English Camp is the historical site of the Royal British Marines’ outpost established in the 1860’s. This camp was part of a joint English-American occupation of San Juan Island while international water boundaries were decided. Many of the buildings remain for visitors to explore. Saturdays from June through August are Living History Days, where staff and volunteers re-enact aspects of 19th century life on the island. Guests can watch the blacksmith at work or play historic children’s games. The gentle, family-friendly loop trail from English Camp to Bell Point offers hikers peaceful water views and pleasant bird watching.
From the parking lot, walk a short, sloping trail into English Camp’s Parade Grounds. Stop by the Visitor Center in the barracks for a map of the grounds and trails. Explore the camp’s many structures, including a curious blockhouse, officer’s quarters, a hospital, and a formal garden. Active osprey nests may also be visible from the Parade Grounds - ask park staff to point these out.
Cross the Parade Grounds toward the dock. Signs mark a wooded area that is the start of the Bell Point Trail. Impressive old growth madrones tower overhead, stretching out over the beach below. In 0.1 miles, there is a pier that offers lovely views of Garrison Bay. Keep an eye out for bald eagles and kingfishers. Continue down the trail toward Bell Point. The mature forest here may offer encounters with black-tailed deer, hairy woodpeckers, and barred owls.
In 0.5 miles, a trail spur will take hikers up to Bell Point. There is also a picnic table available here. Take in the view of Roche Harbor and sailboats anchored along the bay. Continue down the loop tail through a grassy wetland with young alder trees. Wander through the woods until reaching the next fork in 0.2 miles. A sign will point in the direction of the Parade Grounds to complete the loop trail, or hikers can take a left 0.7 miles toward Westcott Bay. In another 0.3 miles, hikers will return to English Camp.
For a slightly longer hike, continue on the winding trail to the left another 0.4 miles to come out further up the Parade Grounds or continue on to the parking lot.