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Guemes Channel and Ship Harbor

Puget Sound and Islands > San Juan Islands
48.5037, -122.6703 Map & Directions
3.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
100 feet
Highest Point
110 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
Heading back west from the east end of the trail. Photo by Quantum Guru. Full-size image

Hike shoreline trails in both directions from this Anacortes trailhead. Take in views of distant islands, ferries, seabirds, eagles, historic displays. All on good trails suitable for all ages. Continue reading

  • Wildflowers/Meadows
  • Mountain views
  • Wildlife
  • Good for kids
  • Dogs allowed on leash
  • Fall foliage
  • Coast

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Hiking Guemes Channel and Ship Harbor

From the parking area at the end of Edwards Way, trails head both east and west along the shore. The two routes are rather different, but complementary. You can explore them in either order. Some hikers prefer to do the east-bound segment first, as described here, but it's up to you.

Head east on the obvious trail. Clouds permitting enjoy good views out toward Guemes, Cypress and Lummi Islands, with parts of more distant islands visible. The east-bound trail itself is wide and paved for its entire length, about 1.1 miles each way as of spring 2019. Some hiking books list a shorter mileage, perhaps from a time when the trail extended less far.

The seaward edge of the trail may show signs of wave erosion. In 2019, orange traffic cones marked the most damaged areas, although the erosion was not enough to have any impact on trail use by hikers. The situation could evolve by the time you do your hike.

The beach along this part of the hike is very stony and not at all inviting for exploration. More rocks are exposed at low tide, and you are likely to see herons and gulls foraging here.

Also, be alert for other birds aloft. It's not unusual to see an eagle coast by just a few feet overhead, or another one circling at higher altitude. Ospreys too may be seen here, and many sea-birds.

The steep landward side of the trail is very green, almost like a jungle in places, and here and there large trees lean in over the trail. On this forested slope next to the trail be alert for robins and a variety of small birds.

In spring, you may find a few wildflowers blooming on these north-facing slopes, some of them the same ones you would see along trails in the Anacortes Community Forest Lands, such as avens, creeping raspberry, thimbleberry, salmonberry, youth-on-age, fringecup, miner's lettuce, buttercups, Nootka rose, and bright orange impatiens.

Along the way, you will note a few pathways heading steeply uphill, some gated and leading to private residences. One or two of these paths do appear to lead up to neighborhood streets, but please respect the neighbors privacy. 

One side trail is worth exploring: about a quarter mile before the eastern end of the main trail an impressive wooden staircase heads uphill. A sign indicates it leads to Roadside Park,  the actual name of a small, nondescript park along the Highway 20 Spur, opposite Kansas Ave.

The park itself isn't much, but the stair route — which also has some earthen trail — is quite interesting, passing through woods with views back down to the beach. The uppermost flight of stairs passes over what must once have been an old dump, with bits of antique glass and old metal showing on the surface. This optional side trip will add about 0.15 miles to your round trip mileage, with about 100 feet of elevation gain. When you have looked around the park, return back down the stairs to the main trail.

The main trail itself comes to an abrupt, gated end at a private property boundary. There is a good side view of what little remains of the schooner Merced (Spanish for "Mercy,") now a breakwater filled with gravel and planted with trees. A sign posted on the gate offers some history.

Return to the parking area. Then begin the westbound part of your hike. It's about a half mile each way, and is very different from the eastbound segment. It offers a gentle meander through low shrubbery, much of it Nootka rose, whose blooms in spring are quite fragrant. Small trailside posts offer information about local flora and fauna.

Occasional openings on the right offer access to the beach that is sandy here, in contrast to what you saw along the eastbound trail. Other viewpoints overlooking the beach offer benches and signs with historical displays. The last part of the trail is on sturdy boardwalk.

At one point, the trail splits briefly. It's a loop so you can go either way. The final ongoing section of trail is next to a cattail marsh, a seasonal home for red-wing blackbirds whose distinct calls will be evident. Some yellow irises bloom here too.

The trail ends at a viewpoint perhaps 600 feet short of the ferry terminal. Many old pilings visible in the shallows here once supported fish canneries, now long gone.

At low tide the beach is easily walkable and you will have the option of continuing on to the terminal for a break. Also, ferry passengers parked in the queue for a later sailing can meander down to the beach and, time permitting, enjoy hiking part of the western end of the trail.

Hike Description Written by
Alan Gibbs, WTA Correspondent

Guemes Channel and Ship Harbor

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.5037, -122.6703 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

See weather forecast

Parking Pass/Entry Fee


WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

Getting There

Driving Directions

If you are coming via I-5 take Exit 230 in Burlington and head west on Highway 20 toward Anacortes. In 11.7 miles, come to a roundabout and junction with Highway 20 Spur. Stay right and follow Highway 20 Spur toward Anacortes.

At the south end of the Anacortes urban area, stay left as you approach a traffic circle then head right (north) at the circle onto Commercial Drive. After about 1.3 miles, and several traffic lights, turn left - still on Highway 20 Spur - onto 12th St. In about 1.2 mi the street bends slightly left and changes names to Oakes Ave.

In another 1.7 mi, at a roundabout, turn right onto Ship Harbor Blvd. (The street has a prominent sign. The street heading left at the roundabout has a different name, Glasgow St.)

Drive two short blocks and turn left onto Edwards Way. This T-junction has no sign for Edwards Way, and the street to the right is signed Clipper Dr. But, once you have come this far, the rest is easy. Just follow Edwards Way as it curves gently to the right and heads downhill. At the bottom you will find a small parking area and your trailhead. A plastic privy is located near the SW corner of the parking area.

take transit

This trailhead is accessible by bus! Plan your visit by bus using TOTAGO, or consult the schedule for Skagit Transit route number 410.

More Hike Details


Puget Sound and Islands > San Juan Islands

Anacortes Parks Foundation

Guidebooks & Maps

Craig Romano

Day Hiking The San Juans and Gulf Islands

Mountaineers Books (2014)

Green Trails Deception Pass/Anacortes Community Forest Lands No. 41S (trail not shown)

Buy the Green Trails Deception Pass/Anacortes Community Forest Lands 41S map

You can improve or add to this guidebook entry

Guemes Channel and Ship Harbor

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