Mt. Constitution

Insider Tips for Amazing Sunsets on Orcas Island

The natural beauty of the San Juan Islands offers visitors some of the most breathtaking views I've ever seen. The wonderful color of sunset transforms the landscape from an island paradise to something nearly impossible to describe with words. 

In this article, we'll share a few of our favorite spots so you can catch some amazing sunsets while you're on Orcas Island.

Whether you're looking for a spot to take in the beautiful scenery with friends or loved ones, or if you're looking to capture that perfect sunset photo to share with friends and family back home or on your social accounts - we're sure to send you on the right path to accomplish those quests. 

We hope you enjoy the post. Let us know what you think and be sure to share your photo's with us too! You can find us on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter & other social sites here.


Sunset Spot #5: 
On a Washington State Ferry sailing

Sunset while on a ferry from Anacortes to Orcas Island.

Sunset while on a ferry from Anacortes to Orcas Island.

Hopefully, you're not the type to sit in the car the entire trip to or from the San Juan Islands face glued to your phone/tablet or book. Get out and enjoy the trip across some of the most amazing scenery around. 

If you're lucky enough to catch a sailing during a sunset (or even sunrise), then you're in for a treat. Some of the best views I've experienced have been either sunset or sunrise ferry sailings. The amount of change in the sky in just 30-45 minutes can be truly breathtaking. 

Best time of year for sunsets:
If you're on a ferry heading to the San Juan Islands, it's a great time of year anyway! Enjoy the trip!

Orcas Island Getaway Tips: If you have a chance to plan your sailings, sunrise and sunset trips often offer fantastic views. Sometimes framing in the boat, the wake or even people (as in the image here) can create a more visually compelling photo. 

Sunset Spot #4: Crescent Beach

Crescent Beach at sunset - Orcas Island, Washington

Crescent Beach at sunset - Orcas Island, Washington

Crescent Beach offers islanders and visitors beautiful views of Ship Bay. The 3/4 mile long public beach might not capture sunsets directly (as you'll be facing south instead of west), but you will be able to have some amazing sunset effects as demonstrated in the image here. 

Best time of year for sunsets:
All year long, but Fall through Spring will offer a little more color as the sun will set further to the south at this time of year. 

How to get there:
Crescent Beach is easy to access. It's just a short walk from Orcas Island Getaway, or you can drive and park in one of 3 parking areas across the street from the beach. 

Sunset Spot #3: Mount Constitution & the Observation Tower

From the top of Mt. Constitution

From the top of Mt. Constitution

If you're looking for breathtaking views from the highest point in all of the San Juan Islands, then look no further than the top of Mount Constitution and the Observation Tower. From here, you'll see some breathtaking views, no matter the tim of day! Note that it can be much more cloudy at the top limiting views. You'll be able to catch some amazing light shining on Mt. Baker across the Salish Sea, creating some memorable photo's. 

Best time of year for sunsets:
Anytime - you're sure to be amazed! Just make sure there aren't too many clouds that could obstruct your views down.

How to get there:
Travel into Moran State Park past Cascade Lake. Turn onto Mount Constitution Road and follow it all the way to the top. (Note: Discover Pass or Day Use Pass is required for visitors to all Washington State Parks)

Orcas Island Getaway Tips: If you plan on going to the top of the Observation Tower, get there well before sunset and stake your spot. There isn't much room. Also, note that there are some pesky (radio/cell towers) at the top of the Mountain that can creep in your shot. If you're handy w/ photo editing software, this won't be an issue. 

Rays of light from sunset highlighting the face of Mt. Baker.

Rays of light from sunset highlighting the face of Mt. Baker.

Sunset Spot #2: West Beach

Sunset from West Beach (December 2014)

Sunset from West Beach (December 2014)

Since the sun sets in the west, it's no wonder West Beach is such a great location to capture beautiful sunsets. Here, you'll find great views of sunsets during the fall/spring months as the sun is further south during this time of year - so it's an ideal location during off-season. Expansive views across the bay to other islands shape the horizon line, creating a dynamic depth. If you're fortunate enough to have great clouds creating additional layers of color and texture, you're sure to have some memories of a lifetime!

How to get there: from Eastound, follow Enchanted Forest Road westbound until the very end of the road. Stay straight as Enchanted Forest turns left into West Beach Road, and follow the paved road to the very end. One parking spot on the left near the beach and about 3-5 spots on the right side street parking.

Best time of year for sunsets: 
Fall through Spring due to sun setting further south on the horizon.

Orcas Island Getaway Tip: There's very limited parking at West Beach, and there are private homes to the south and a private resort to the north. Trespassing on either side for capturing your photo is frowned upon, so be sure to stay off of private property.

Sunset Spot #1: North Beach

Sunset Views from North Beach - Orcas Island, Washington

Sunset Views from North Beach - Orcas Island, Washington

North Beach is our favorite spot for capturing sunset photos, hands down. It's easy to access and North Beach offers a lot of variance in the types of photos you can capture from here.

You'll be able to look north to Sucia and Matia Islands, westward will be Saturna Island and the sunset. 

During evenings with a lower tide, you'll be able to make your way further out on the beach and look east to spectacular views of Mt. Baker. From here, you'll be able to capture the sun casting it's final rays of the day on the mountainside. It'll be a hard choice on which direction you want to look!

Boats entering Brandt's Landing Marina, North Beach, Orcas Island, Washington.

Boats entering Brandt's Landing Marina, North Beach, Orcas Island, Washington.

How to get there:
From Eastsound, take North Beach Road traveling north to the end of the road (about 1/2 mile past of the airport). There, you'll find enough parking for approximately eight vehicles, so you'll want to get there early to stake your spot. 

Best time of year for sunsets: 
Summer is the best time to view sunsets from North Beach as the position of the actual sun setting will make it's way over the waters edge past the piers. 

Orcas Island Getaway Tip: Spend at least one sunset at North Beach during your stay - you won't be disappointed!



When sunsets turn from great to AMAZING, you need to know how to spot it before it happens! So be sure to check out this bonus article from Digital Photography School.

...check out your detailed weather report for cloud cover percentages between 30 to 70 percent at sunset.
— Bruce Wunderlich, DPS article

Predicting Dramatic Sunsets

Bruce's five ingredients to successfully identifying when your sunsets can become AMAZING include:

  1. Mid to high-level clouds

  2. 30 to 70 percent cloud coverage

  3. Clean air

  4. Lower humidity

  5. Calm winds

Hopefully, you've found this article helpful in both navigating areas of Orcas Island, as well as some tips on knowing when sunsets will be breathtaking.

Good luck and be sure to share your amazing captures with us - we'd love to see them.

- Orcas Island Getaway

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3 of our Favorite Hiking Trails in Moran State Park

When visiting Orcas Island, Moran State Park is a must-see attraction, and even more so if you're a lover of the outdoors. Moran is probably most well known for its observation tower at the top of Mt. Constitution offering majestic views of the surrounding islands, mountain ranges and even distant cities, but there are also some fabulous hiking trails that you should check out.

For those that are looking for hikes that are short enough to complete in a few hours or less, and are not extreme elevation changes, we've highlighted our favorites here, with full description on how to get there and some photos along the way. Keep in mind that most hikers average about 20-25 minutes per mile hiked (less if extreme elevation climbs are involved). This will help gauge distance and timing if you're interested in some hikes but are pressed for time. 

Cascade Falls

Cascade Falls

Cascade Falls

If you're looking for a short, but visually amazing hike, with a series of beautiful waterfalls, then Cascade Falls is your ticket.

The shortest distance is traveling just beyond the entrance to Mt. Constitution. There's a parking lot clearly labeled which provides a short path just a few hundred yards to some amazing views of Cascade Falls. 

Although it's a short hike (less than 1/4 mile), it is fairly steep to get down to the base of the falls. The hard part is making it back to the parking lot as it's vertical ascent can be daunting, but there are some great viewpoints to allow you to catch your breath. 

If you're in for a short hike with some great views, you won't be disappointed here. Best during spring and early summer.

  • Why we like it: It is an amazing view and quick to access.

  • How to get there: Drive up Mt. Constitution Road about .25 miles, parking is located on the right side with signs to Cascade Falls. Then follow the clearly marked trail to the falls.


Cascade Lake Loop

View of Cascade Lake in Moran State Park from the Cascade Lake Trail

View of Cascade Lake in Moran State Park from the Cascade Lake Trail

The Cascade Lake loop is one of the most popular hikes in Moran.  It's easily accessed from the main parking lot as you enter the park and the trail leads you around the north and west side of Cascade Lake. The elevation change is relatively flat for about half of the 2.7-mile trail (primarily around the lake and toward the South Campsites) but begins quite a bit of elevation change as you cross the street. 

  • Why we like it: Good distance hike (approx 3 miles) and relatively flat.

  • How to get there: The main parking area at Cascade Lake and head on the trailhead to the right (north side of Cascade lake). Alternately, you can cross the street and access the trailhead that starts you south along the hillside.


Cold Springs Trail

Waterfall on Cold Springs Trail

Waterfall on Cold Springs Trail

The Cold Springs Trail is also easily accessible from the main parking lot as you enter Moran as well. This is on the east-side of the road, and can also be accessed from the campsites. This one is quite a bit more challenging as there is fairly constant elevation gain throughout the climb. But, with the effort, there are also many rewards, including a series of amazing waterfalls as you ascend the 2.9-mile trail. For those that are not interested in the entire 3 mile one-way hike, you can capture some amazing views well before the top. This picture below is from the ~1.2-mile mark - making the hike about 2.5 miles round trip.

  • Why we like it: Amazing scenery with waterfalls in several locations on the way up. It is also a somewhat challenging climb with constant elevation gains.

  • How to get there: the same parking lot as Cascade Lake - follow the trail signs to Cold Springs.

You're sure to find some amazing hikes during your time on Orcas Island. Use this link to access a full list of trails in Moran State Park during your visit and let us know if you have a favorite trailhead.

Happy Hiking!

Bonus Hike:

There are well more than 3 great hikes in Moran, so we couldn't leave out the Mountain Lake Loop. This is a 4-mile hike around Mountain Lake as you're heading up Mt. Constitution. This is a relatively flat hike for the majority as you're near the lake edge for most of the hike. There is some elevation climb on the opposite side of the lake, but there are some really great views from this hike as well. 

Get your FREE copy of the Insiders Guide to Amazing Hikes on Orcas Island. Just click the image below to begin planning your hikes!