Mt. Constitution

#7 VISITED: 03.30.16

Moran State Park, Orcas Island

Mt. Constitution

#7

VISITED

03.30.16

Moran State Park, Orcas Island

Built » 1935 / 1936

Elevation » 2398 Ft

Hike » 4.4 miles round trip

Elevation Gain » 398 Ft

Mount Constitution is located in Moran State Park on Orcas Island. At an elevation of 2,398 feet, it is the highest point in the San Juan Islands. Starting at the Little Summit trailhead, the 2.2 mile Tower Trail takes you along the eastern side of the mountain through mossy forest and climbs gradually to the summit. On a clear day, the lookout offers breathtaking views of the surrounding islands, the Cascade Mountains, Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, and the cities of Vancouver, and Victoria, BC.

The five story stone lookout tower atop Mount Constitution was designed by Seattle architect Elisworth Storey and modeled after medieval watchtowers of the Caucasus Mountains. Built between 1935 and 1936 by a crew of 28 men from the Civilian Conservation Corps, the tower was constructed from over 1000 tons of native sandstone quarried from the north shore of Orcas Island and hauled to the summit in trucks. The tower features thick stone walls pierced by slit windows, heavy wooden doors, wrought iron work, and a carved balustrade around the observation platform.

The lookout was staffed by the Division of Forestry until 1967, when the more than 10,000 annual visitors forced the construction of a second lookout tower 1.5 miles to the south to be used solely for fire detection. Today Mount Constitution remains the most popular destination in the San Juan Islands. 

Above: Two views of Mt. Constitution from the 1930's.

My Hike » 03.30.16

Field Notes

You can drive all the way to the summit of Mount Constitution if you don’t feel like hiking. Or if you want to do a more strenuous hike than the two mile trail from Little Summit, you can start at Mountain Lake, which adds another several miles and 1500 feet of elevation gain to your hike.

Before starting your hike to Mount Constitution, take the 0.1 mile side trail to Little Summit. The view from Little Summit is spectacular, and although the Little Summit lookout tower was removed in 1988, the foundation is still there, and there’s a cool stone “compass” embedded in the ground at the top of the stone steps that lead to the lookout.

After our hike, my friend Skye and I went to the Doe Bay Resort to relax in their soaking pools. It took a little longer than expected to get there, so we only had about 20 minutes to soak before we had to turn around and haul ass to the ferry terminal on the other side of the island, but it was worth it. So worth it!

Directions

From Eastsound, head south on Olga Road for 4.5 miles and turn left onto Mt. Constitution Road. Continue on Mt. Constitution Road for 3.6 miles to the Little Summit Trailhead, and park in the gravel parking area on the right side of the road.