Limekiln Point Preserve Trails


Every day Dawn - Dusk


Photo Credit: Bud Hardwick
Surrounding Lime Kiln Point, the most popular State Park on San Juan Island, the Limekiln Point Preserve offers a much greater variety of natural areas and historic sites than the state park alone. Complementing the well maintained trails and interpretive sites within the park, the preserve presents an interesting network of lesser used trails that weave together isolated wetlands, a pleasant beach, dry forested uplands, and fascinating remnants of a once industrious limestone quarry operation.

To the north, between the state park and Westside Lake, preserve trails pass by the oldest remnants of lime kilns and quarries in the area. Well maintained trails and informative interpretive signs give way to rustic paths, tumbled structures, and piles of limestone rubble surrounding jungle-like grottos that have enveloped the abandoned quarries. In some areas signs of more recent abandonment hint at a more modern time when the quarried limestone was no longer processed at onsite kilns but transported elsewhere by truck, some of it to a dock in Smallpox Bay. (From the beach in front of the park office at Smallpox Bay look out and to your left, a concrete buttress of the former loading dock can still be seen. For beach location, see Smallpox Bay article; this website.)

East of the state park, several trail connections lead to the preserve’s Upland Trail. Near the park boundary, dark forests of younger trees reveal growth encouraged by the suppression of wildland fire as well as nature’s regeneration following clear-cutting and mining activities. The trail passes through an area of old quarries, long abandoned and now forming shallow wetlands. In some, underfoot, the faint pattern of railroad ties can still be seen, evidence of the hand carts that brought the limestone out of the quarries for loading into transport vehicles. Dropping down the south facing slopes, the forest opens, revealing grassy areas, small meadows and glimpses of the sea. Dramatically, a few ancient “wolf trees” are encountered and passed. Below the road, the preserve provides access to the pleasant sand and pebble beach of Deadman Bay. Above the shore and rocky headland to the west, the thin and sometimes exposed Deadman Bay Trail offers more marine views and a connection back to the state park.

The trail network of the preserve provides a variety of loops allowing hikers to choose whatever combination of time, mileage, difficulty, and sights they wish to visit. The entire preserve from seashore to uplands spans about 300 feet of elevation; however selecting different starting and ending points or planning a car shuttle can substantially reduce the elevation gain required. Both the state park and the preserve close at dusk in order to allow the terrestrial and shore bound wildlife to conduct their necessary business of survival, but their opening times differ. Besides the wonderful addition of natural areas and historic sites, another advantage of a visit to the preserve is its earlier opening at sunrise. During the long days of summer, early risers who enjoy the often rare wildlife sightings and rich colorful lighting of morning will appreciate the opportunity for special wildlife viewing and photography.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 10/15/2009


There are several available parking locations from which to explore the Limekiln Preserve Trails. From the north along West Side Road, a connection across the road from Westside Lake (see Wetlands Loop Trail) leads into park land. Lime Kiln Point State Park offers a large parking area (gate locks at dusk), and small roadside turnouts south of the park can be found on either side of the road above Deadman Bay. Be cautious of traffic and the lack of good sight distance along the road. The beach at Deadman Bay can provide access to paddlers on the west side of San Juan Island who wish to land and explore the Preserve. See related articles on this website for more details.


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