Orcas Island is the largest island of the San Juan islands group of the Pacific Northwest, and is located in the northwestern corner of San Juan County, Washington state. Orcas island camping is a spectacular experience.
Why should you visit Orcas Island and San Juan islands?
The best hiking trails Orcas island:
One of the easiest and most enjoyable hikes on Orcas Island is the 2.9-mile loop around Cascade Lake. If you walk clockwise, you will cross an area where Kokanee salmon, which live on the mainland, migrate across the creek to Cascade Lake to the Moran Creek Hatchery to spawn in the fall.
As you hike through the lake, be sure to stop at the upper end of the lake. There, a twisted but majestic fir tree towers over the water. About halfway across, you’ll cross a wooden bridge that offers a magnificent view of the lake, where locals take a dip and then picnic on their rowboats.
The road to Mount Constitution is well paved. Halfway there, you can take a peaceful and scenic walk around Mountain Lake, which is four miles long. You can also take a refreshing dip. Near Mountain Lake, hiking trails lead to Cascade Falls and Twin Lakes. With more than 38 miles of trails and 5,200 acres, Moran State Park offers something for every fitness level.
The trail around the lake begins at the Mountain Lake parking lot halfway up Mt. Constitution, at about 900 feet elevation. Overlooking the lake, you can walk in either direction, but I prefer the clockwise path. The trail starts out but remains wide and soft, cushioned with duff. Most of the hike is gently uphill, but there are some interesting spots along the way.
The trail passes through a forest full of Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, Salal and Salmonberry as well as ferns and an assortment of mosses and other plants to capture and learn about. There is a weir or concrete waterfall to cross and some fallen trees to walk on or under.
If you want to experience the challenges of a long climb and breathtaking views, you have to climb Mount Constitution in Moran State Park, which at 2,409 feet is the highest point in the San Juan Islands. This hike should not be undertaken in a hurry, as there is much to see on the way up. You can hike through the shade and coolness of the old growth forests to the sun and wildflowers of the alpine meadows.
From the top, you’ll have a fantastic view of the San Juan Islands, Vancouver and the mainland, snow-capped Mount Baker and Mount Rainier. The watchtower, made of hewn stones hand-hewn by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936, is also of historical interest.
Obstruction Pass State Park
Obstruction Pass is a small, hidden gem for those who want to experience the serenity of a wild getaway. Obstruction Pass is located in the southeastern portion of Orcas and offers visitors 80 acres of parkland and 10 campsites to explore. The main trails are less than a mile long and pass through lush forest and vegetation.
The trail to the east is a short walk to a beach unique to the islands. It is surrounded by intriguingly shaped rocks, some of which are triangular, and offers views of Lopez Island, Blakely Island and Obstruction Island. The western path ends with a magnificent view of the ocean and is a wonderful picnic spot.
Turtleback Mountain Preserve – Ship Peak Trail
Ship Peak Trail is a popular local loop trail with breathtaking views of snow-capped mountain ranges and scattered islands. Vast grassy slopes, as well as Garry oaks, extend along the 2.9-meter trail, which climbs 860 meters. The South Trail crosses a creek and then climbs up slopes covered with wildflowers in the spring.
You can hike for hours on the 1,718-acre Landbank Nature Preserve. The Ship Peak Trail connects with the other trails in the preserve, but it’s the step for step the only trail with breathtaking views and varied terrain.
Rent a bike on the island f.e. at Wild Life Cycles and enjoy. If you are not too sporty, but still want to enjoy nature and fresh air not by car, go for an e-bike. There are many possible bike Tours, especially in the Moran State Park or Deep Harbor. Read here the Article about the best routes.
Explore the island by car
Why not explore the island by car, make your own stops for food breaks, and visit different Art, History and Relaxing spots like:
- Orcas Island Artworks Gallery
- Doe Bay Wine Company
- Orcas Island Historical Museums
- Orcas Island Winery
- Orcas Island Pottery
- Rosario Resort & Spa – The Spa
Whale Watching & Wildlife Tours
There are several providers offering Whale Wathcnig tours. We have created the list where you can find your optimal tour:
- Orcas Island Eclipse Charters
- Deer Harbor Charters
- Orcas Island Historic Yacht Tours- Whale and Wildlife Tours
- Outer Island Excursions Whale Watching
Camping at Orcas Islands is a wonderful opportunity to kayak or canoe. If you don’t have a canoe or kayak, there are many places where you can rent them. Rentals are available at Cascade Lake, Deer Harbor, the ferry terminal area, Eastsound and Olga. Lately, stand-up paddleboard rentals have also become famous.
How do you get to Orcas Island?
There are two ways to get to the island.
There is a small Airport on the island, so you can fly direct to Orcas. There are the following connections to Friday Harbor Airport (FRD) on Orcas Island: Seattle (BFI) and Eastwood (ESD).
Ferry to the island
Drive to Anacortes and then take the ferry: A ferry ride to Friday Harbor lasts a little longer than an hour.
The San Juan Ferry Terminal is situated in the charming town of Anacortes. When you drive through the tiny town, you will see signs that direct you through the city center and out of the town towards the landing of the ferry (about 15 minutes away from Anacortes until the terminal for ferry).
It can take anywhere from one hour to an hour and a quarter for the majority of ferry rides, depending on the number of stops the ferry has to make. But you’ll need to arrive an hour earlier when you’ve booked a ticket to take the ferry. You can also arrive as much as two hours earlier if you don’t have reservations.
When should I go to Orcas Island?
The area is perfect for 3 season camping. The best time for camping on the San Juan Islands is between April and October.
If you are not a fan of all too hot temperatures and still want to camp close to the water, you should try camping on San Juan Islands in Summer. The summertime camping experience is not to miss in Orcas Island, it’s the warmest time, but also the busiest.
Washington State parks and several local resorts provide campsites for RVs and tents and tent cabins.
Camping Sites at Washington State parks on Orcas island
We advise You have to reserve during summer at any of the San Juan County Parks or Fairgrounds RV sites. There are no San Juan County campgrounds on Orcas Island. The only public Campgrounds are Moran State Park and Obstruction Pass. You can find the Information about the Washington state park Camping fees here.
Moran State Park
Moran Place Park is the Place to be on the San Juan Islands when you speak about Orcas Island Camping.
Moran State Park is 5,424-acres big and has 151 campin sites, five freshwater lakes to swim in, boating without motors and over 30 miles of trails for bicycling, hiking mountain biking, and horse and hiking trails.
There are dozens of campsites across Moran State Park that await your arrival on Orcas Island and there is no better spot to camp within Orcas Island than the San Juan Islands. Three campsites separate from three different locations along the north, middle south and central shores of Cascade Lake can accommodate visiting parties of various sizes and shapes.
They also have campsites that are suitable for primitive camping or RV parking as well in the recently constructed “glamping” sites. A dump station is situated close to the western end at Moran State Park across from the camp registration Booth.
The campsites are near restrooms and showers.
Try to contact the Moran State Park Office to find out which campsites can accommodate motor homes and RVs. Midway Campground is also right close to Cascade Lake Boat Launch.
- Fishing (Freshwater)
- Fire circle
- Bird Watching
- Mountain biking
Obstruction Pass State Park
Obstruction Pass State Park provides an exceptional Orcas Island camping experience on the east end of the island, a few miles to the south from Moran State Park. People who want to stay the night here have to hike their camping gear about half a mile along the shoreline until they find a place.
The campsites are just a stone’s throw from the saltwater shoreline, which is one of the largest expanses of gravel found on Orcas Island. At sunset, campers have access to a breathtaking view.
- First-come, first-served basis
- Overnight Fee
- Four compostable toilets are located near the campground
- campers must bring their own drinking water.
- One site is accessible to paddlers along the Cascadia Marine Trail
- Fishing (Saltwater)
- Bird Watching
Private Camping Sites on the Orcas island
Doe Bay Resort
Drive up and explore campsites, cabins, yurts and Domes along the eastern side of Orcas Island, about 40 minutes from the ferry.
- Delicious food at Doe Bay Cafe
- Private outdoor soaking tubs
- Gifts store
More Information here
Mount Baker Farm & Campground
This is a relaxing and farm-oriented experience, within walking distance of Eastsound’s town. Eastsound is 20 minutes away from ferry. They provide campsites as in other cabins. Nightly rates starting are at $35 for the meadows area, $50 for a wooded site and $90 for a group site.
- Tent Camping
More information here
West Beach Resort
Campsites, tent cabins and RV Places are available on the northwest side of the island. It is about 20 minutes away from the ferry.
- fishing pier, a fish clean-up station
- Kayaks, Canoes, SUPs
- Hot Tub
- retail store
- bar on the beach with Ice cream. West Beach can also organize various excursions for guests.
More Information here
We hope You could find some inspiration for visiting San Juan island, especially Orcas island. camping.
We hope that everything goes well with your trip. However, if the zipper on the tent breaks, you can read here how to fix it.
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