If you want something a little bit different to do this summer, then head to the San Juan Islands. This archipelago has recently become more and more popular among backcountry enthusiasts and travelers alike, so you should definitely get out here before it gets too crowded. These islands may be small compared to other hiking destinations in the U.S., but don’t underestimate their ability to offer you endless opportunities for exploration. In case you need more convincing, here’s why you should visit the San Juan Islands before the summer is up.
1. You’ll Never Get Bored
The San Juan Islands consist of hundreds of little islands, but the biggest ones are Orcas Island, Lopez Island, Shaw Island, and of course, San Juan Island. With easy access to each of these four islands, you’ll never run out of things to do. Whether you prefer hiking up in the beautiful mountains or camping by the beaches, each and every spot is surrounded by incredible scenery.
2. It’s Stuck Between Two Ultimate Backcountry Destinations
Located between British Columbia and Washington state in the U.S., the San Juan Islands are an amazing base to stay at during the summertime. If you get sick of the island life (though, we don’t think you will), then you can head either west or east to add an extension onto your hiking plans. You literally get the best of both worlds here.
3. The Climate is Perfect This Time of Year
Summer is not always an ideal time to hike, as the stifling weather in parts of the U.S. can really be hard to deal with. Luckily, the San Juan Islands stay at about 70 degrees over the summer. It really can’t get better than that. Also, for those who are familiar with the rain in Seattle, you’ll be glad to know that it doesn’t rain quite as much over here.
4. The Hikes are Awesome
If you’re looking to get in some awesome hikes in (duh, that’s why you’re reading this), then you’ve come to the right place. The hikes here on the San Juan Islands are really special. The trails are spread throughout all the islands, and accommodate the interests and levels of those who visit. A few must-do hikes include the South Beach Trail and Mount Finlayson at San Juan Island National Park, Iceberg Point on Lopez Island, and the Turtleback Mountain Preserve and the view from Mt. Constitution, both located on Orcas Island.
5. Bald Eagles are Everywhere!
Did you know that the San Juan Islands are home to the highest concentration of bald eagles in the United States? That’s pretty cool, considering it’s not usually easy to spot these guys. In addition to bald eagles, there are other cool birds to see here, so keep your eye out while you’re hiking.
6. You Can Go Kayaking with Orcas
If you love wildlife, then you’ll be happy to know that the San Juan Islands are also home to much more than eagles. In addition to seals, otters, bats, deer, and reptiles, this area is also known for its orcas. Though it might be easier to see them during the springtime, there’s no reason you can’t try to meet them during the summer. One of the best ways to spend some time with the orcas is by kayaking with them; an activity that quite a few adventure groups offer.
7. It’s a Paradise for History Buffs
The San Juan Islands, like many places, has a unique history. Those who really love learning about the places they visit will really enjoy coming here. Because of its strategic location along exploration routes, there have been many groups that settled on this island. Learn about the different inhabitants, the infamous “Pig War,” check out the Moran Mansion, or explore the vast farms which once played a major role in the islands’ past, all which can be done on a day hike.
8. It’s Great for All Ages
If you’re looking for a family-friendly adventure, a romantic getaway or some time with yourself, then the San Juan Islands are where you want to go. Your group, couple, or solo adventure here is certainly what you make of it, and can really be a great time for anyone. The best part is, you can choose to get as rugged or relaxed as you want. Bring along your tents and hammocks, or opt for one of the beach-side cabins. (But, we know what you’ll really go for).
Note: In case your child or children happen to have fur, there are plenty of pet-friendly places on the islands.
9. The Best Sunsets Ever
There’s no question that the scenery here in the San Juan Islands is unbeatable. Though you can probably catch a good view of the sun going down anywhere on the island, there are a few spots that are ideal for this natural event. Try Lime Kiln Point State Park, the Westside Scenic Preserve, or on your way up or down from Mt. Constitution. We can guarantee it’ll be rewarding after a long hike.
10. You Won’t Worry About Where to Sleep
The San Juan Islands have many campgrounds to choose from, whether you prefer a tent, an RV, a fancy ‘glamping’ experience, or a sleeping bag under the stars. Rest your head for a night or build your campsite for a weekend getaway. For those who need a little more time to ease into the backcountry life, there are plenty of other accommodation options that you can feel more comfortable in.
What are you doing this summer? Head to the San Juan Islands for one incredible backcountry experience.