There’s no place on Earth like the archipelago encompassing the Gulf and San Juan islands, according to outdoor writer Craig Romano.
His newest guidebook, Day Hiking: The San Juans and Gulf Islands (Mountaineers Books), features 136 hikes and nature walks in the Salish Sea region, which straddles the border between British Columbia and Washington.
“I’ve lived in Skagit County for about eight years, and there’s people here that still haven’t ventured to any of these islands,” the 53-year-old author told the Georgia Straight by phone from Mount Vernon, Washington. “They don’t realize how close everything is too. I’m closer, where I live, to B.C. than I am to Seattle.”
The hikes in the book are spread over 28 of the Gulf and San Juan islands, plus Anacortes and Fidalgo Island, Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula, and Tsawwassen and Point Roberts. For each hike, the book includes statistics, approach and trail directions, a map, and, in many cases, options for extending your trip.
Romano’s favourite Gulf Islands hike is Mount Warburton Pike in Gulf Island National Park Reserve on Saturna Island. It’s a 5.5-kilometre round trip with 157 metres of elevation gain.
“It’s got kind of a European feeling to it,” Romano said. “It’s a ridgeline hike. It’s just a real special place. Saturna’s a special place.”
For Canadians unfamiliar with the San Juan Islands, Romano recommends a hike to Turtleback Mountain’s Turtlehead summit on Orcas Island. This round trip covers 9.2 kilometres and rises over 300 metres.
“The Turtlehead, which is on Turtleback Mountain, has one of the most spectacular views,” Romano said. “You’ll have a great view of Saltspring and Pender—so familiar territory for Canadians.”
With ferry crossings, getting to the islands takes some time, so Romano advises that many of the books’ hikes are best done as part of a trip lasting two or three days. He noted that Washington State Ferries has a reservation system similar to that of B.C. Ferries.
“Some of the smaller ferries—just like in B.C.—it’s easier sometimes to walk on or take your bike,” Romano said. “I actually mention some of those. Unlike some other guidebooks, this book actually pays attention to bicycling, because it’s so easy to get around the islands and the Saanich Peninsula by bicycle.”
Romano’s next guidebook, Day Hiking: Mount St. Helens (coauthored by Aaron Theisen), is due out in May. He’s also the author of Backpacking Washington, Best Hikes With Dogs: Inland Northwest, and other books in the Day Hiking series.
“You just give me an area with a lot of natural habitat and good trails, and I’m probably going to like it,” Romano said.