We often get asked if there are any nice hikes on San Juan Island. The answer is a resounding “yes”, we have lots of really nice hikes, some short, some long, some easy, some hard! So I figured I would start a short series and talk about some of my favorites. Let’s start with Mount Finlayson/Jakle’s Lagoon and Cattle Point Lighthouse.
If I want a bit of a longer hike I usually go to Mount Finlayson. If you go down Cattle Point Road there will be a short dirt road to your left right after Pickett Lane/South Beach, it will say Jakle’s Lagoon on the sign. You can park your car right there. You can go two ways. You can start going into the woods down to Jakle’s Lagoon and then take the trail through the forest up to Mount Finlayson and back to the parking lot on top of the ridge, or you can start by going up the ridge first and then drop into the cool shady forest after a nice long hike along the ridge. While Mount Finlayson is merely a hill by all means, the trail going from Jakle’s Lagoon up to the summit is quite steep at some points. Going down from the top of the summit to Jakle’s is easier, as the ascend going along the ridge is more subtle.
The views hiking along the ridge are absolutely jaw dropping! You overlook Haro Strait, parts of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Olympic Peninsula and the southern tip of Vancouver Island with Victoria. Once you get to the summit, you look down to Cattle Point lighthouse, Lopez and Whidbey Islands. The experience is not only visual, but auditory as well. There are lots of eagles at the south end of the island, and they like to chatter quite a bit. If you are lucky the breeze will blow just right and you can hear the California and Stellar sea lions roar, they like to haul out on two low rocky islands right of Cattle Point.
But it doesn’t end there, once you dip down into the forest from the top of Mount Finlayson, a whole other world awaits. The forest on the east side of Finlayson is lush, magical and abundant, one of the reasons it has been nicknamed the Harry Potter Forest by some locals! The songbirds like to sing their hearts out, especially in spring and there are a couple of ponds around Third Lagoon that have frogs croak happily in their wet environment. It is often a bit breezy on the south end and the wind swooshes through the trees. Other than Mother Nature’s lovely sounds, you will be enveloped by a serene quiet that will make you want to come back for more.
There are actually two lagoons, Jakle’s Lagoon and Third Lagoon. When you come down the trail from the top go right first when you get down to the cross trail. It will take you over to Third Lagoon. Third Lagoon is very accessible and great for bird watching, as the lagoon hosts eagles, gulls and egrets. Often you can spot seals, porpoises and river otters as they are frolicking around in Griffin Bay. Sit down on a log and rest for a while, breathe in the fresh salty air and enjoy the quiet before making your way over to Jakle’s Lagoon and back to the parking lot.
For a short refreshing walk with breathtaking views you may want to consider going to the tiny Cattle Point Lighthouse. If you drive all the way down Cattle Point Road, you will come down the hill and see the lighthouse and to your right a quiet big turn-out with a bench and an informative sign. Park your car there and take the small trail that starts between the bench and the sign. It will take you along the edge of the cliff down to the lighthouse. A word of advice, if you are afraid of heights you may want to skip this one, there is another trail further down going straight to the lighthouse without any of the high cliffs.
You get a sort of birds eye view to the beach below. The water has several shades of green and blue viewed from above and you can observe a variety of seabirds, as well as seals and sealions frolick around below. If you are really lucky you might even see killer whales, Minke whales or humpback whales from the cliffs. The lighthouse has its own charm and most of the time a bald eagle will sit atop observing the world around. There is a steep trail leading down to the rocks and beach below the lighthouse, a great place to explore during low tide for all the little tide pools forming.
All photos taken by Carmen Wolflisberg, from top: curious deer on Mount Finlayson; hiking the Mount Finlayson ridge looking South; hiking the ridge looking North; quiet forest trail between Third Lagoon & Jakle’s Lagoon; Cattle Point Lighthouse from the turnout; the grassy trail to the lighthouse along the cliff