Lopez Island is the quietest of the San Juan Islands and the best island in Washington State for bike riding! Even though it’s quiet, there are so many wonderful things to do on Lopez Island. It’s especially wonderful for cyclists, or anyone who likes to explore the outdoors is a mellow laid back environment.
Lopez Island is the homeland of the Samish and Lhaq’temish (Lummi) People, as well as other Coast Salish tribes. The island is called Sx’wálech by Coast Salish People, which means Bottom of Reef Netting.
If you have a car, it’s easy to get around Lopez Island. It’s important to get a reservation for the ferry if you’re bringing a car.
How to get to Lopez Island without a car
If you want to explore Lopez without a car, then you need to bring a bike! There are no taxis, ride shares or car rental on the island. Luckily, it’s easy to get around by bike. Most of the island sees very little traffic. Lopez Island is absolutely the best island in the San Juan Islands for biking! It’s the least hilly island with the least traffic. There are still some hills, especially coming up from the ferry and on the south side of the island.
It’s straightforward to bring your bike on the ferry, I explain in depth how to do that here. If you don’t have your own bike, you can rent one on the island! Village Cycles will even deliver it to the ferry for you (or anywhere on the island) for a small additional fee.
You can also fly to the island, but you’ll need to rent a bike to get around once you get there.
When is the best time of year to go to Lopez Island?
Summer has glorious weather and is also the most booked up for camping, lodging and car ferry reservations. Spring and fall can be wonderful times to visit with less people. You can go to Lopez anytime of year, including in winter, but be aware that most business may be closed or have very limited hours.
In my opinion, May and June are the best times to go to Lopez Island, with most things open but before the big summer crowds, but I do enjoy going here any time of year!
Lopez Island tends to be a bit chillier than the mainland and it can be quite windy as it’s directly exposed to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean, especially on the south end of the island.
Things to do on Lopez Island
Lopez is by far the most slow paced island in the San Juans, but there are still many wonderful things to do on and places to explore! My favorite things to do on Lopez Island include
Biking Lopez Island
I already mentioned that Lopez is by far the best island in the San Juans for biking. There are lots of places to go, very little traffic (stay of Center Road especially when the ferry is unloading). The island is fairly flat compared to the other islands, but there are still some hills including some big ones on the south end of the island and the ferry hill.
Even if you bring your car, bringing your bike or renting one is a wonderful way to get around the island. A few especially good bike rides are:
Loop from Fisherman’s Bay to Spencer Spit to the winery and back
Loop all the way around the island (with hills and a 30 mile ride)
Out the spit at Fisherman’s Bay (short and flat)
If you’re looking for more hills, head to the south side of the island and out to Watmough Bay, a beautiful, rugged and rocky bay a short walk or bike ride from the road
Hikes on Lopez Island
Lopez is not the best island for hiking (Orcas is the best San Juan Island for hikers) but there are still plenty of mellow and shorter walks to enjoy all over the island. And if you really want to walk a long way you can walk a loop of the whole island! None of the hiking trails on Lopez are busy though you may see a few other people.
My favorite hikes on Lopez are:
Iceberg Point has incredible views across Cattle Pass to Mt Finlayson and Cattle Point on San Juan Island, as well as across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Mountains and Vancouver Island. The trail is mostly flat but does have a small amount of elevation gain and loss on a mostly wide trail. From the Agate Beach parking area to Iceberg point round trip is about 2.5 miles, but you can make it longer by adding another loop along the bluff on the way back.
Lopez Hill also allows bikes and horses. There are about four miles of trails with up to a couple hundred feet of elevation gain meandering through the forest.
Upright Head – save this short hike for the ferry line, since you start walking right next to the holding lanes (pay attention to time and don’t miss the ferry or hold up the line!). Start at the gate on Penny Lane which is right at the top of the ferry holding lanes. A quick one mile round trip with 300 feet of elevation gain, you can get your heart pumping in a short time going through a beautiful forest to some nice views above the water.
Kayaking Lopez Island
Spencer Spit and Fisherman’s Bay have protected water for kayaking as well as many other coves and places on the island. If you have your own kayak you can bring it and explore the island from the water, or you can rent kayaks different places on the island.
Spencer Spit is my favorite place to rent kayaks because it’s protected but there are also lots of interesting things to paddle around (the tidepools you can see from a kayak around Frost Island are wonderful). Spencer Spit only rents double and triple kayaks.
There are also several tour operators on the island that will take you on a kayak trip and provide everything you need and you don’t have to try to figure out where to go. This is another great option for beginners.
Spencer Spit State Park
If you only have time to do one thing on Lopez Island, make it a visit to Spencer Spit State Park! Spencer Spit is one of my favorite campgrounds in Washington but even if you’re not camping this is a great place to visit.
It’s on the slightly less windy east side of the island and has a beach to hang out on, a sand spit to explore and lots of gorgeous picnic spots. Many of the picnic tables also have firepits and if there’s not a burn ban this is one of the best places in Washington to have a campfire and roast a marshmellow.
You can also hike on some of the forested trails here and rent kayaks.
The one thing that is not ideal about Spencer Spit is that there’s a short but steep hike down to the beach from the parking area and the bathrooms. There is a loading zone at the bottom that you can access but you have to find a ranger to unlock the gate for you (not ideal if you need to use it).
This is definitely my favorite place on Lopez to have a picnic or to lounge around with a book for an afternoon.
Shark Reef Sanctuary
This super dramatic area on the west side of the island is a must visit for everyone who loves the water and dramatic landscapes. It’s about a half mile, mostly flat hike to get to the beach. Although the trail is flat, it has a lot of big roots making it more difficult than it sounds, especially for anyone using a mobility device or stroller.
Stroll through the forest to dramatic rocks and views of other islands and the Salish Sea with an excellent chance to sea seals and potentially other marine mammals.
Fish in Hummel Lake
The islands only lake is not suitable for swimming, however it is excellent for fishing! Join the locals and fish for bass as well as stocked rainbow trout.
Wine tasting at Lopez Island Vineyards
Lopez Vineyards has a lovely patio and lawn for wine tasting and lots of different wines to try. Most of Washington’s wine grapes are grown in Eastern Washington and this is true of this winery as well. They do have some wines to try with grapes grown on the island, which is pretty awesome! The winery is located about halfway between the ferry terminal and Lopez Village.
Like the other San Juan Islands, Lopez Island is an excellent place for whale watching! There are a couple of companies that offer whale watching based out of Fisherman’s Bay.
Best places to eat on Lopez Island
Lopez is a small community without a lot of dining options, but the options you have are fantastic! Make sure not to miss coffee at Isabel’s Espresso and the cinnamon rolls at Holly Bs. For a treat get Lopez Island creamery ice cream and/or fudge at Just Heavenly.
For the foodies among us, make sure to go to Ursa Minor, a beloved and renowned restaurant focusing on local ingredients!
For something really unique and a taste of Canada, don’t miss the Poutine your mouth food truck located in the grocery store parking lot. Inventive poutine (fries with toppings) options and super convenient and fun!
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!
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