Orcas Island Camping

This summer I was lucky enough to have a family member with a campsite reservation on Orcas Island. Orcas Island is the largest of the San Juan Islands, reachable by ferry and filled with stunning lakes and peaceful hiking trails. Being a nurse with an odd schedule, I was able to go spend a random Tuesday night camping on the island with two other nurse friends from college.

To get to Orcas, a ferry trip is necessary. During the summertime it’s imperative you make a reservation for a roundtrip ferry, as it is quite crowded and you don’t want to be stranded! The ride over is just over an hour, including a quick stop at Shaw Island. It truly is a beautiful trip over, if not a bit time-consuming.

We stayed at the Midway camp area in Moran State Park. This camp area has a bathroom with showers, potable water, and is directly across the street from Cascade Lake. There are a myriad of hiking trails nearby, along with plenty of areas to put in boats and kayaks. What is also nice about this location is that it’s just a ten minute drive from town, so if you decide you don’t want camp food it’s easy to hop into civilization.

A burn ban was in effect during our stay, so we did end up eating out quite a bit. The food on the island is a bit pricey but delicious. We had dinner at Lower Tavern, a 21+ tavern serving up a variety of burgers and PNW-based brews. Since the town is small and we were rapidly approaching off-season during our visit, many of the restaurants and cafes had limited hours. For breakfast the next morning we’d been hoping to try out the Brown Bear Bakery, but unfortunately it was closed. Instead, we grabbed coffee and breakfast sandwiches from Enzo’s Caffe. Enzo’s also serves gelato and crepes during the summer season as well. For lunch that day, we hit up Matia, an elegant restaurant serving a limited but scrumptious selection of fresh foods. We ordered fresh-made sourdough with cultured butter and summer preserves, chicken salad, and pimento cheese, all of which were delectable.

In terms of hiking and time in nature, the island offers plenty of hiking and biking trails along with tons of accessible water. We hiked the Mountain Lake Trail, a 3.9 mile loop around the clear blue waters of Mountain Lake. This trail has virtually no elevation gain and meanders alongside the lake and through the trees, allowing for an extremely peaceful and relaxing walk. We also drove to the top of Mount Constitution for a breathtaking overlook of the surrounding islands (and on a clear day, the mountains). Mount Constitution is the highest point in the San Juan Islands, so it really does give a wonderful view!

We had a great time camping out, hiking, and eating lots of yummy food. Thanks to my family member for letting us use her campsite!!

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