Hike, Bike, and Kayak the San Juan Islands, Washington

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14045A, Kayak, Bicycle


  • Kayak the Puget Sound as we watch for orcas, otters, seals, and seabirds
  • Gaze out at the mountains, islands, and sea from 2,400-foot Mt. Constitution
  • Bike through farmland and seashore on Lopez Island


  • Transportation to and from Sea-Tac airport, including ferries
  • Bike rentals and full day kayak tour
  • Campground and lodging accommodations


DatesMay 26–Jun 1, 2014
StaffMarybeth Dingledy

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Trip Overview

The Trip

The San Juan Island archipelago is one of the gems of Washington State. The islands are nestled in Puget Sound and located in the rain shadow between the mountains of Washington and British Columbia. 

The San Juans are a short ferry ride, but a world apart, from the mainland. Here, 19th-century farms dot the countryside. Fresh eggs and produce are sold alongside the road. Local arts and crafts fill the farmers markets and island galleries. Bikes and kayaks are the preferred modes of sightseeing. The islands are thronged with tourists in the summer, but the shoulder season in May is a prime time to visit the islands without the crowds. Our van-supported visit takes advantage of this quiet window as we explore the islands by bike, kayak, and foot.


Our trip begins at Sea-Tac Airport on Monday, May 26. The trip leaders will pick up participants at the airport at 2:30 p.m. and head up to Anacortes. Our first night is spent in Anacortes at a local hotel. Here, we will enjoy a "get acquainted" group dinner (not included in trip price). 

The next morning, we will take an early ferry to the San Juans and the magic begins. In the next six days, we will visit Lopez, San Juan, and Orcas islands. Our lodging will consist of a mix of camping in state and county parks, as well as staying in cabins. 

Lopez island (known locally as "Slopez") is renowned for biking. With its pastoral views, slow pace, and moderate hills, this is a fabulous place to slow down, smell the roses, and check out local sights. Lopez has a fantastic bakery as well as a winery. We plan to visit both!

San Juan Island is famed for its whale watching. The best place to see the whales is from San Juan County Park. We will spend two nights in the park, and it is here that our kayak outfitter will meet us for our full day of kayaking. While on San Juan Island, we will also visit other points of interest, including San Juan Island National Historical Park, the scene of the "pig war."

Orcas Island is the biggest of the San Juan Islands and the site of the highest point in the islands, 2,400-foot Mt. Constitution. We will hike to this high point and climb the observation tower, which was built by the CCC in 1936. From this point, we will gaze upon Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, Canada, and a number of the lesser known San Juan and Gulf islands that populate the Puget Sound. We will also visit Turtleback Mountain, a local nature preserve with more fantastic views. 

On our last day, we will rise early, have a hearty breakfast, and head back to Seattle. We plan to be back to the airport by 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 1.



Getting There

The closest major airport is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Please plan to arrive in Seattle no later than 2 p.m. on May 26 to allow for us to depart the airport at 2:30 p.m. Please do not schedule your return flights before 3 p.m. on June 1.

Accommodations and Food

Accommodations will be a mix of camping and other lodging. For the majority of the the trip, we will be camping. Please bring your own tent and camping gear for this portion of the trip.

On trip meals are provided, with the exception of our first night's dinner in Anacortes. Lodging in Anacortes is included in the trip price. Our trip meals, which we will cook together, will incorporate local produce and seafood.

Trip Difficulty

The trip is rated moderate. You must be in reasonably good physical shape for full days of kayaking, biking, and hiking. The hiking portion of our trip will include several thousand feet of elevation gain and distances over five miles.

Equipment and Clothing

A detailed equipment list will be provided. Participants must furnish their own personal camping equipment, including a small backpack, a tent (could be shared), a sleeping bag rated to at least 40 degrees, sleeping pad, reliable raingear, layers of clothing comfortable between 40-70 degrees, and medium weight, well-broken-in boots.

Bikes, helmets, kayaks, and all kayak gear will be supplied.




  • Burn, June, Living High. Great story about early days living in the San Juan Islands.
  • Glidden, Helene, Light on the Island. Book about life as a child at Patos Island lighthouse circa 1905. 


The San Juans are a beautiful ecosystem of marine life, lush vegetation, wildlife, and waterfowl. We will have the chance to play in this wonderful island world. During our visit we will discuss the importance of maintaining a good balance between recreation, development, and conservation. We will discuss the human impact on the orcas and the importance of Leave No Trace to this area. Another aspect of conservation that is highlighted in this area is the precious nature of fresh water. Our senses will be heightened to the need for water conservation and the protection of this critical resource. Coal trains are being considered for transporting this fuel to Bellingham, where the coal would be shipped elsewhere on the planet. This fuel corridor poses a risk to the San Juans by increasing the traffic, the risk of an accident, and any negative side effects of this type of cargo next to a sensitive natural area. It raises the question about how we can act locally to reduce our energy footprint and thus lessen the need for this fuel.

So, as we enjoy our beautiful playground we can also be responsible stewards for today and the generations to come. We will talk about what we are doing and want to do in the future to be the change we want to see in the world. 

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.

While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.

 Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under permits from Washington State Parks and San Juan County Parks.



Marybeth Dingledy grew up on the east coast, then migrated west to Seattle in 1995. After picking up a hiking book in a used book store, she discovered the joy of the outdoors. She has backpacked extensively throughout the western United States, climbed locally and internationally, and kayaked in Alaska and Washington. The San Juans are a sacred place for Marybeth, and she has explored them in depth over the years. Marybeth has been leading trips for the Sierra Club in Alaska, the Rocky Mountains, and the Northwest since 2008. When not on the trail, she enjoys cooking, gardening, and playing soccer.


Jane Jontz has led Sierra Club backpacking trips in Yosemite, Point Reyes National Seashore, the Trinity Alps, and Pioneer Basin. She has backpacked and hiked in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Pioneer Mountains, White Mountains, Chugach Range, and on Mount Shasta, Hood, and Kilimanjaro. Jane's kayak experience has been in Penobscot Bay, Maine, where the waves and the Atlantic's chilled water have prepared her for the waters of Puget Sound. In addition to leading Sierra Club National Outings, Jane is also a National Ski Patroller and triathlete.

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