South Shore Trail


Every day Never Closes


In many ways one of the remotest of the Cypress Island trails, the South Shore Trail is also one of its loveliest. The trail begins at the forest’s edge at the southern corner of the pleasant meadow of South Beach, situated beneath the southeast slope of Olivine Hill. Winding attractively through open forests as it parallels the shoreline the trail follows along the top of the bluffs never more than a few hundred feet from shore. The forest floor varies between thick blankets of salal and grassy clearings. Sunlight dapples through the relatively widely spaced trees providing opportunities for sun loving plants and flowers to sparsely decorate the trail. In the spring, wild orchids appear and despite the dry aspect, mushrooms and other fungal oddities can be found nearly year round.

Below you, offshore rafts of bull kelp mark rich marine habitat and provide plenty of forage opportunities for otters and marine mammals, in particular seals and sea lions. When the shoreline can be glimpsed, look for large grey rocks standing high on the otherwise flat shore. Seemingly out of place and unrelated to the local geology they are remnants of the past ice age. These distinctive boulders are travelers, broken off from distant mountains and "floated" on the great rivers of ice hundreds of miles from their origin. When the last ice age came to an end they simply sank wherever they happened to be, in meadow or forest, on what is now the sea floor, or even on the narrow strip of shore below you. Beyond the shore peek-a-boo views of the populated shoreline of Guemes Island and Anacortes are visible. Further still, the snow-laced mountains of the Northern Cascades can stand out sharply on exceptionally clear days.

Without warning the nearly level trail takes a short steep step up. The last open views can be enjoyed from the top of this rise. Continuing, the trail enters a darker, denser forest of young thickly growing trees as it trends inland surrendering all water views to greater forest intimacy. Suddenly the trail pops out of the forest and merges with an old roadway. Once part of the original wagon "highway" on Cypress Island the abandoned road provides a pleasant open tread of grasses and occasionally carpets of small delicate flowers.

Not long after joining the old wagon road, the trail meets at a three-way junction with the Cypress Mainline and Reef Point Trails. For more water views the Reef Point alternative is closest. Further and considerably longer loops can be made including Strawberry Bay and the Cypress Mainline but there is currently no loop options back to South Beach. Returning along the South Shore Trail, the views both in the forest and especially of the curving shoreline are quite different and equally enjoyable so nothing is lost by hiking the same short trail in both directions. The one steep step, now down, can be a bit challenging and slippery but it is fortunately short.

While the hike along the South Shore Trail can be pleasant in any season and at any time of day your choices are worth considering before visiting. Early morning provides beautiful dappled light into the forest but distant views are somewhat lost while viewing into the sun. In the afternoon, especially when hot, shoreline breezes make their way into the shaded forest on top of the bluff providing an exceptionally comfortable hike. Evening brings its own special setting. Before the long forest shadows make hiking difficult the late afternoon sun can illuminate the islands and mountains to the east beautifully and with the perfect cloud cover can turn the world you view into stunning colors of red and gold. For a short but nearly always pleasant hiking option on Cypress Island, see if a visit to the South Shore Trail will work into your itinerary. Chances are good that you’ll be glad you did.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 3/9/2010


The South Shore Trail begins at the south edge of the meadow at South Beach which is located on the southeast corner of Cypress Island below prominent Olivine Hill. The south end of the trail can be found at a three-way junction with the Cypress Mainline and Reef Point trails.


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