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Orcas Island is a beautiful patchwork of lush farmland, rolling hills and gorgeous coastline–a whole lot like its sister islands in the San Juan archipelago. One thing that undeniably sets it apart from the others, though, is Moran State Park–5,200 acres in size and home to the island’s highest point, the 2,400-foot Mount Constitution.
Why camp here: It’s the cheapest sleep on Orcas Island. Plus, you can hike from your campsite to the top of a small mountain and enjoy the best view of the Northwest Straits there is.
Park info: Moran State Park website or 360-902-8844
Great for: swimming, hiking, families
Best season: year-round, busiest in July and August
Getting there: The distance is 110 miles from Seattle, including a ferry crossing (map + directions, ferry info). Ferry lines can be a bear in summertime, but you can walk on with your camping gear and pay just $12 round-trip to take the Orcas Island Shuttle to the park. For those who arrive by bicycle or on foot, a bonus 15 primitive walk-in campsites are located along the road to Mount Constitution.
About the campground: All of Moran State Park’s 151 camp sites are tent sites, split among five different areas of the park. There are no electrical hookups for RVs, though some of the sites can accommodate RVs under 45 feet. Pick a freshwater lake to camp on – there are two, Cascade Lake and Mountain Lake. (Although visitors might expect a huge state park in the San Juan Islands to have saltwater shoreline, this park has very little.) Our favorite area to camp at the park is at Mountain Lake, where you’ll get a bit more privacy and the trail around the lake makes for an easy, relaxing morning stroll. Campers at Cascade Lake can bring a pole and fish for kokanee, cutthroat and rainbow trout.
Camping reservations: online or 1-888-226-7688
Where to hike: Moran State Park has a whopping 30 miles of hiking trails, plus there are other places to hike on Orcas Island as well (check out nearby Turtleback Mountain and Obstruction Pass). The big attraction is Mt. Constitution, and you can hike, bike or even drive to the top. Check out the stunning views in every direction from the CCC-era observation tower. It can be very windy up here, so I’d bring along a windbreaker jacket. For an easy, peaceful hike, take the trail that loops around Mountain Lake. Take these and more hikes with you in your backpack with Day Hiking the San Juans and Gulf Islands, written by Craig Romano and published by The Mountaineers Books.
Note: You do not need to purchase a Washington State Parks Discover Pass ($30) for your park visit if you are also paying for a campsite. To visit the park when you aren’t camping, however, you have to. A one-day Discover Pass is $10 and can be purchased at the Park.