Rising dramatically from the west side of Orcas Island and visible throughout the archipelago and beyond, Turtleback Mountain offers visitors some of the most spectacular natural landscapes and scenic vistas in the San Juan Islands. An 8-mile trail network spans the turtle’s “back,” connecting the preserve’s north and south trailheads. This network also connects with an additional 1-mile trail that leads to jaw-dropping views from atop the turtle’s “head.” (See Turtlehead Preserve.)
Turtleback’s trails range from broad, gently sloping logging roads (now abandoned) to narrow paths that meander, sometimes steeply, through mixed forest and open meadows. Whether you’re up for a short dash to the North Valley Overlook (a 15-minute, moderately steep stroll from the north trailhead), a 3-mile round-trip climb to Ship Peak from the south trailhead, or an all-day exploration of the mountain’s many loops, ridges, and overlooks, Turtleback Mountain offers something to suit nearly all adventure-seekers, including kids.
“Turtleback Mount Preserve is one of the largest conservation success stories in the San Juans.” – Craig Romano, author of Day Hiking The San Juans and Gulf Islands
Access limitations: Dawn to dusk hours only; no overnight parking or camping. See trail map and preserve signage for additional restrictions.
if i lived on orcas i think i’d hike here almost every day, or every other day, when trails are walking only and let the cyclers have it on odd days, so pretty!
Another fabulous hike at South Turtleback!
Posted by Sybrina
South Turtleback is one of my favorite hikes! Bring a sandwich from Rose’s to go with the amazing view and it’s the perfect lunch spot. I’m so thankful this land is protected and happily donated to the Trust to help keep it maintained. Thank you!!
Great trails and another fantastic vista
Posted by San Juan Hiker
We love hiking Turtleback! Sometimes it is just a jaunt to Ship Peak for a scenic lunch spot or the full ridge tour from the South entrance to the North entrance.