Roche Harbor Airport Trail

Hours

Every day Never Closes

Review

Photo Credit: Bud Hardwick
At first glance and even on paper the Airport Trail at Roche Harbor doesn’t promise much. Yet, within minutes of leaving the trailhead the character of the terrain and the scenery change dramatically. Following this rustic pasture trail provides views of forest and wetland, occasional glimpses of picturesque Westcott Bay, and once in a while an up-close look at a small plane landing or takeoff. In addition to the sights and sounds, there are a number of possible connections with other diverse trails of the Roche Harbor trail system allowing for an unexpected variety of loops and destinations.

The trailhead’s location at the airport fence and entry seems industrial. Warnings to protect your eyes during plane and helicopter activity due to blowing dust and debris don’t improve the ambiance. Within only moments from the trailhead however, the views open up and the setting relaxes. Following a mowed grass margin of the open pasture, views of Westcott Bay can be pleasantly enjoyed. With almost no parking options along the nearby and usually busy Roche Harbor Road, this is your best viewing opportunity. Traveling east along the trail, alternating bands of forest and open pasture are encountered. Wildlife enjoying the nearby forest and shrub borders can be interesting and plentiful. Various connections to the south with other Roche Harbor Trails are encountered but lack of signage makes having a map and a tolerance for exploring useful.

The trail and terrain follows the margin of the airport fence but unlike the level runway, the trail dips and climbs making for changing views and perspectives. To the southeast a labyrinth of interesting trail loops provides samples of hikes through very different habitats including lake shores, wetlands, and dry hilly forests of stunted vegetation. Bogs and rare plants can also be found along with the small animal life that prefers them.

Near the eastern end of the trail a few sharp turns follow fenced property lines and service areas. Farm fields are seasonally tilled here and may leave the otherwise flat grassy path temporarily rutted. The trail ends abruptly on Rouleau Road. If you’ve come this far several options are open to you. A little more than a mile road walk can bring you to Reuben Tarte Park, a pretty picnic location on the remote northeast coast of San Juan Island (see article this website). If you haven’t decided to go back to one of the forest connections you’ve passed, you might consider following the Rouleau Road Trail which goes south. This trail provides more connections including the local Disc Golf Course and eventually the Roche Harbor Highlands Trails. For a return to Roche Harbor, follow the Roche Harbor Road Trail directly back or lengthen your hike by making an interesting combination of loops and connections along the way.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 10/15/2009

Directions

There is limited parking near the trailhead but most trail users prefer to walk or bike from the nearby Roche Harbor Resort area. Find the trailhead at the southwest corner of the airfield, a few feet from where the Roche Harbor Road passes beneath the large welcome arch. Just across the street from the trailhead is the popular Westcott Bay Sculpture Garden (see article this website).

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