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.