Project Description

Orcas Island

Turtleback Mountain Preserve

Accessible to the public

Turtleback Mountain Preserve is one of the most familiar and beloved landscapes in the San Juan Islands. Treasured by islanders for its dark, undeveloped ridge line, it is a refuge for wildlife and a haven for those who wander the trails through a mosaic of forests, wetlands and open meadows.

Turtleback Mountain is one of the largest undeveloped places in the county. Sheltering a variety of special habitats and species, the preserve is ecologically significant as well as beautiful. Grasslands and Garry oak woodlands cover the mountain’s dry southern slopes while conifer forest blankets the remainder. Pocket wetlands scattered about the property provide crucial habitat for wildlife and moisture-loving plants. Seasonal drainage from the mountain nourishes the fertile wetlands of Crow Valley and the rich marine habitats of West Sound. Towering over Crow Valley and West Sound, Turtleback Mountain is visible from many vantage points throughout the county and beyond.

Turtleback is a recreational resource. Its high meadows and rocky ledges provide unparalleled views of the San Juan and Canadian Gulf Islands. There are a variety of trails for hiking, bird watching, and wildlife viewing. All trails are open for pedestrian use year-round. Within the multi-use trail area, horses and bikes are allowed on an even/odd day rotation – bikes on even calendar days and horses on odd calendar days – via the north trailhead.

A major conservation effort in 2006 with partners and citizens made Turtleback a reality, and more recently, our partnership with San Juan Preservation Trust expanded and connected public access from Turtlehead to Turtleback via what is known to the community as “Turtleneck.”

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map and directions (pdf)