Featuring incredible waterfalls, pristine lakes and plenty of RV camping choices, Moran State Park has a bit of everything for RV travelers that enjoy adventuring. Located in the jaw-dropping San Juan Islands in Washington state, the 5,424-acre Moran State Park is on the eastern side of Orcas Island. Most travelers are drawn to the San Juan’s to be close to the water, but Moran State Park has the best of both worlds thanks to the vast forests that are found within the park.
Originally opened in 1921 when former Seattle Mayor Robert Moran donated 2,700 acres to create a state park, the Civilian Conservation Corps contributed several features and built structures from locally gathered materials. One of the most prominent is the lookout tower on the summit of Mt. Constitution where you can see both the Olympic and Cascade Mountain Ranges.
There are so many things to do at the park, so get ready for some fun. Be sure to bring your hiking gear to explore more than 38 miles of beautiful trails, five freshwater lakes, waterfalls, and the tallest mountain in the San Juan Islands. There are also some fantastic mountain biking trails, multiple swimming areas, guided horseback tours, and plenty of great picnic areas for you to enjoy.
Another highlight of Moran State Park is the wide variety of RV camping options that you have. There are four RV friendly campgrounds, three of which are on Cascade Lake while one is to the east on Mountain Lake. The park is open year-round, and the peak season runs from May until October each year. Getting to the park is a little difficult since it is on an island, but the ferry trip over will be well worth it.
Getting to Orcas Island can be a bit of a journey, and patience is highly recommended during the peak season. Taking a vehicle to the island will require the use of a ferry leaving from Anacortes, which is about an hour and a half north of Seattle. Not all of the ferries leaving this location go to Orcas Island, so be sure to check the Washington State Ferries for the most up to date schedules and rates. You should plan to arrive at the terminal several hours early during peak season to ensure you get a spot, or consider booking a reservation for a little extra money so that you know for sure that you will be able to get to the island on time as you planned.
Once you arrive in the park, access roads can be steep and narrow, so larger RVs may struggle to navigate some of the tighter turns and switchbacks. You also won't be able to pop down to the nearest town to get any supplies, so you'll want to stock up on everything you'll need before you leave the mainland. Keep in mind that the maximum RV length in the park is 45 feet.
The Southend campground is one of the smallest of the four RV-friendly campgrounds within Moran State Park, so it is perfect for visitors wanting to get away from it all. Here you will have the best views of Cascade Lake, and you will also be able to see the gorgeous mountainside.
The campground consists of 11 campsites and it has an ADA-accessible restroom with a shower facility that is available to all visitors. Seven of the 11 sites are suitable for RV use and they are similar in size to most of the other sites within the campground. Each site has a firepit, picnic table, and a gravel pad, and they will all have a stunning view of the lake. All sites are primitive like the rest of the RV camping areas in the park but they are also pet-friendly.
Since the campground is so small reservations are a must if you plan to visit during the peak season, otherwise you will miss out.
The Midway Campground within Moran State Park is very popular with boaters due to its location close to the boat launch area. RVs up to 40 feet in length can call the Midway Campground home during their stay, and there are plenty of lakefront sites for you to choose from.
The campground has relatively private sites with some great amenities, including two bathrooms and shower facilities in addition to the boat launch. As with the other campgrounds here, there are no electric, sewer, and water hookups, but each site is equipped with a fire pit, picnic table, and a gravel pad.
If you are interested in using the boat launch at the campground a launch permit must be purchased. The Midway Campground is also a great choice for RV lovers looking to be close to the many miles of hiking trails that meander through the park. Like the other campgrounds, you will struggle to get cell phone reception so plan accordingly. Reservations for the Midway Campground fill up very fast for the peak season so be prepared to book a site well in advance.
Named after its location on Cascade Lake, the Northend Campground is the most popular place to stay if you are visiting the park in an RV. Featuring 50 large campsites, the campground is known for its privacy due to being elevated from the neighboring park facilities. The North End Campground is also located right near the day-use area, so it is the perfect place for RV lovers who want to go for a morning swim.
Each site comes with a fire pit, picnic table, and a gravel pad, some of which are also pull-through sites. There are no electric, water, or sewer hookups, but you will be able to use the bathhouse with coin-operated showers that are in the campground. There is also a dump station near the west entrance of the park.
Generators may only be used between 8 AM and 9 PM, and you likely won't be able to get cell phone reception. Reservations are highly recommended (especially if you are visiting during the summertime) and can be made online prior to your arrival.
Another great RV camping option at Moran State Park lies to the east on the banks of Mountain Lake. The campground is known for its more rustic experience and is a great place to stay if you are a keen angler. The campground is very small with only a handful of sites available, but it does have vault toilets for your convenience.
The single loop campground is more suited to smaller RVs and tent campers due to the 30 feet maximum length that each site can contain. There are a total of 10 sites to choose from that are all located near the edge of the lake. The campground also has a handy boat launch so you can easily fish out on the lake. You will also be close to Twin Lakes and Cold Springs Trails.
Since the campground is so small, you should book a reservation in advance if you are interested in staying at the Mountain Lake Campground.
If you are looking for some primitive tent camping options when visiting Moran State Park you will have to check out the camping area near Olga Road. Known as the Primitive Area, here you will find numerous campsites away from the lake that are perfect for campers wanting a little more peace and quiet.
The sites contain a flat pad perfect for a tent or other temporary structure, room for your vehicle, and a fire pit. Many mountain bikers choose to call the Primitive Area home during their stay due to its location near Mount Constitution. Plus, the Cascade Lake to Cascade Falls Trail passes by just above the campsites. There are six spots to camp in this area and they are all available on a first-come, first-served basis only.
While there are no first-come, first-served specific RV campgrounds at Moran State Park, during the off-season all sites cannot be reserved. This means that they are all available on a first-come, first-served basis from October until March each year. Since it will be the off-season there won't be too much of a competition for sites, but since you need to catch a ferry to the park it can still be a little risky.
If you are planning to visit during the off-season, you might want to contact the park office to confirm that the campgrounds are open since they may close due to bad weather.
Orcas Island, the largest of the San Juan Islands, offers some of the most breathtaking views in the San Juan Islands. There is plenty of dense old-growth forest, rushing water, and waterfalls that make this park an outdoor photographer's dream. The lookout tower at the summit of Mount Constitution offers amazing views of both the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges. Capture the light as it falls on Mount Baker for the perfect photo to remember your trip to this truly beautiful island. If you're lucky, you might even see some of the resident orca, or killer whales, that give the island its name.
Bikers, get ready for some fun. There are 11 miles of bike trails within the park that can be used year-round, along with 25 miles of trails that are open between mid-September and mid-May that range from beginner to expert in difficulty. One of the more challenging trails in the park is the 1,900-foot descent along the Power Line Trail from the top of Mount Constitution. You might want to bring your own bike over on the ferry as there are no guarantees that you will be able to rent one from the park office.
If you love to fish you are going to be in heaven when visiting Moran State Park. There are five lakes suitable for you to cast out a line on so you will have plenty of options when it comes to choosing a place to fish. The two most popular lakes to fish at are Cascade Lake and Mountain Lake since they are stocked each year with cutthroat, rainbow, and kokanee trout by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Try the Twin Lakes if you are looking for a more secluded backcountry fishing experience.
There is no better way to kick back and relax during your visit to Moran State Park than by going for a refreshing swim. All five of the lakes within the park are suitable for swimming, but the most popular one is at the beach on Cascade Lake. Located near the day-use area, the beach is suitable for visitors of all ages and is a great way to unwind and chill out. There are no lifeguards on duty at the beach so remember to swim to your abilities.
Whether you want to explore islands or spend the day fishing, a day on the water at one of the many lakes can’t be beaten. Pedal boats, stand up paddleboards, kayaks, rowboats, and canoes are available for rent at both Cascade Lake and Mountain Lake. Moran State Park also has two boat launches for your personal non-motorized watercraft. For those who bring their own boat, you will need to purchase a launching permit to use the boat ramp and remember that no motors are allowed.
With 38 miles of hiking trails, there are options for every level of effort and experience at Moran State Park. One of the best choices for an easy family-friendly stroll is the Cascade Falls Trail which will take you to the largest waterfall in the San Juan Islands. Looking for something a bit more advanced? You will want to be sure to bring plenty of water if you choose to tackle the 2,000-foot elevation gain on the Cold Springs Trail. If you want to see one of the best views in the park, follow the steep climb of the Mount Constitution Loop Trail towards the summit for a mix of dense forest and sweeping vistas.