West Boundary Trail
San Juan County
Moran State Park
3572 Olga Road
Every day Never Closes
There are three primary reasons why most people decide to challenge the West Boundary Trail at Moran State Park on Orcas Island. The reasons are simple: a desire for a strenuous hike, wanting to avoid the crowds, and the chance to hike a new trail in a heavily visited park. They are seldom disappointed.
The West Boundary trailhead is located on the uphill side of the road, just inside the park’s north entrance. The trail essentially follows the power-line corridor that supports the nest of communication towers on the summit of Mt. Constitution. This rough jeep track makes little attempt to deviate from the straight line. You won’t be bored with the endless switchbacks normally included to alleviate the strain of a direct uphill climb. Just for variety though, you’ll find at least one significant drop where you get the pleasure of regaining some of your hard earned elevation. The views are limited but that’s not why you’re here. While pausing to catch your breath, look up. Despite the lack of distant views, raptors including eagles can frequently be seen in the tops of the taller trees overhead. They, like other wildlife on this part of the mountain, don’t really expect anyone to be here especially during their morning forages.
The trail begins to lie back, easing the grade as you approach the 2,000 ft elevation. Soon you reach the end of this trail at its intersection with the North Trail. To continue, you now have the first of a series of choices. This first one sounds easy: left, or right? Whichever decision you make; your options continue to multiply with each succeeding intersection. So give this some thought before committing the rest of your day.
To the left, the North Trail (see article this web site) is the only trail to traverse the north side of Mt. Constitution. Continuing on it you will end at Twin Lakes two hiking miles away, all the way around to the east side of the mountain. There your choices will be to either go up to the summit and the park road; or down to Mountain Lake still miles from your starting point. Obviously, pre-arranged car shuttles can make this less of an epic.
If you choose the right, you’ll traverse Hidden Ridge to the junction with the Cold Springs Trail. If you follow this trail down you can complete a six mile loop that ends at Cascade Lake, a short distance from your starting point.
During the summer you’ll only find wildlife and infrequent hikers sharing the trail; but during the shoulder seasons and the winter, mountain bikers have been allowed to challenge this route. Some use the access road and reverse the process by rocketing down this steep grade. While serious mountain bikers (those with full suspension and body armor) may not consider this overly technical; casual bikers will marvel at the drops, jumps, and impossible leaps that must be made. Normally a little spooky to see bikers and hikers sharing the same trail, here its less frequent use and often generous sight distance are a benefit.
Besides the three reasons already listed, this trail is a good option when the weather won’t produce the stunning scenic views that you might desire. While not for everyone, hiking up the West Boundary Trail can be almost therapeutic on a cloud shrouded morning; melting away the cares and stress of the outside world, while allowing you to match the rhythm of your body to the solitude and intimacy that the mountain has to offer.
The north entrance to Moran State Park is located five miles south of Eastsound, on the Olga Road. Look for a parking pull-out a short distance beyond the entrance arch.
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