Many a person visits English Camp and wanders down to the Parade Grounds. Some will walk the Bell Point Loop or hike up Mount Young to take in the views. But do you know that there are over 23 interconnected miles of hiking trails on the Northwest end of the island? English Camp and adjacent Mitchell Hill, which is now part of the National Park, make out just shy of 7 miles of it all. The rest of the hiking and walking trails are in the Roche Harbor Highlands and Roche Harbor. You can hike from Roche Harbor Resort all the way to English Camp and vice versa if you so please!
Let’s start with English Camp, as it is the most straight-forward. If you are in the mood for a non-strenuous hike, we can highly recommend the Bell Point Loop. It starts at the English Camp parking lot. The trail will take you past the old Crook residence, lush forest and along parts of Mitchell Bay and Garrison Bay to the Parade Grounds. It is the perfect hike to wind down and take in the serene scenery, sounds and scents of the two shallow bays. Keep your eyes peeled for eagles, herons, seals, otters, and raccoons and other local wildlife.
If you feel up for a bit more strenuous but rewarding hike, take the trail head at the upper end of the parking lot and make your way up Mount Young. The views from atop are timeless and make the sometimes quite steep trek up the hill well worth the effort! Take a little detour on the way down and visit the old English Camp cemetery.
Mitchell Hill is now part of the National Park System, formerly managed by the Department of Natural Resources. It is accessed from a side trail on the way up Mount Young, from the Roche Harbor Highlands, or from a small parking lot on Horse Trail Road, off West Valley Road. The National Park recently put up signage all over the trails at Mitchell Hill. However, the trails often flow seamlessly into trails from the adjacent Roche Harbor Highlands. That is where things can become quite confusing. We highly recommend grabbing a map at the parking lot or downloading it onto your phone from the San Juan Island Trails website.
Roche Harbor Highlands
The Roche Harbor Highlands are directly adjacent to English Camp and Mitchell Hill. They are accessible from either of these two or from the parking lot at the corner of West Valley Road and Roche Harbor Road. The lot is big enough to accommodate horse trailers! The Roche Harbor Highlands trails have only very few signs and having a trails map with you is a plus! There is a nice meandering trail that goes around the Roche Harbor Reservoir, also known as Briggs Lake. The lake and it’s surrounding trees are a favorite hangout for a significant number of eagles! If you have come to see eagles, Briggs Lake is a good place to go! Please note that the Roche Harbor Highlands are private property and allow hiking only on roads and trails. Dogs need to be on leash!
Roche Harbor Trails
Last but not least are the Roche Harbor Trails, which connect the Highlands and American Camp with Roche Harbor Village. The Roche Harbor Trails are a serious of easy loops, with one trail going along Roche Harbor Road as well. Despite having signage, the trails can sometimes get a bit confusing, and you may find yourself go in a circle. Fear not, you won’t be lost for long and you will eventually find your way out of the maze. Just call it having a bit of an adventure. The Roche Harbor Trails are accessible from several different parking areas. From the OPALCO Substation and the lot across the street on the intersection of Roche Harbor Road and West Valley Road. From the Disc Golf Course off Rouleau Road, the water treatment plant off of Roche Harbor Road. And lastly from the Sculpture Park and Roche Harbor Resort.
You can hike for hours on the northwest side of San Juan Island and enjoy wonderful scenery along the way! There are options for people that would simply take a nice stroll to more challenging options for the serious hiker. The Mitchell Hill trails are also a favorite among the local mountain bike enthusiasts! Please be advised that bikes and horses are NOT allowed on the English Camp trails. Furthermore motorized vehicles are prohibited on all of the trails! Now go out, go explore and have fun!
Maps are courtesy of the San Juan Island Trails Committee and Roche Harbor Resort.