Orcas Island is a great destination for families in the San Juan Island network. Kids will enjoy kayaking or exploring the numerous farmer’s markets and two public beaches, but the highlight for us was Moran State Park. Located on the Doe Bay section of the island, Moran includes two lakes, numerous hikes, beautiful cascade waterfalls, a wonderful nature center, and swimming beaches.
What to do with kids in Moran State Park:
1. Start by orienting yourself with a view from Mount Constitution: Families can opt for a long hike to the top of Mount Constitution, but driving is also available. From the base of the state park, drive up to the summit and park at the educational outreach center (more on that in a minute). From there, it’s only a short walk to the observation tower, which affords visitors with incredible 360 degree views of the San Juan Islands in fair weather. Kids enjoy climbing the many stairs in the tower, and it’s safe at the top for little ones. Along the way up, displays teach about the early history of the island.
2. Check out the Friends of Moran educations outreach center: At the base of the tower on Mount Constitution, a great little nature and science center teaches kids about local wildlife (including newts) and island history. Best of all, families can ‘check out’ a fully-stocked backpack with binoculars, wildlife and plant life guidebooks, and more. A deposit is taken, and returned upon return of the pack at end of day.
3. Hike the Cascade Falls Trail: This easy quarter mile trail leads families directly to a coastal rain forest waterfall. The hike is easy, and the base of the falls makes for fun exploration (beware of nettles though). If you’re up for a longer hike, the Cascade Creek Trail takes you from the falls down to the Mountain Lake picnic area.
4. Swim at Cascade Lake: On nice days, the picnic and swimming area at Cascade Lake is perfect for a long afternoon. Kids can swim in the designated swim area, and a snack shack (open seasonally) offers treats and drinks. There’s a nice playground, and a fishing dock. Small watercraft can also be rented.
5. Take a side trip to Obstruction Pass: This 80-acre park a short drive from the main Moran State Park campus offers Orcas Island’s largest public beach and another interpretive center and more trails.
Date last visited:
Camping is available at Cascade Lake, nearby Mountain Lake, and Obstruction Pass (the latter is primitive). Sites at the lakes have water and bathrooms, and some have hook-ups. Expect to pay more than typical for standard state park sites, and reserve early for the summer season!
Besides the snack shack, no dining exists in the park. The nearby town of East Sound offers more, and has a large market for supplies to make your own meals at a camp site.
From the Orcas Island ferry dock, drive up Orcas Road toward East Sound. From there, take Olga Road into the state park.