikers along the way ) made for a peaceful day.
    On the way down the mountain we followed the Lost Oak Trail ( just opened in June)
this trail gives a different perspective, and close up views looking up at cliff faces and oak ledges. The old silvered, lichen covered fence line meanders close to the trail. With the addition of this trail a loop is possible.
  We also wandered up and around the Center Loop trail, and the Raven..... offshoot, mostly along an old logging road with out views, and not much to look at.
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Turtleback Mountain — Apr 23, 2011 — Eric Jain
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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The small parking lot at the South Trailhead was full when we arrived at 9am. The meadow just below ...
The small parking lot at the South Trailhead was full when we arrived at 9am. The meadow just below the parking lot was mowed and was serving as an overflow lot.

Soon caught up with a large group that was on a guided bird-spotting tour. Other than this group, we encountered just a few parties.

Found two benches at the "West Overlook": one with beautiful views to the south, with the Olympic Mountains in the background, and one facing west towards Vancouver Island, could see Victoria in the distance. Continued on to Ship Peak, which had views to the east across Orcas Island.

The trail was in great condition. Saw a few flowers, and some birds (including a group of eagles soaring above Ship Peak).


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turtleback mountain- roger and kym.jpg
One of the many great views seen on Turtleback Mountain, photo taken by Roger and Kym.
WTA worked here!
Puget Sound and Islands -- San Juan Islands
San Juan County Land Bank
Roundtrip 3.0 miles
Elevation Gain 830 ft
Highest Point 930 ft
Mountain views
User info
Dogs allowed on leash
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

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Red MarkerTurtleback Mountain
48.6410245 -122.9775049
  • Volunteer Vacations 2013
  • Trail Work 2013 Frontcountry
(48.6410, -122.9775) Open in new window
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