Turtleback Mountain Preserve

Orcas Island

Land protected: 1,578 acres

Shoreline protected: 956 feet

Hiking Trails: 8.7 Miles

Trail Difficulty: Moderate

Conserved jointly by the San Juan County Conservation Land Bank (owner/manager) and the San Juan Preservation Trust (easement holder)

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 Mountain 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

The San Juan County Conservation Land Bank owns and manages the preserve, while the Preservation Trust holds a conservation easement that ensures the “gold standard” of protection, now and for future generations.

Access limitations: Dawn to dusk hours only. See trail map and preserve signage for additional restrictions.

Learn about the history of this preserve

Visitor Guidelines

  • Dogs on leash & all waste packed out
  • Day use only; no overnight camping or fires
  • Pack in and pack out all litter
  • No hunting or collecting except by special permission (where suitable)
  • Stay on designated trails
  • Respect adjoining private property and do not trespass
  • No motorized vehicles