Turtleback Mountain Preserve + Ship Peak on Orcas Island / 龜背山

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Turtleback Mountain rises high above West Sound on Orcas Island. It’s also the sixth tallest summit on the vast San Juan archipelago. Together with Ship Peak, they make up the idyllic Turtleback Mountain Preserve.

Sunny morning on Turtleback Mountain
Sunny morning on Turtleback Mountain

See more trip photos here.

Turtleback Mountain and Ship Peak at a Glance

Access: South Trailhead
Round Trip: 7 miles
Elevation Range: 200′-1520′
Gear: none
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: yes

Orcas Island

We made another effort to dodge the rain this weekend by visiting Orcas Island. I last set foot on the island eight years ago, visiting Mount Constitution. I had boarded the months-old yellow pup back then.

The dog and I caught the late morning ferry from Anacortes. It took a little over an hour to reach the island after making a few stops. Then it was only a 10-minute drive to South Trailhead from the dock.

South Trail
South Trail

See more trip photos here.

South Trail

South Trailhead had only a handful of cars. I studied the maps a bit, and then we started going north on Lost Oak Trail. Along the way, we went through the lush forest over mild terrain.

Halfway up the path was a viewpoint that gave a glimpse of the Sound. But I needed to stand on my toes to take a decent photo. It turned out to be our only opportunity at any views on this side of the mountain.

Limited view
Limited view

See more trip photos here.

Turtleback Mountain Summit

We soon continued and later went onto the Ridge Trail. Shortly, we joined the Center Loop Trail out by a large clearing. Then in one mile, we went onto Raven Ridge Trail by taking the west route.

From there, we hiked clockwise to Turtleback Mountain’s high point. The path bypassed the summit, so we scrambled a short way to the top. There were no views on this woodsy summit.

Leaving Turtleback Mountain
Leaving Turtleback Mountain

See more trip photos here.

En Route to Ship Peak

After a short and uneventful visit, we went down to the trail. Then we continued south and crossed Center Loop Trail and Ridge Trail. Shortly, we were at the top of Ship Peak.

This tiny bump on Turtleback Mountain’s south ridge offered incredible scenery in all directions. But views to the north were spotty. I thought the gridded flat land was the best part.

South view
South view

See more trip photos here.

Outro

The afternoon sunshine didn’t last long before the drizzles came. Earlier, I saw the massive dark clouds obscuring Mount Constitution. We soon left the top in fear of it turning to rain.

We went back on the Ridge Trail after taking a few photos. The path angled north for a bit at Morning Ridge Trail before we joined South Ridge Trail. Then it was under half a mile back to the car.

Glad to have caught the afternoon ferry at the last minute. Otherwise, we would’ve had to wait three more hours for the next one.

Outro
Finding our way home

See more trip photos here.

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