With expansive views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca contrasting with deep forest lagoons, the Mount Finlayson loop features the variety of ecosystems that San Juan Island offers in an easy and scenic trail. Options for shorter or longer routes make this a suitable destination for hikers of all ages.
Begin by following the narrow path up the grassy hill from the parking lot. Hear the tall grass whisper in the breeze as you saunter through one of the few native grasslands remaining in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Continue straight toward Mount Finlayson when you reach the Nature Walk junction, 0.3 miles from the trailhead.
A quarter mile later, you’ll gain 100 feet on the switchbacks to the summit; note the fencing encouraging hikers to stay on trail. The next half-mile features expansive views of the Olympics, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and a shimmering prairie dotted with wildflowers. Keep an eye out for deer, foxes, and eagles, which inhabit the mountain, along with ladybugs and butterflies in the grasses at your feet. Twisted trees shaped by coastal winds reach over the trail, offering shady spots for a rest.
You’ll soon reach a junction with a connector to the Lagoon Trails for a shorter alternative, but if you continue straight, you’ll be rewarded with a view of Cattle Point Lighthouse, Lopez Island, and Mount Baker on clear days. The trail soon descends steeply into forest, meeting the trail to Cattle Point at an information kiosk. Turn left towards Third Lagoon and cross a tall grassy meadow for a few hundred yards before meeting a two track road. Turn left again, heading northwest into a forest of tall Douglas-fir.
This side of Mount Finlayson contrasts sharply with the first half of the loop, featuring a forest dense with ferns and towering trees. In spring and early summer, the path is decorated with wild roses and bright orange honeysuckle. After a quarter-miles stroll through the woodland, follow the sign right towards Third Lagoon. 200 yards later, cross a private road and follow the signpost onto a short trail leading to a four-way intersection, offering the option for a short jaunt down to Third Lagoon. Otherwise take a left here, heading west towards the trailhead.
The next half mile is met with trails coming down from Mount Finlayson summit on the left, and spurs down to the water on the right. Continue straight until you reach the Jakle’s Lagoon trail junction. Both options lead back to the trailhead and converge in 0.5 miles, but the Jakle’s Lagoon trail offers a view of the water and short walks to the lagoon. The trails come back together, and after 0.3 miles you’ll reach the parking lot just beyond the locked gate.
Mount Finlayson is named for Roderick Finlayson, an employee of the Hudson Bay Company. A clerk and trader, Finlayson was in charge of Fort Victoria in the 1840s and witnessed its expansion from a rugged trading post to the Capital of British Columbia.
WTA Pro Tip: The San Juan Island National Historic Park features a visitor's center at American Camp, 1.8 miles from the Jakle’s Lagoon parking lot, where you can find an area map, restrooms, and historical presentations.