San Juan Islands

By Brooke Marshall

The San Juan Islands are an archipelago of around 400 islands and rocks, 128 of which are named, and all of which are the ancestral lands and waters of the Coast Salish people. Four of these islands – Shaw, Lopez, San Juan and Orcas – are accessible by ferry from the port town of Anacortes.

Each island has its own unique charm. Shaw is for those who truly want to get away from it all. The 7.7-square-mile island has 165 people and zero commercial amenities. Lopez is a delight for cyclists of all abilities, offering stunning views of Mount Baker from (mostly) flat pastoral terrain dotted with grazing sheep and llamas.

Photo by Jeff Clark/BLM (

Those seeking more of a challenge may find it at Orcas. Moran State Park has 5,252 acres to explore, including 38 miles of hiking trails through majestic old-growth forest, and the highest point in the archipelago, Mount Constitution. The 2,410-foot peak is capped with a stone tower designed in the style of a 12th century Russian watchtower and affords a 360-degree view of the San Juan Islands and the Cascade mountain range.

San Juan, the most populous island, contains multitudes – bustling towns and peaceful hiking trails, alpaca farms and fields of lavender, orca-spotting at Lime Kiln Point State Park and art-spotting at San Juan Islands Sculpture Park. There’re also historic American and British military camps. If hills don’t scare you, biking the Scenic Byway is a treat. See if you can spot the fairy houses hidden among the trees, or the replica of SpongeBob SquarePants’ pineapple house.