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Mt Finlayson: the Best Hike on San Juan Island

Hiking is often not the first thing people think of when they think of the water oriented San Juan Islands, but there are some great hikes! Mt Finlayson (it’s much more mellow than it sounds) is one of my favorite hikes in the whole state! It’s worth the effort to hike it, and it’s completely a must do if you’re already on the island as it’s the best hike on San Juan Island!

I think this hike is especially enjoyable in late fall, winter and spring, when the island is less crowded and getting and staying there is easier and less expensive. This post will cover the Mt Finlayson trail, the best hike on San Juan Island in detail. At 4 miles with 400 feet of elevation gain, this hike is much mellower than the “Mt” Finalyson implies! You can add on additional miles with various side trips throughout the route.

San Juan Island is the homeland of many indigenous people including the Tulalip Tribes, Songhees Nation, Wsanec First Nations, Samish Nation, K’lallam and Lummi.

Parking Pass: None (also there is no toilet at the trailhead)

Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash

Is Mt Finlayson on San Juan Island right for me?

This is a hike not to miss if you’re on the island since it’s the best hike on San Juan island! This is a mellow hike that never gets steep and has forest, ocean views and a side trip to the beach and a lighthouse if you want to add extra miles (or you can drive to those before or after).

The trail is in excellent condition although there are a couple of confusing junctions. The trail is an excellent hike all year in pretty much any weather (although the views can be obscured on foggy days).

Related: What to pack for a hike in the Pacific Northwest and what to wear for a hike in the Pacific Northwest

When is a good time to hike Mt Finalyson on San Juan Island?

I think this hike is best enjoyed in the fall, winter and spring, when it’s less expensive and easier to get a ferry reservation to get to the island. This is also a great hike in summer, especially if you’re already on San Juan Island.

You’ll need a clear day to get the full views this hike has to offer, but it’s still enjoyable on foggy or rainy days.

Getting to San Juan Island and the Mt Finlayson trailhead

It does require a bit of effort to get to the island. The most straightforward method to get to this hike is to drive to Anacortes and take the Washington State Ferry to Friday Harbor, and then drive the 7 miles to the trailhead. In the summer months, the ferry requires a reservation. The ferry is fairly expensive with a car, so another option would be to walk on or bike on the ferry (see my previous post for how to do that). From the ferry dock, you could bike to the trailhead which is on Cattle Point Road in San Juan Island National Historic Park.

The Jakle’s Lagoon Trailhead starting point is what’s described here. Another option is to take the bus, which is a great option for getting around the island but only runs in the summer (if you took the bus you would avoid most of the hassles of visiting in summer!). In the summer you can also take the Victoria Clipper directly from downtown Seattle to Friday Harbor (passenger only).

Once you arrive on the island, drive through downtown Friday Harbor and left on Mullis Street, which becomes Cattle Point Road. Follow it just under 7 miles to San Juan Island National Historical Park and a sign that says “Jakle’s Lagoon” with a small parking lot on the left.

Mt Finlayson Hike Description

You can find a helpful map of the trails here. You’ll start out walking along the side of the forest through grasslands with great views to the water, the Cattle Point Lighthouse, other islands and the distant Olympic Mountains.

A field along a beach with a lighthouse and distant islands and mountains

Next you’ll head up Mt Finlayson, but it’s only a few hundred feet! The views continue to be amazing and you are likely to see eagles as well. As you start to descend, ignore the first trail to the left (unless you’d like a shorter option, then take it), continue to the junction about 1.5 miles after the trailhead. Go left here (right will take you down to the Cattle point lighthouse) and you’ll circle back toward the Lagoon. Here, you’ll be mostly in shady forest, going down a bit, then flat towards Jakle’s lagoon.

You can take a short detour for a better view of the lagoon or stay on the main trail. At the end you’ll climb up again on the wide forested trail before returning to your car.

When you return to the trailhead, you’re very near Fourth of July beach if you’d like to get in some beach time and you can also easily drive down to the Cattle Point lighthouse if you didn’t lengthen your hike by walking to it.

Breweries and Bakeries near Mt Finlayson on San Juan Island

Check out the San Juan Island Brewing Company (beer AND food!) and the Bakery San Juan for bread, pastries and pie. If you’re in the market for a delicious breakfast in Friday Harbor, try Rocky Bay Cafe.

Camping on San Juan Island

If you’re looking to spend a weekend on San Juan Island but want to avoid expensive hotels and AirBnBs, if you plan ahead you can reserve the only public campground on San Juan Island, San Juan County Park. Learn more about camping in my guide to camping in the San Juan Islands.

Electric Vehicle Charging

There is no fast charging on the island, the closest fast charging is in Burlington on the mainland (20 miles from the Anacortes ferry terminal).

grassy meadow along a shoreline with a lighthouse, islands and mountains. Text reads Best Hike on San Juan Island
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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years. I've been a tour guide in both Alaska and Washington and I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best low key adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!