Hope Island Marine State Park

The Victoria Clipper Shuttle

We passed the Victoria Clipper just before slipping into Deception Pass, on our way to Hope Island State Park. This boat shuttles people from Seattle, WA to Victoria, BC.

Labor Day weekend dawned and my wife and I were badly needing a get-away. Things have been just crazy at both of our jobs and stress had been running high for several weeks. Before setting out on the boat, we decided on some criteria our destination had to meet:

  • Be calm and relaxing
  • Have good crabbing
  • Be somewhere we haven’t visited before

Skagit Bay and Similk Bay, tucked between Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands met this criteria nicely. To be fair, we had been to Hope Island before, but we only hung out on the beach long enough to cook our crab with Ken and Sherrie. I had heard there was some good hiking on the island, safe anchorage, and we knew first hand there was good crabbing.

Rosario Head and entrance rocks

The entrance to Bowman Bay and Rosario Head are blocked by sentinel rocks. They are clearly visible at low tide, but you must be wary of them at high tide.

We set out from Anacortes about 9 AM on Saturday morning in an attempt to reach Deception Pass around 10:45 AM, when slack tide was predicted. Along the way, we passed the Victoria Clipper, a beautifull ferry boat that shuttles people back and forth from Seattle, Washington to Sidney, BC. We also passed Rosario Head and Bowman Bay – both of which contain state park mooring docks. I’ll try to write soon about this interesting anchorage.

Deception Pass can be a nasty piece of water. It’s always advisable to hit it at slack tide, particularly if you’re in a displacement boat (like a sail boat) or a boat with an under powered engine. This day was unsually difficult because of several dozen salmon fishing boats right outside the pass and many large yachts with the same “shoot for slack” plan as I.

Tied to mooring buoy at Hope Island

Tied to a mooring buoy at Hope Island. The beach to the three campgrounds is in the background.

Once through the pass, it was a very relaxing cruise to Hope Island. There are four mooring buoys on the northwest side of Hope Island. On the beach closest to the buoys, there are also three camping sites with fire rings. There is a neglected toilet, no fresh water, and no trash service. The campsites are also frequented by raccoons and porcupine, so campers are advised to hang their food.

There is also good holding for anchors, but the bottom drops off steeply. Back away from land when setting your anchor. This area is well known for its excellent crabbing, clamming, and decent fishing. Bring your clamming tools and crab traps when you come here.


View Hope Island Hiking Trail in a larger map

Write and black banana slug

I found this albino Banana Slug on Hope Island. These little guys are rare, so keep your eye for them.

The hiking trail on Hope Island is not very well defined in places and is claustrophobically tight with scrub brush over its majority. Be sure to wear long sleeved shirts and pants to avoid getting scratched up. Apparently the trail following the perimeter of the island continues along the east side, but I lost the trail on that side and couldn’t pick it up again. Here is the GPX file for the hiking trail to upload into your GPS. You’ll probably want it.

Along the trip, I ran across this albino Banana Slug. This is probably the third one I’ve found in my life, and I’ve only found them in the San Juan Islands. Normally a Banana Slug is army green with black spots. The albinos that I’ve found still have the black spots, but are pure white to green-tinted-white. They’re an interesting biological oddity to me, but they’d make a great masters thesis for a biology student.

Overall, Hope Island makes for a wonderful weekend anchorage or camping trip. There is enough hiking to satisfy those with an urge to explore, the crabbing and clamming are just about as good as you’ll find in the San Juan Islands, and the protected waters of Skagit Bay means you’ll be comfortable staying on a boat – even in the windy and choppy off season.

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Planning An Extended Backpacking Trip
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