Years protected: 1990 & 2012
Land protected: 141 acres
Hiking Trails: 0.7 Miles
Trail Difficulty: Challenging
Turtlehead Preserve encompasses the knobby headland that forms the turtle’s “head” at the northwest end of Turtleback Mountain. Standing atop its rocky, windswept half-dome, you’ll see raptors gliding on thermals and some of the most glorious views available in the San Juans. Getting there, while half the fun, is a challenging 5.7-mile round trip from Turtleback Mountain Preserve’s North Trail trailhead.
From the trailhead parking lot just off Crow Valley Road, an old logging road (now multiuse trail) meanders through mixed forest. At 1.6 miles, a sign identifies the trail spur to Waldron Overlook—well worth a short detour to take in the stunning view across President Channel to Waldron’s Point Disney. Another sign at the trail junction points to the Turtlehead Preserve Trail, which goes another 1.3 miles along the turtle’s neck to the summit.
An interpretive sign near the top describes what you’ll find:
“Coming out of forest onto the of Turtlehead is a dazzling experience. Layers of islands recede in the shimmering distance. Dragonflies and eagles soar above. Rocky outcrops shelter miniature gardens of drought-tolerant wildflowers and lichens.”
Access: The closest trailhead to the Turtlehead Trail serves the North Trail of Turtleback Mountain Preserve. It’s just off Crow Valley Road (next to the old schoolhouse). The Turtleback Trail can also be accessed from Turtleback’s South Trail (off of Deer Harbor Road), although the hike from this trailhead is more than twice as long. No overnight camping or fires are permitted. Additional restrictions are posted on the trails.
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Reviews of this Preserve
Hiked with my friend John on a June camping trip to Orcas. This was a good day!
The last quarter-mile or so of the hike is kind of steep and rocky. I was thinking This better be good. Well it was more than good — the view from the top is spectacular! You can see Stuart, Spieden, Jones, San Juan, Shaw and I don’t even know how many more islands. Worth every step.
The views from Turtlehead are beautiful. Before the Trust preserved “the head” we had to hike through private property (with permission, of course) to access this special site. Now so many more people can appreciate the wonderful views! Thank you San Juan Preservation Trust!