Kayak Washington's San Juan Islands

Mar 16, 2009
Outside Magazine
San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands    Photo: Jim Poth/Washington State Tourism

Pro Tip: Ray Zahab

(1) Pick friends you can lean on and trust, because some days you're going to feel good and some days you're going to feel like crap.
(2) Expect your expedition or trip to cost 10 to 20 percent more than you anticipated.

Map of Washington

Kayak Washington's San Juan Islands
DURATION : 4–5 days
THE PLAN : Vancouver Island buffers the big waves, but the San Juans' strong tidal currents, vast open channels, and 55-degree water offer plenty of adventure for experienced paddlers. The reward: pods of breaching orcas, hikes among limestone formations, and campsites on gravel beaches and atop cliffs. Start at Anacortes and hug the coast of Guemes Island on your way to Lummi Island's Cascadia Marine Trail campsite, an isolated spot with a breathtaking view of Mount Baker. Over the next few days, keep on the calmer bay side and paddle around Lummi to Clark Island. Be sure to check out the sandstone cliffs of Matia Island or, if you're feeling ambitious, the popular sandy beaches of Sucia Island. Either way, stay at the campsite on Doe Island—a small, forgotten state park known for its private coves—before crossing three-mile-wide Rosario Strait and finishing back in Anacortes.

ESSENTIALS : Rent from Sea Kayak Shop (five days, $290; seakayakshop.com), in Anacortes. Pick up Waterproof Charts' #43 ($27), the Current Atlas for Juan de Fuca Strait to Strait of Georgia ($30), and Washburne's Tables 2009 ($7). All are available at local stores.

PREREQUISITES : Solid coastal kayaking experience and the ability to read nautical charts. Need schooling? Kayak Academy, 20 minutes east of Seattle, offers a five-day training camp (from $950; kayakacademy.com).

WHEN TO GO : September. After Labor Day, the pleasure yachts disappear, but it still feels like summer.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Got Wanderlust?

Escape your daily grind with Outside’s best getaways.

Thank you!