Moran State Park is the largest park in the San Juan Islands and is located on the largest island. This State Park on Orcas Island is the home to Mount Constitution, the highest point (at 2,409 feet above sea level) in the San Juan Islands. The park encompasses more than 5,200 acres and includes five freshwater lakes and more than 30 miles of hiking trails. The park is open throughout the year for both camping and day use. During the peak summer months, campsites should be reserved as far in advance as possible due to limited space. If you plan on winter camping, check ahead as some camping areas are closed.
Moran State Park Image: gesika22 (flickr)
Moran State Park hiking, both through the extensive acreage of the park and to the summit of Mount Constitution, is an extremely popular activity. There is a road to the summit if you don't want to hike it. Bicyclists and hikers should know there are not many services and no water at the summit. There is a vending machine with water and other drinks, but you should not rely on this as your only source. At the summit is a stone tower built in 1936 by Civilian Conservation Corps workers, and the 360-degree view is quite spectacular. Visible are all the San Juan Islands, the beautiful Cascade Mountains on the mainland (including Mount Rainier and Mount Baker), and the city of Victoria on nearby Vancouver Island.
Moran State Park camping is very popular with the many people who come for hiking. There are more than 150 tent spaces located in four different campgrounds. There is one campground (Northern Camp) close to the park entrance and located along the Cascade Lake swimming beach. Farther into the park is Midway Camp, also located on Cascade Lake and near the boat launch. Mountain Lake Camp is located a mile up the Mount Constitution Road on the largest lake in the park. Southend Camp is on the south side of Cascade Lake and is the most popular with visitors because it is right along the shoreline. Only a couple thousand feet away is Cascade Bay and the Rosario Resort and Spa, a full-service marina, and other hotels.
One of the joys of camping or hiking in State Park on Orcas Island is the wildlife, both the land-based and the airborne. This is one of the best places for bald eagles in the Pacific Northwest. Other birds of prey include ospreys, hawks, and owls. Water birds like herons and sea gulls abound, and the forests are full of hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and more. Look also for mink, otter, raccoons, rabbits, and squirrels.
If you are enjoying Moran State Park camping at Southend Camp, you can walk to the bay for a restaurant meal and visit one of the island's more beautiful museums. The Moran Mansion at Rosario was built between 1906 and 1909 by Robert Moran, originally a shipbuilder from Seattle. Today, this beautiful mansion is a museum open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. It has been lovingly restored, boasts many of the original furnishings and fixtures, and contains fascinating displays of the Moran Brothers Shipbuilding Company in Seattle. Moran State Park on Orcas Island was named for this prominent citizen.
Whether you come here for Moran State Park camping or just for a day's visit, you can rent boats in the park. The lakes are very popular both for boating and freshwater fishing, with rainbow, cutthroat, and kokanee trout and the prize catches. Do note that boats are not allowed to have internal combustion engines. Firewood is also available in the park. There are stores for supplies (including propane) nearby. Moran State Park is undoubtedly one of the best of the natural wonders in the San Juan Islands.
Top image: Jonathan Miske (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0