Hiking Cascade Falls on Orcas Island

Cascade Falls on Orcas Island
Cascade Falls on Orcas Island
In a sun-dappled forest grove, a fresh-water creek tumbles down the 40-foot rock cliff and runs beneath fallen tree trunks.

Minimal effort and maximum reward make Cascade Falls one of the best hikes in all of the San Juan Islands. The ‘trek’ can be as short as a half-mile round trip if you depart from the clearly labeled parking lot just off Mt. Constitution Road. Simply follow the well-maintained trails past a series of falls. Word to the wise though, the vertical ascent can be daunting. Consider taking breaks at the various viewpoints to catch your breath.

For a considerably longer hike (3-miles round trip) begin at the Cascade Lake trail. The trail begins at the day-use area, where you’ll find charcoal grills, kid’s play structures, and bathrooms. Follow the trail to the right around the lake, where you’ll quickly cross over Moran Creek.

The creek is a natural spawning ground for trout. While no fishing is allowed, it can be fun to try and spot fish. The path follows the shore for a short distance before retreating into the woods — a rich forest of towering Douglas fir trees.

Stay to the left at the first split. (Heading right will take you to Rosario Resort.) At the next split you can take either trail. For a more challenging elevation gain head straight and conquer the relatively minimal climb all at once.

At the junction, continue straight to follow the loop trail. This takes you over a quaint wooden bridge — another fantastic place to stop and spot trout swimming and jumping. Continue following the trail to the South End Campground. From the campground, follow the signs to Cascade Falls. The trail branches to the right, continuing through old growth forests and moss-covered knolls until you reach the falls.

Distance: 3 miles

Elevation Gain: 200 ft.

Highest Point: 690 ft.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Accessible: Year-round

Dogs: Permitted on-leash

Tips: Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the many viewpoints.