The San Juan Preservation Trust and the San Juan County Land Bank have officially opening of a new trail on Orcas Island that connects the popular Turtleback Mountain Preserve to stunning Turtlehead Preserve.
The trail was made possible through the San Juan Preservation Trust’s acquisition of an adjoining 111-acre property (the “neck” in the iconic turtle-shaped ridgeline) which had separated the two preserves.
Turtlehead Preserve, with spectacular 360-degree views of surrounding islands, was donated to the San Juan Preservation Trust in 1990 by the late Ruth Perkins. Until now, Turtlehead (or “Orcas Knob” as it is known by some) has been inaccessible to the public as it was surrounded by privately-held land.
The Preservation Trust’s acquisition of the turtle’s neck permanently protects the mountain’s entire ridgeline. The trail was planned by the Washington Trails Association and work crews were provided by WTA and the Washington Conservation Corps, with several local volunteers also contributing sweat equity.
Hikers may access the new trail from the North Trailhead of Turtleback Mountain Preserve (off Crow Valley Road, next to the historic schoolhouse). A hike of 1.5 miles takes visitors to the Waldron Overlook, where the new trail begins. Another 1.2 miles of hiking with moderate elevation gain terminates at Turtlehead Preserve, with its stunning wildflowers and native grasslands. Hikers are requested to stay on the trail to minimize impact to the area. The new trail is strictly for pedestrian use; no bikes or horses are allowed.
The Campaign to Complete Turtleback is $55,000 away from reaching its goal of $1.15 million, which includes the $1.0 million purchase price and $115,000 for transaction and trail building costs. Support has come from the San Juan Preservation Trust’s acquisition funds, lead gifts from five Orcas Island families, and 202 additional donors. A “Cap Turtleback” initiative was created to inspire broad-based community participation in the campaign, and every donor of $50 or more will receive a Turtleback baseball cap.