By Andrew Coghill
It's known as island time - the laid-back vibe that abandons the scheduled for the serendipitous. Hikers on island time leave ferry schedules and watches in the car and place experience before destination, allowing sensory pleasures and intuition to guide their pace. Luckily for us in Washington, there is no better place to sink into island time than on the diverse trails and in the picturesque parks of our beloved Evergreen State.
From the San Juan Islands south through Puget Sound, Washington's islands offer a variety of habitats with breathtaking scenery. Saltwater shoreline, tide pools, lagoons, native prairie, forest, lake shore, and mountain summits await the seafaring (or bridge driving) hiker.
Below you'll find a sampling of the best island hikes in Washington. And remember, your fun doesn't have to wait for the trailhead. You can use your captained travel time while riding a ferry to go upstairs, chat with a local, and slip into island time.
San Juan Islands
Location: San Juan Island
Round Trip: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 285 ft.
Located in San Juan Island National Historic Park, Mount Finlayson is home to one of the last native prairie habitats in the San Juan Island Archipelago. Over six miles of shoreline and a variety of habitats including lagoons, fir and oak stands, and bluffs overlooking the Straight of Juan de Fuca fill this hike with wildlife viewing opportunities.
Mount Constitution and Mountain Lake
Location: Orcas Island
Round Trip: 6.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,500 ft
As the highest point in the San Juans, Mount Constitution and its CCC-built stone observation tower provide hikers with bird's-eye views of Western Washington and Canada. At the base of Constitution, hike along shimmering Mountain Lake, where blacktail deer and many bird species, including woodpeckers and herons, inhabit the forest.
Iceberg PointLocation: Lopez Island
Round Trip: 3.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 50 feet
On the southwest tip of Lopez Island, rocky windswept bluffs provide an excellent vantage point to view orca whales and shore birds. This 80-acre site is more reminiscent of the hills of Scotland than of the Washington coast. Hike the grassy meadows, spread a picnic on a flat rock and gaze out over the snowcapped Olympic Mountains. It's one of the most serene and beautiful places on the islands.
Location: Guemes Island
Round Trip: 2.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 550 feet
WTA built this trail to Guemes Island's highest point where island and mountain views abound. From atop the one mile trail, views open to the North Cascades, Mount Baker, and Skagit flats rising above the labyrinthine waterways of the San Juan Islands. This trail delights through the seasons, showcasing spring flowers and bright autumn foliage.
Goose RockLocation: Whidbey Island
Round Trip: 2.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 350 feet
Above Deception Pass, Goose Rock provides gorgeous island and Sound views with little climb. Goose Rock is a great introduction to this much-loved state park where bald eagles perch on windswept shore pines, red-barked madrona lean over aquamarine waters, and kelp forests sway to the rock of the tides.
Ebey's LandingLocation: Whidbey Island
Round Trip: 5.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 260 feet
As the nation's first national historic reserve, culturally-rich Ebey's Landing offers visitors both history and an assortment of habitats and scenery. Working farms and one of Washington's earliest settlements lay beside a shoreline strewn with driftwood and shorebirds, walking trails, native prairie, two state parks, and enough wildlife and beauty to keep your camera clicking.
Camano Island State ParkLocation: Camano Island
Round Trip: 2.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
The heavy-hitters of Puget Sound flora and fauna inhabit Camano Island State Park in all their grandeur. Bald eagles soar high above native forest filled with Douglas-fir, madrona, salal, and sword fern. From a high bluff overlooking Elger Bay, southern views of Saratoga Passage and Whidbey Island front distant Mount Rainier.
Island Center Forest
Location: Vashon Island
Round Trip: 9 miles of trail
In the heart of Vashon Island, this 363-acre working forest and nature preserve holds Judd Creek, Mukai Pond, wetlands and forested trails. Over 70 species of birds have been identified in the preserve. The site is also home to an exciting carbon sequestration and reforestation project.