Moran State Park: A User's Guide

HIGH ABOVE: Sweeping views await from the top of Mount Constitution. (Photo: Jonathan Caves/Flickr).
Explore America's park logo

The stone observation tower atop Mount Constitution — at 2,409 feet, the highest point among Washington’s San Juan Islands — offers panoramic views of green forests and blue water. Clear days afford views of the Cascade Mountains, Mount Baker and Mount Rainier.

There is more than one breathtaking view here, though. Miles of trails through Pacific Northwest woods and more than eight miles of lake shoreline from which to fish for rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and kokanee trout make Moran State Park a place to spend some time. Even if the park didn’t have paddleboats. Which it does.


Former Seattle mayor Robert Moran, who earned his fortune as a ship builder, donated more than 2,700 acres to the state for use as a park in 1921. The family donated another 1,000 acres in 1928.

Much of the park infrastructure — trails, roads, bridges and the tower at Mount Constitution — were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Things to do

There is a full day of family fun available within a stone’s throw of Cascade Lake, the busiest of the five lakes in Moran State Park. There is a swimming beach and paddleboat rentals. An easy 2.7-mile hiking trail circles the lake. A somewhat longer — though still fairly level — trail also circles Mountain Lake.

And if you’re looking for a challenge, the Cold Springs Trail takes you from Cascade Lake to the top of Mount Constitution. The trail gains more than 2,000 feet over just a hair more than four miles, so you might want to have someone waiting to pick you up.

Some of the park’s 38 miles of trails are also open to mountain biking and horseback riding.

Those looking for a quiet day of fishing can find it by hiking from Mountain Lake to Twin Lakes.

Why you’ll want to come back

The ferry ride to the island can be an adventure in itself. During the summer months you may spot a pod of orcas, or killer whales.

Flora and fauna

You’ll find lilies and asters among the fields — or balds — of the south slope of Mount Constitution. There are stands of lodgepole pine on the mountain and hemlock, cedar, yew and Douglas fir in the forests below.

Raccoons are common in the park — to the point of being campground pests. You’re also likely to see blacktail deer, river otters, rabbits and squirrels. The lakes are a good place to spot bald eagles, osprey, kingfishers and great blue herons.

By the numbers

  • Website:
  • Park size: 5,252 acres or 8.2 square miles
  • 2010 visitation: 737,000
  • Funky fact: A snack bar is open and boat rentals are available at Cascade Lake Memorial Day through Labor Day.
This is part of Explore America's Parks, a series of user's guides to national, state and local park systems across the United States. W e'll be adding new parks all summer, so check back for more.

Inset photo of trail signs: brewbooksrugosa rosa/Flickr