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Sharpe Park - Sares Head

Puget Sound and Islands > Bellingham Area
48.4306, -122.6646 Map & Directions
2.1 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
440 feet
Highest Point
490 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
Sares Head in the late afternoon sunlight. Photo by Mike.
  • Wildflowers/Meadows
  • Mountain views
  • Wildlife
  • Dogs allowed on leash
  • Summits
  • Good for kids
  • Lakes
  • Fall foliage
  • Coast

Parking Pass/Entry Fee


This hike just south of Anacortes offers superb views of the ocean and islands from a pair of high vantage points, and it has some fine trails through mixed forest along the way. Continue reading

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Hiking Sharpe Park - Sares Head

This hike just south of Anacortes offers superb views of the ocean and islands from a pair of high vantage points, and it has some fine trails through mixed forest along the way.

If you hiked these trails a few years ago, or have an older copy of a trail map, you need to be aware that trail names have changed, some trails have been rerouted, and new trails have been added.

You can download an excellent up-to-date map (pdf) before you go, or get a free paper copy at the trailhead, though they are not always stocked. Check the bulletin board next to the parking area and look for the small plastic box on the post at its left edge.

Note that as of summer 2019, a vintage bulletin board a few feet farther away from the parking area still has an older trail map posted on the back side. Ignore it. It's not helpful at all.

Fortunately, every trail junction in the park has a signpost, and the trail names all agree with those on the new map.

Start out along the edge of the meadow on the Sares Head Trail. Continue on this WTA-built trail through a forested area and approach Fox Pond (actually, a beaver marsh.)

About 0.1 miles from the trailhead, a short spur trail to the right (Calypso Trail) just leads to a dead end. Check it out if you like but it doesn't offer much in the way of views.

You will find better views of Fox Pond as you continue on the Sares Head Trail. In late spring and summer the pond is choked with cattails and skunk cabbage. You may see a few areas of open water surrounded by lily pads and, in season, a few yellow lily flowers. As you hike past the pond be alert for ducks or a heron.

Continue on, and in another 0.3 miles pass junctions with the Porpoise Point Trail (on your right) and the Shelley Loop Trail (on your left.) The Shelley Loop Trail rejoins the Sares Head trail in about a quarter mile. It offers an alternative route, but one that is rougher and has some additional elevation gain. If you enjoy exploring, you can take it on your way back to the parking area.

Continue on the Sares Head Trail, passing junctions with the Sunburst Trail (on your right) and the other end of the Shelley Loop Trail (on your left.)

As you continue on The Sares Head Trail, the terrain becomes more open and you will begin to have tantalizing views down to the water.

At 0.76 miles from the trailhead pass a junction with the lower end of the Broom-Tomb Loop Trail (on your left) and continue on. Be alert for the short, signed side trail on your right that leads to the Sares Head Overlook. Take it, and in just a few feet you will be treated to a bench seat and great views.

In the far southwest (clouds permitting) look for the snow-capped summits of the Olympics. Nearer, Lopez Island will be obvious, as will parts of Decatur Island. Hints of San Juan and Vancouver Islands appear in the distance.
Closer to shore you might see fishing boats setting out nets, and farther offshore large barges being towed by tugs.

Watch for swallows swooping past, seeking insects. And an occasional bald eagle may fly by. Could the views get any better? Actually, yes! Seek out the Machin Overlook a short distance uphill above you.

The easiest route to the Machin Overlook is to backtrack to the junction with the lower end of the Broom-Tomb Loop Trail and take it uphill to reach a bench at the overlook in about 0.12 mi.

But for a more adventurous route, continue on past the side trail to the Sares Head Overlook on the ongoing Broom-Tomb Loop Trail. It's an 0.56-mile loop that drops, then regains, some 170 feet of elevation.

Parts of this ongoing trail may seem rather narrow and steep, and in summer gritty — trekking poles may be helpful for balance. This trail is much more minimal than the ones you have walked so far today. But the route is never in doubt, and it will lead you to the bench at the Machin Overlook.

The more distant views here are like those from the Sares Head Overlook, but now you can see Northwest Island and the high point of Rosario Head where you may note a few hikers, looking very small from your 490-foot high viewpoint.

Also, there are good views looking south along Whidbey Island. Look for a part of Cranberry Lake near the Deception Pass State Park camping area. Down on the water, in season, you may see a small flotilla of kayakers paddling around Northwest Island.

If you arrived at the viewpoint via the longer Broom-Tomb Loop Trail, then your ongoing route resumes a few feet to the front and right of the bench. (Do not be confused by the prominent social trail that disappears into the woods behind the bench and heads toward a residence just outside the park.)

Now, return to the Sares Head Trail and follow it back to your trailhead.

Depending on when you do your hike you may see a few wildflowers. Among others, in the spring look for buttercups and avens. Later in the season, Nootka rose and stonecrop, and still later a lot of yellow dandelion-like agoseris, some twin flowers, foam flowers, yarrow and ocean spray.

Deer sometimes are seen in the forested sections, and dark-furred Douglas squirrels are a frequent sighting.

Extending Your Hike

Sharpe Park offers another great loop hike to the Montgomery-Duban Headlands and Porpoise Point for close-up views of the ocean and marine life. For a more strenuous outing you could do both hikes in the same day. 

WTA worked here in 2022, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013!

Hike Description Written by
Alan Gibbs, WTA Correspondent

Sharpe Park - Sares Head

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.4306, -122.6646 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

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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

From Interstate 5 at Burlington, take Exit 230 and head west on Highway 20. After 12 miles, cross the bridge to Fidalgo Island, and in a few more miles, turn left at Sharpe's Corner to follow Highway 20 south toward Whidbey Island. After driving by Pass Lake, turn right on Rosario Road, and the park is on the left in 1.7 miles. There is a small restroom facility at the trailhead, but no obvious source of drinking water.

More Hike Details


Puget Sound and Islands > Bellingham Area

Skagit County Parks and Recreation

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Sharpe Park - Sares Head

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