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Anacortes Community Forest Lands - Whistle Lake

Puget Sound and Islands


Puget Sound and Islands -- Whidbey Island
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4.0 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 580 ft.
Highest Point: 600 ft.


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In the heart of Fidalgo Island lies a natural gem of a forest with wetlands, lakes, and rocky bald meadows with great views. This nice little hike will take you around the lake on a hiker only trail. Take this hike in spring for the fresh new leaves and the dainty spring flowers, or hike on a rainy day in winter and watch the mist float above the lake among the trees. The lake is very popular on hot summer days.

Two trails start right at the trailhead. The left hand trail, #237 follows an old road directly to the lake. However, you'll take #201 on the right, the slightly longer route, but more of a true trail. Wind your way through the second growth of Doug-fir and cedar that make up this forest. The first swampy area of the many to be found on this hike will be along this section. Look for the bright yellow bracts and huge tropical looking leaves of our native skunk cabbage. The flowers are actually on the spike in the middle. Look closely and you may see a pollinating insect. This plant is found in freshwater swamps and along streams shaded by trees.

In just under a mile, there will be an intersection with #21, go left on #21 and shortly there will be a three way intersection, a vault toilet and garbage can. Take #20 towards the lake, reach the northern end of the lake and intersect with #204. On the right there will be a sign for the Anacortes Forest Lands and the Kenny Oakes trail. Take #204 heading around the lake counterclockwise. Ignore all side trails heading uphill and stay along the lake shore trail. There are lots of inviting little vistas and great places for a picnic lunch along this section of shoreline. Admire the red bark of the Pacific madrone trees hanging over the water. Watch for ducks and other wildlife, if you are lucky, you may see an eagle or even a coyote.

The trail leaves the shoreline and climbs above it, then through a small section of woods. There is lots of our native red huckleberry growing on old nurse logs. A member of the blueberry family, it has bright orange berries in the summer which are edible, but very sour. You may see the distinctive basal leaves of rattlesnake orchid, a green rosette with prominent white veining. The flowers will be a stalk of small white orchid like flowers. Take a left on a little side trail that ends up on a large rock outcropping with a view of the lake and the island at the southern end. In spring, look for paintbrush, Oregon fawn lily and fritillaria, a dainty brown checkered flower.

Head back into the woods and intersect with #21 and #202, head left on #21, then shortly reach another intersection. Here is a nice large wooden map with a ‘You Are Here' marker, showing you at the intersection of #21 and #22. Be advised, though, that this map is from 2007 and many of the trails are not on it. Take #22 left through the forest and past another swamp. Watch for trail #205, this will continue your journey around the lake, but it first goes through the woods around a rock bluff. Note the few large stumps left from the original forest. You will soon face another intersection; stay on #205. Pass Toot Swamp and speculate on how it may have gotten the name. Cross a cute little wood bridge, reach the lake again, and begin heading uphill. Reach the top and the way flattens out before dropping back down to another intersection. Stay on #205. Once past the intersection the forest opens up and there are some nice rocks above the lake to enjoy lunch with a view. Once done with lunch, continue north until you hit the northern tip of the lake again. Return on the old road for a complete loop back to the trailhead.

Extending your hike: The Anacortes Community Forest Lands covers 2800 acres and has miles of trails. It is possible to put together a much longer hike, including a hike to Mount Erie or Heart Lake. Be advised that many of these trails are open to mountain bikes, horses and motorcycles. The ACFL is managed by the city of Anacortes and supported by a non profit citizens organization. Consider picking up an envelope at the trailhead and making a small donation.


Anacortes Community Forest Lands - Whistle Lake

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.4631, -122.6049 Open map in new window


Puget Sound and Islands -- Whidbey Island

City of Anacortes

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Guidebooks & Maps

Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington & the Cascades

USGS 7.5x7.5 Anacortes South (includes trail numbers)

Download a map to plan your hike

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

Getting There

From I-5 in Mount Vernon, take the exit 230 for Hwy 20, signed for Burlington/Anacortes. If you are northbound, stay in the left lane, and turn left onto Hwy 20 west. In 11.4 miles, 20 splits. The left hand turn lane heads south to Whidbey Island. You will stay straight, keeping on the 20 west spur heading toward Anacortes. At the traffic circle, follow the circle around to the left and turn onto Commercial Ave. You will be going south. Follow Commercial to Fidalgo, turn right on Fidalgo. From Fidalgo, turn left onto ‘O’ street. Follow ‘O’ as it winds around through housing. Turn left onto Spradley Road (there will be a sign for Whistle Lake). Turn right onto Whistle Lake Road, then left onto Whistle Lake Terrace. Take the right at the ‘Y’ and follow the dirt road. Follow the signs to the trailhead. There is room at the trailhead for about 10 cars. There are no bathrooms, but there is a vault toilet at the trail intersection just before you reach the lake.

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Anacortes Community Forest Lands - Whistle Lake

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