This is the second of two walks we took over New Year’s 2017 in the San Juan Islands. The first was The Shaw Island Walk from our previous post.
This round-trip walk begins and ends in Friday Harbor, Washington on San Juan Island. The map for the walk says that the mileage is 6 miles to the American Camp Visitor’s Center. We have walked it twice now and believe that it’s more like 7 + miles one way, making it 14 or 15 miles round trip. Additional miles and time are added if you hike on any of the trails in this National Park Service Historic Park, which you really must do. So, prepare for an “all-dayer.” Pack a lunch, snacks, plenty of water, warm layers, and of course, rain gear. We lucked out on both trips here and didn’t need it. It can also be a help against the winds at the southern tip of the island, which is a peninsula of sorts and exposed to the elements on all sides. The trail offers amazing views of Griffin Bay and Mount Baker at many points along the way. Walkers will also enjoy views of the open pastoral land common on San Juan Island. Miles of additional hiking trails and views of Haro Strait, Vancouver Island, and the Olympic Mountains reward the walker’s efforts at American Camp.
Finding the trail…
This was our second time walking this trail. The first time was at New Year’s, when 2015 turned into 2016. We stumbled upon it quite by accident, not knowing there was a trail all the way to the south end of the island. Much to our delight, we have found many trails in the same way. This time we knew about the trail, of course, but also found the true beginning of the trail on Spring Street in Friday Harbor. If staying in Friday Harbor, walk up Spring Street, the main road up from the ferry, until the airport becomes visible on the south, or left, side of the street and watch for the teeny-tiny sign that indicates the trail. The signs to follow are green and about 4″ x 4″ and say “American Camp Trail.” Sometimes they are just a small green arrow. The walker must be diligent in looking for them at every crossroads, corner, or intersection. It’s a bit of a fun scavenger hunt as you look for the next clue leading you ever onward towards your destination. There is one short section (about 1/8 mile) of road walking on busy Cattle Point Road. Road walking is never fun for me, but the shoulder was wide-ish and the drivers, for the most part, gave us the space we needed to feel safe.
I would suggest getting an early start if hiking in the winter. We opted for a leisurely morning and found ourselves returning to Friday Harbor just after sunset, which is early here in the Pacific Northwest on New Year’s Eve day…somewhere around 4:15 p.m.. The late start meant we couldn’t spend as much time at American Camp as we had during our first time there.
The Frazer Homestead Preserve would be a nice side trip to this walk. Here’s a picture of the original farm house with Mount Baker in the background. What a view to wake up to!
We saw no other walkers on the trail except a young trail runner close to American Camp and a man walking his dog on the Minnie Mae section. We had to wonder how many people walk from town to American Camp and hope we are not the only ones who enjoy these kinds of adventures. Admittedly, winter walking isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I’m betting more walkers take advantage of this trail during the summertime.
Thanks for reading and as always, Happy Walking and Happy New Year!
Ann and Aaron