The San Juan Islands and- what is a hiker/biker campsite?

On July 13 I left Victoria, British Columbia to return to Washington via the San Juan Islands. It was heavily debated (in my head) whether I should enter Washington via Port Angeles or via the islands; each would take me on a different rout through Washington. I heard that the Islands were a cyclist’s paradise, but I was tempted by the coastal route’s reputation for being the greenest part of the United States.

I ended up taking the Island route, as encouraged by other cyclists. So on Sunday I caught the ONLY daily ferry from Victoria to San Juan Island at 5:55pm. This meant I got to the island at about 7:30pm and I had 14 miles to bike to the campsite. I was in a hurry to get to camp, but I couldn’t help being distracted by my surroundings. Everything that everyone told me about this island was true.

On the way to camp I stopped to watch the sunset with a few islanders. I was only there for a few minutes before the orca whales arrive, showing off their tails and fins. The islanders affectionately called all of them Willy. Once the sun went down I was off again, trying to get to camp before dark. It was the perfect ride. Maybe because it is a magical island, but I think timing played a part too. (Ask anyone from the pnw about the sunset that night and they will tell you). The rocky coast was red from the remaining sunlight. The trees were reaching especially tall to the sky. And when I went through the forested part of the island orange light came through every possible open space in the trees and reflected off of the water. In my mind I knew what was water and what was sky, but as hard as I tried my eyes could not see the difference.


Finally I got to camp. The best camp ground in the world. Where the sign said full. I investigated more, thinking that surely I could convince them to take just one more person… What I learned is that this camp ground (San Juan County Campground) gets booked full every summer, every year, about ninety days in advance.

BUT, they have a area called a hiker/biker site, where only people arriving by foot, bike, or kayak (I like the sound of hiker/biker/kayaker site) can stay. Washington and Oregon are full of these kinds of sites. The groundskeeper said that in all the years he has worked there, he has never turned away a solo cyclist or hiker. So no worries, I got to stay at the best campsite ever on a magical island.

*Disclaimer: my photos do not do this island justice.


  1. ORCAs at sunset!!! Wow! What a wonderful experience and story, especially since there was a happy ending with an extra spot at the campground for you : )

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