Hiking Mount Constitution

So I’ve decided to post trip reports from any backpacking trips and hikes that I do from now on. I think it will be a good way to document my experiences gallivanting through the wilds of the Pacific Northwest and abroad. I’m also hoping these posts will inspire more people to get outside!


A few friends and I took the ferry from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands yesterday, where we hiked up to the top of Mount Constitution on Orcas Island. My friend Amy and I have been talking about doing the hike for a few years now, and we finally decided to do it for Memorial Day Weekend.

After a scenic drive across the island through valleys, farmlands, and charming coastal villages, we arrived at Camp Moran State Park. The park is the 4th largest in Washington State, with 5,252 acres of lush old-growth forests, sparkling lakes, cascading waterfalls, and more than 38 miles of trails. There are loads of activities to do here and we saw plenty of people camping, biking, kayaking, fishing, and more. Mount Constitution is the park’s center-piece, with a winding road making it possible for cars to drive up to the summit.

Although taking the car up the road would have been a perfectly good option, we were there to hike. We started at the trailhead near the Mountain Lake Campground and proceeded to do the 6.7-mile loop in a counter-clockwise fashion, heading north towards Twin Lakes before making the ascent to Mount Constitution’s summit, and coming down the south side. This was a great warm-up to get our winter-lazed muscles ready for the adventures to come this summer in the Cascades and Olympics.

The path along the lake is fairly flat and very easy to walk on. We admired the beguiling bluish-green hue of the crystal clear water that lies just at the edge of the trail. Although it looked very tempting to jump into, it wasn’t really warm enough for a refreshing swim.

Once leaving the lake, the trail makes a gentle ascent toward Twin Lakes. Here, the path makes its way through old-growth forest where massive douglas firs and cedar trees stand amidst moss covered rocks and lush groves of ferns.

The real work-out began shortly after reaching the lakes as the path turns westward and we hit the switchbacks that meander up the hillside toward the summit. From here, the trail climbs 1000 feet in roughly one mile.

We met up with the crowds at the top and had lunch, taking in the views. At 2,409 feet, Mount Constitution is the highest point in the San Juans. On a sunny day, visitors can soak in stunning views of both the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges.  During our visit, clouds were obscuring the mountains for the most part, but the rest of the San Juan Islands and nearby cities, such as Bellingham and Vancouver, were still visible.

After exploring the castle-like observation tower and finding the nearby geocache, we continued the loop by heading south toward Little Summit. For the most part, this side of the mountain is fairly flat, following a ridgeline with excellent views to the east. It doesn’t get steep again until reaching the junction where the trail forks towards Little Summit in one direction and Mountain Lake in the other. From here we began our descent back to the parking lot at the lake. Afterwards we drove down the road and made a quick visit to Cascade Falls before heading off to the west side of the island with a post-hike dinner at the West Sound Café. A great ending to an awesome day!


One thought on “Hiking Mount Constitution

  1. Pingback: Memorial Day Weekend « Daily Cup O' Joe

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