Go Discover: Obstruction Pass State Park (5-15-15)
Go Discover: Obstruction Pass State Park
May 15, 2015
What if you found a place — a quiet place — where the waves lapped at a shore covered in bone-pale driftwood and rainbow-colored pebbles. A place where evergreen and madrona trees stand as sentinels along the rocky arcs of shoreline. A peaceful place in the San Juan archipelago where there is nothing but the sounds of wind and water to lull you to sleep.
Now imagine you could drive (or boat) there — and have it practically to yourself!
If getting away to an accessible yet remote-feeling camping spot by the sound waters says paradise to you, look no further than Obstruction Pass State Park. At the southern tip of popular Orcas Island, this park is light on luxuries, but rich in beauty and tranquility. Come explore the shore and more!
As camping parks go, Obstruction Pass State Park is definitely a destination. It takes a two-hour ferry ride out of Anacortes, Washington and a 37-mile drive across Orcas Island (and through Moran State Park) to reach Obstruction Pass State Park. There are nine first-come, first serve campsites and one that is reserved only for those coming in by canoe or kayak. Everything must be packed in and out via a half-mile trail from the parking lot, including water and the only facilities are vault toilets.
It’s camping at it’s most basic and yet the rewards are exquisite. Protected from heavy weather, the park looks out on miles of breathtaking views and other islands, such as Lopez and Blakely. Check out some of the park’s great activities such as…
Beach exploration and hiking
Pebble Beach at Obstruction Pass State Park is well-loved for the colorful, marble-sized stones covering the shore. Kids of all ages will love exploring the beach — the longest public one on Orcas Island! — for glimpses of crabs and purple and ochre seastars clinging to the boulders. Spot shore birds, ducks, geese, and even eagles soaring above the island waters in search of fish. Pack up a picnic lunch and cruise along the park’s looping, self-guided interpretive hike and out to Picnic Rock, where you can catch some spectacular views so don’t forget the camera!
Boating and fishing
The San Juan Islands are synonymous with boating and kayaking and Obstruction Pass State Park is a great, out-of-the-way spot to sail or paddle to! There are three brand-new mooring buoys and, according to the 2015 Waggoner Cruising Guide, has “good anchoring on a gravel bottom” for the larger vessels. Bring your kayak — or rent one on the island — and go for a glide in the East Sound. Fish or crab in the sound (during appropriate seasons) then cruise on in to the campground to stay at the designated Cascadia Marine Trail campsite reserved just for kayakers, canoers and other small wind or human-powered watercraft!
Once you are at a destination like this, you definitely won’t want to leave. And at the bargain price of just $12 a night for a primitive campsite and fire ring, you won’t have to! Fair warning: being a more remote park, Obstruction Pass doesn’t often fill up. But as a first-come, first-served campground there is no guarantee sites will be available. Have a back-up plan in place just in case!
“When we reached the water, we couldn’t really see where we were. We pitched our tent on some flat ground that seemed like a designated campsite near the edge of a seaside cliff. Light rain and soft waves lulled us to sleep. In the morning, we were stunned to see our surroundings: red-barked madrona trees, lodgepole pines and a tranquil bay opening onto the straight between Orcas and Lopez islands.” –Ian & Kat
Park Hours: Summer: 6:30 a.m. to dusk Winter: 8 a.m. to dusk
Camping: The park has nine tent spaces, one Cascadia Marine Trail campsite, and four restrooms (two in the campground, two at the trailhead). All campsites are first come, first served. The Cascadia Marine Trail tent site is for use by canoers, kayakers, small wind and human-powered craft only. To make a reservation, visit online or call (888) CAMPOUT.
Discover Pass: If you drive in, the Discover Pass must be displayed on your vehicle when visiting Obstruction Pass State Park.
Location: Near Olga, Washington on Obstruction Pass road, on the south end of Orcas Island in San Juan County, south of Moran State Park.
Maps: Want a handy trail map? Download one from the State Parks website.
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