Mount Constitution Orcas Island

Mount Constitution Orcas Island is located within the 5,200 acres of Moran State Park. The peak is more than 2,400 feet high and is the highest point in the San Juan Islands. The summit provides magnificent 360-degree views of all the surrounding San Juan Islands, the Cascade Mountains (with Mount Rainier and Mount Baker), and even the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia is visible. A Mount Constitution hike is possible even for those who are not in condition for the more strenuous trek to the summit.

Mount Constitution Orcas Island
Mount Constitution Orcas Island  Image: Michael Klaas (flickr)

There are more than 30 miles of Mount Constitution Orcas Island hiking trails, and many of these are little more than strolls through beautiful scenery with old growth forest, mountain meadows, and sparkling waterfalls. There are two large lakes, Mountain Lake and Cascade Lake, within Moran State Park. The latter has an excellent three-mile walk on flat terrain for a day excursion, and there are beautiful picnic spots along the way. There are trails suitable for horseback and bicycles. Alternatively there is great boating in the lakes, which also provides excellent freshwater fishing, with rainbow, cutthroat, and kokanee trout. Be aware that boats with internal combustion engines are not allowed on the lake.

The Mount Constitution hike to the summit is about four miles. You do not need to be an athlete to make the summit, but you should be in good physical condition. To avoid the round-trip hike, you can have someone drive you to the summit, and then you can hike down; be aware the road is closed in the evenings. There are no services or stores on the summit. Although there is a vending machine with drinks, you should not rely on this as your only source of lquid and need to bring the food and water you need with you. At the summit is a stone tower built by Civilian Conservation Corps workers in 1936. It is a replica of a Caucasus military fortification from the twelfth century. If you want to see the summit, but don't want to hike, many scenic flights provide a flyover during their tours.

Many who enjoy a Mount Constitution hike will also take advantage of the camping available in the park. There are more than 150 tent sites, as well as hot showers and a dump station. Some sites are suitable for recreational vehicles. There is also a swimming beach on the lake.

Before being named Orcas Island, the island was called Hull Island in honor of the commander of the USS Constitution. Mount Constitution Orcas Island was presumably named for the 44-gun US Navy frigate called "Old Ironsides" and docked as a floating museum in Boston Harbor. The park and mountain are located about five miles to the southeast of the Orcas Island airport. The port where ferries dock is about twelve miles to the southwest. If you want nearby lodging a bit more comfortable than camping, you might choose the Rosario Resort and Spa, which is located in Cascade Bay just a couple miles away. There are also bed and breakfasts nearby as well as a number of vacation rentals.

Image: gemteck1 (flickr)

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