If you go to Turtleback Mountain
More Orcas Island lodging: www.orcas-lodging.com
More Orcas Island tourist information: www.orcasislandchamber.com
This rugged and tranquil hike, steep in places, proceeds along former gravel logging roads that lead to more rustic trails. Signs and maps are at both the south and north trailheads, and wooden markers along the way indicate trails. If you insist in going off trails, you risk getting lost. From one trailhead to the other, the distance is a minimum five miles.
Most visitors will stick to the South Trail, which offers a wide diversity of habitat as well as spectacular water and pastoral views. Allow yourself at least 90 minutes for a leisurely walk up, and maybe an hour for the walk back.
The North Trail is a more traditional Pacific Northwest forest hike, featuring old-growth and wetlands but few vistas.
The 1,519-foot summit is not reachable by either trail. There are no toilet facilities or garbage cans along the trails.
If you hike from one end of the mountain to the other, return to your originating trailhead by doing it the Orcas way: Hitchhike.
Fuel up for the hike
Pick up a ready-made sandwich, an energy bar and plenty of water from the Orcas Village Store, next to the ferry dock.
Directions and parking
Take Washington State Ferries from Anacortes to Orcas Island (multiple sailings daily). For schedule and fare information: www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries or call 511. Beware of heavy traffic volumes on summer weekends.
To south trailhead from ferry landing: Take Orcas Road toward Eastsound and turn left on Deer Harbor Road (about 2.5 miles from the ferry dock) toward West Sound. Continue another 2.5 miles to the intersection of Wild Rose Lane and turn right. Parking is on the right at the top of the field.
To north trailhead from ferry landing: Stay on Orcas Road toward Eastsound for about 3.5 miles and turn left on Nordstrom Lane. Go a half mile, turn right on Crow Valley Road and go about 1.7 miles. The entrance is an unmarked gravel road on the left, opposite a yellow house and just before the Crow Valley schoolhouse.
Parking available at both trailheads, but for only four vehicles each.
The San Juan County Land Bank, which manages the property, is in the process of determining future regulations related to public use. For now, the mountain is for day-use only. No bikes, horses or unauthorized motorized vehicles are allowed beyond the two parking lots. Dogs are allowed on leash. No fires, camping or hunting. Hikers are asked to stick to existing trails as the Land Bank has not yet determined what areas of the mountain are environmentally and archaeologically sensitive.
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