Updated July 2020
San Juan Island offers stunning hikes, featuring every terrain and vista imaginable. To help you decide where to go, we put together our 5 favorite hikes. All hikes are of intermediate difficulty, and between 1.5 and 3 miles long. Wear good sneakers or hiking boots, bring water and a picnic and go explore. Enjoy!
1. History on the prairie by the sea - American Camp
Park at the American Camp Interpretive Center and follow the signs to the old parade ground. Walk through rolling hills of prairie grass, with the sea shining in the distance and the foxes & bunnies watching. Explore historic buildings, like the laundress & officer’s quarters. Learn about the rich island history, the 1859 pig war and the 12 years of occupation to follow. Go down the steep trail to cute Grandma’s Cove for a beach picnic and bird watching. Good signage will get you back to the car.
2. Ruins on stunning cliffs - Lime Kiln State Park
Park at Lime Kiln State Park (Discovery Pass required), and follow the trail to the 1919 lighthouse. Take some time to watch for whales. Then go north and climb down the steep steps to a rebuilt limekiln. Making lime was the major industry on San Juan Island in the late 19th and early 20est century. Limestone was heated to 2000 degrees in these kilns by burning several cords of wood per day. Check out the dramatic environmental impact all that logging and mining had on the surrounding cliffs. Leave the park through a simple gate and follow a DNR trail further into the woods. You’ll find impressive, caved in limekiln ruins, vertical cliffs, stunning views and majestic forest. The trail forks, take the right one and follow it all the way to Deadman Bay, a lovely cove for beach combing and a picnic. Get back to Lime Kiln State Park via a short walk on a beautiful trail along the cliffs.
3. Panoramic Views from the mountaintop – Mt. Young
Park at English Camp, and follow the signs to Mt Young. Be prepared for a rather steep hike to gain 650 feet in elevation. You’ll be rewarded by breathtaking views of the Olympic Peninsula, the Canadian Gulf Islands, Henry Island, Pearl Island, Spieden Island and Garrison Bay. Watch for eagles and other wildlife and have a picnic on top of the world. Catch the English Camp Cemetery on a spur trail down the mountain.
4. Wild rugged Beach – South Beach
Park at South Beach in American Camp and go south along San Juan Island’s longest pebble beach. No matter what time of the year, you will find yourself alone in a few hundred yards. Look for whales, otters, seals, and waterfowl. Admire drift wood sculptures and sweeping views of the Olympics. Turn around whenever you like and return to the South Beach parking lot for a barbeque and a bonfire in the designated spots.
5. Weird history deep in the woods - Roche Harbor Mausoleum
Park by the Roche Harbor airport and follow signs to the Mausoleum. Pass some very old graves of Japanese slaves and keep following the trail through overgrown woods. Suddenly you’ll find yourself entering the McMillen’s impressive Freemason Mausoleum through an arch reading “Afterglow Vista”. The McMillens operated limekilns on San Juan Island and believed their riches to be rewards for their religious, personal and family conduct. The mausoleum, surrounded by gigantic Greek pillars, is laden with freemason symbolism. Its coolest feature is the limestone table with a seat for each dead family member in the middle. Get out of there before it gets dark.