Hike of the Week:
March 10, 2008
Location: Orcas Island
Distance: 7.2 miles
Elevation: 1500 ft gain to 2409 ft.
Maps: USGS Mt Constitution
March is one of the best times to visit Orcas Island, and there is no better destination than Mt. Constitution, the San Juan Islands' highest point.
Why come in early spring? No ferry lines, for one. Lots of lodging and camping options, for another. Which all means that you will have Moran State Park's 33 miles of hiking trails pretty much to yourself!
Sure, you can drive to the top of the mountain. But it is much more rewarding to hike it. Right now it is particularly green on the trail. You will get to see the moss at its most verdant, hear the songbirds returning to the forest and smell the earth warming up.
There are many trails to choose from, and you can't really go wrong. An excellent day hike starts at Mountain Lake Campground, winds around the left side of Mountain Lake, heads to Twin Lakes, and finally climbs to the top Mt. Constitution. It's all gentle walking through forest and along streams to Twin Lakes. Stay left once you reach Twin Lakes and then turn left on the steep and switchbacking trail to the top of Mt. Constitution.
The views become more and more numerous as you approach the summit. Enjoy these as your solitude is about ready to end. It may be a bit anti-climatic to witness cars at the top, but no place else can you see such a sublime panorama of Puget Sound and the San Juans.
Return as you came, or consult your map for a loop trip back to your vehicle.
For More Information:
Guidebook: Washington State Parks, by Marge & Ted Mueller (Mountaineers Books). Washington Hiking, by Scott Leonard (Foghorn Outdoors). Check WTA's Hiking Guide and Trip Reports for Mount Constitution for it may have even better write-ups for this hike.
Also, be sure to stop at the Cascade Lake information booth and pick up a trail map. This is very helpful if you'd like to extend your hike or do loops around the lakes and drive to the summit. Mt. Moran State Park phone 360-376-2326.
From the Orcas Island ferry dock follow the Horseshoe Highway north about 5 miles to Eastsound, and then continue south another nine miles to Moran State Park. Pass by Cascade Lake (and pick up the trail map), then take a left on the Mt. Constitution Road and go right into Mountain Lake Landing and park at the trailhead.
Read the road signs closely - from October through April the gate is usually closed at 5pm. You don't want to get stuck!