Spanish for Duck Island, Patos Island is a hidden gem in the San Juan Islands. This is largely because of difficulty in accessing it, but if you make the effort, you won't be sorry!
If you don't own a boat to get to the island, you can take advantage of a chartered boat or a long kayak trip from Orcas Island. Note that because there is no dock, any craft that approaches it must dock on shore, and the cove has strong currents, which can make docking difficult if you find either of the two moorage buoys unoccupied.
If you can overcome these obstacles, you'll find several paid camping spots with grated fire pits and pit toilets. But there's no potable water — if you're planning on staying, bring all the water you'll need with you.
Hiking on Patos Island comes in the form of a 1.5 mile loop trail that is well maintained by a volunteer crew. The path weaves its way along the outside of the island, meandering roughly 30 feet above Puget Sound. This elevation gives hikers awe-inspiring views of the water through droves of deep red Pacific Madronas.
As you approach the northwest tip of the island, the dirt path gives way to cracked concrete, where a grass field separates a lighthouse from the dense woods. There is six-foot tall grass on either side of the path, giving the area a distinct feeling of solitude and peacefulness.
Once you reach the lighthouse, the tall rows of grass give way to a manicured lawn. Take in views of the lighthouse, then visit the bluffs, where you may find seals and shorebirds resting on the rocks or diving into the Sound.
Interpretive displays inside showcase the history of the lighthouse. Inside, visitors can climb the light tower and learn about lighthouses.
Continue along the loop around the rest of the island, taking in stunning views of Puget Sound and enjoying the solitude on this infrequently-visited island.