Location: San Juan Island
Land Agency: National Park Service
Roundtrip: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 290 feet
Notes: Dogs must be leashed.
Access: Take Washington State Ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Follow Spring Street for .5 mile through town turning left onto Mullis Road which becomes Cattle Point Road. Follow for 6.7 miles to trailhead (signed “Jakle’s Lagoon”) located in American Camp in San Juan National Historic Park.
Good to know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, historic, beach walking, exceptional wildflowers
Who says “War is hell?” If the Pig War between the US and Britain hadn’t broken out, you wouldn’t be able to hike this amazing trail located along the longest stretch of public beach in the San Juan Islands. Mount Finlayson and the adjacent beaches and bluffs are part of the San Juan National Historic Park. Established to commemorate the “Pig War,” a confrontation between America and Britain over possession of the Oregon Country in which the only casualty was a Hudson’s Bay Company hog; this 1,750-acre park is divided into two sections, American and English Camp. Along with its historic importance, the park protects some important habitat, including at Mount Finlayson, one of the few native grasslands remaining along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Okay, time to hike! Paralleling Cattle Point Road, head east onto the wide Mount Finlayson Trail. The trail gradually climbs, cutting a swath across golden grasslands lined with wind-blasted contorted firs. Maritime views grow with each step up the long ridge of Mount Finlayson. Named for one of the founders of Victoria, British Columbia; the provincial capital can easily be seen from the trail.
At 1.3 miles, a trail leads left by a group of large firs; your return route. But first continue straight for another .1 mile cresting Finlayson’s 290-foot summit. Not much of a mountain—but the views! They’re spectacular out to Cattle Point and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to a backdrop of snowy Olympic Mountain summits. Look too for eagles, plovers, sandpipers, and hawks and scan the choppy waters for whales.
Now head down the side trail dropping steeply into a cool ravine shaded by big firs and cedars. After a quarter-mile reach a trail junction at Third Lagoon. Turn left and follow this trail, an old woods road 1.75 miles back to the trailhead. Don’t pass up however the side trail leading to Jakle’s Lagoon for a nice view of Mount Constitution and Turtleback Mountain across Griffin Bay.
Mount Finlayson is one of 136 hikes in my Day Hiking The San Juans and Gulf Islands, the most comprehensive guide to hiking the Salish Sea! Pick up your copy today!
Looking for others things to do and for places to stay on the San Juan Islands?
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