HIKE DESCRIPTION: The top of 2,409-foot Mount Constitution is the highest point in the San Juan Islands. It’s also one of the most scenic. You can get there by car, as most visitors do, but you can gain a more enriching experience by following the loop trail up and down the mountain.
Start by walking along the west side of Mountain Lake, then make the gradual climb to Twin Lakes. If you need a rest before the real work begins, this is a good place.
From Twin Lakes, the climbing starts as a series of switchbacks that take you to the summit.
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After reaching the summit parking lot, follow the path to the stone observation tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. Inside the tower, interpretive displays tell the history of the tower and Moran State Park. The view from the top of the tower includes the Salish Sea and peaks in Washington and British Columbia.
When you’re done snapping photos and enjoying the view, start your return trip by following signs to Little Peak. The descent offers a few more spots with good views. Take the 0.8-mile side trip to Little Peak and more sweeping views of the area or skip it to continue your descent to Mountain Lake. The trail will deposit you lakeside, where you can find your way back to your parking spot.
The loop can be hiked in either direction, but a counterclockwise trip seems to offer a more gradual descent, for which your knees will be thankful.
DIRECTIONS: Take the ferry from Anacortes to Orcas Island, then head north on Orcas Road for about 8 miles. Turn right on Main Street and continue to Olga Road. Turn right and Olga and continue to Moran State Park. In the park, take Mount Constitution Road on the left and follow the signs to Mountain Lake. Find parking and the trailhead at the lake.
DIFFICULTY RATING: 4 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).
MILES ROUND TRIP: 7.4.
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,700 feet.
BEST TIME OF THE YEAR: Year-round.
PASS: Washington State Discover Pass.
ALSO: Moran State Park is named for former Seattle mayor Robert Moran, who donated more than half of the land for the park. The park opened in 1921 and includes five lakes and multiple options for hiking. The park has 30 miles of trails, according to its website. Bikes are permitted Sept. 15-May15. Reservations for the ferry ride from Anacortes to Orcas Island can be made at wsdot.wa.gov/ferries. Pets must be on leashes and cleaned up after. There are several geocaches hidden in the area. For more information, visit geocaching.com.
Visit thenewstribune.com/outdoors for video from several trails.