Turtleback Mountain Preserve is one of the largest wildland parks in San Juan County. Its terrain is hilly and varies from dark forests to high rocky grass meadows. Views of the San Juan Islands and Canada are awesome in the open areas higher up. This hike covers much of Turtleback Mountain Preserve as it visits high overlooks and winds through the beautiful woods.
This hike starts from the south entrance to Turtleback Mountain Preserve. Take Deer Harbor Road to Wildrose Lane, a small side road. Turn north onto Wildrose Lane. The parking area is found almost immediately on Wildrose Lane. A large trailhead sign marks the trail start.
There are a few unnamed and unsigned trails that are not shown on the park map, and not all trail junctions are completely marked. So be alert to stay on the trail you want to hike.
(mile 0 - 1.8)
The Tour of Turtleback Mountain Preserve begins on South Trail
by entering the woods at the trailhead sign and beginning to climb gradually. Soon, at the 0.2 mile mark, is a trail junction. Go right (east) here, in the direction towards Ship Peak, to continue on South Trail
. Continuing to climb gradually through the woods, the trees begin to thin and there are glimpses of the San Juan Islands through the woods. Around the 0.5 mile mark, the woods give way to hillside rocky grass meadows dotted with trees. The hillside drops off to the right (west) showing unobstructed views extending into the far distance—the San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island of Canada.
At the 0.7 mile mark, the trail veers left and there is a trail junction with Morning Ridge Trail
. Go left here to continue on South Trail
. Continuing to climb, South Trail
reaches the West Overlook after another 0.2 miles. This is a grassy knoll with a bench. The hillside drops off to the west with awesome views of water and islands into the far distance.
Almost immediately after West Overlook is another trail junction with Morning Ridge Trail
. Go left here, following the arrow on the sign to Ship Peak. The trail then goes through a short wooded section as it climbs to the ridge top and flattens out. Ship Peak Spur
, well worth taking, is reached at the 1.4 mile mark. Continuing in thin woods after passing Ship Peak Spur
, South Trail
passes a couple of vaguely marked trail junctions with trails that are not on the park trail map. Stay to the right/straight at these trail junctions to continue on South Trail
ends at a trail junction with Lost Oak Trail
and Ridge Trail
deep in the Turtleback Mountain Preserve woods after 1.8 miles. Go right here onto a narrow path that is Ridge Trail
(mile 1.8 - 2.2)
Heading north through the woods on Ridge Trail
, another trail junction is reached after a short 0.4 miles. There is a large trail map sign here. This point is both the start and end of Center Loop Trail
. Go right at this trail junction to go counterclockwise around the northern loop of this hike, as described here.
(mile 2.2 - 5.0)
The northern loop of the Tour of Turtleback Mountain Preserve is entirely in the beautiful woods.
Starting off on Center Loop Trail
, this northern loop reaches a trail junction with Raven Ridge Trail
, at the 2.7 mile mark. Go right here onto Raven Ridge Trail
. The hike then climbs to the top of Turtleback Mountain that at 1,481 feet, is the high point of this hike. The actual summit of Turtleback Mountain is off trail, in the woods, slightly to the west, and 38ft. higher. Although this is the trail's high point, it is wooded, so there are no expansive, distant views here.
After passing the top of Turtleback Mountain, the trail descends and circles around to pass North Trail
on the right at the 3.8 mile mark. Stay to the left here to continue on Raven Ridge Trail
. Then at the 4.1 mile mark, Raven Ridge Trail
ends at Center Loop Trail
. Keep right here to complete this northern loop by returning to the major trail junction with the large trail map sign and Ridge Trail
. Turn right onto Ridge Trail
(mile 5.0 - 5.4)
Following Ridge Trail
back through the woods, one returns to the trail junction with South Trail
and Lost Oak Trail
. Go right here onto Lost Oak Trail
Lost Oak Trail and South Trail
(mile 5.4 - 6.4)
Lost Oak Trail
descends through the woods, with some short steep sections. As it descends there are some areas where the trees thin and the hillside drops away to the right, thus offering nice views of water and islands through the trees.
Lost Oak Trail
then meets South Trail
. Stay right here to return to the trailhead and parking area.
Woods - firs and deciduous trees that turn bright yellow in the fall. Higher up there are rocky grass meadows with great views.