San Juan Islands National Monument | Outdoorsy

San Juan Islands National Monument
Guide

Introduction

Made up of over 450 islands and plenty of beautiful scenery, the San Juan Islands National Monument is utterly unforgettable. You can find this stunning island getaway just north of Puget Sound in Washington state. The Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, manages this vast area for locals and travelers to visit.

One thing that makes the San Juan Islands National Monument unique is all of the different types of landscapes you'll see. There is everything from dense forests to sandy beaches to snowy mountains. In the spring of 2013, the San Juan Islands National Monument was officially protected and preserved by the President of the United States. Many local schools have field trips to the San Juan Islands National Monument because it is a great place for children to learn about the rich history of this area of Washington, many different types of landscapes, and of course, plenty of wildlife. In fact, people come from around the US and around the world to take in the breathtaking views from a campsite or RV at one of the many nearby campgrounds.

RV Rentals in San Juan Islands National Monument

Transportation

Driving

You may think that getting to an island can be quite complicated, but it's fairly easy no matter what type of vehicle you're taking. If you're coming from Seattle, you can easily get on I-5 North towards Vancouver BC.

Eventually, you'll have to board a ferry that takes you to the specific island that you want to visit. Luckily, the ferries allow drive-on traffic, including RVs. It is recommended that if you are planning to take an RV to the San Juan Islands National Monument, you should call and make a reservation for a ferry. This will just make it easier for yourself, other passengers, and the ferry crew.

If you're a local, you may already know that you can get to the San Juan Islands by taking your own boat out on the water through Lake Huron and the Ballard Locks. If you or someone you're traveling with tends to get seasick, you can also take a charter plane to the islands.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in San Juan Islands National Monument

Campsites in San Juan Islands National Monument

Reservations camping

San Juan Islands National Monument

San Juan Island is the place to camp if you're looking for modern amenities in this area. There are just 20 campsites that sit on 12-acres of land. Camping here is recommended from the months of May through September. To guarantee your spot at San Juan Island, you can make a reservation online. When camping here you will get the view of rocky bluffs, beautiful beaches, mountains in the distance and more.

They provide a small picnic shelter, picnic grills, flush toilets, a boat launch, and picnic tables for their visitors. In the park's main office there are plenty of educational materials that kids may enjoy. There are plenty of activities you can take part in when visiting this campground on San Juan Island. Some of the more popular options are hiking trails, biking, swimming, and looking for wildlife. Smaller RVs can camp at San Juan County Park, while other larger vehicles can camp at the fairgrounds.

Shaw Island

Shaw Island has camping available year-round for primitive campers, hammock campers, and RV campers. It is recommended the visitors make a reservation online if you're camping between the months of April and October. From November to March all campsites are on a first-come, first-served basis. Prices are reduced during the winter months. Vehicles, including RVs, must be 20 feet in length and 9 feet in height or lower.

Camping on Shaw Island will give you a beautiful view of the water, as well as privacy and shade provided by the lush forests. The campground offers firewood for purchase but does note that it may not be available at all times. There are bathrooms and showers available to guests. All campsites have a picnic table and a fire ring for your convenience. There is also a grocery store you can shop at on the landing, as well as a park for children to play on.

Odlin County Park

With 31 campsites on 80-acres of land, Odlin County Park is another great BLM campground to stay at when visiting San Juan Islands National Monument. There is potable water and vault toilets for your convenience. You can easily make a reservation online before your trip. There are fire rings and picnic tables at each campsite. This campground is popular due to how close it is to where the ferry docks, making it a quick and easy trip.

You can swim on the beach, take advantage of the free boat launch, or go hiking on one of the many hiking trails that Odlin County Park has to offer. Nearly every campsite, with the exception of group sites, has a beautiful view of the water. There are campsites available for RVs between the sizes of 22 feet and 30 feet. It may be important to note that Odlin County Park is a smoke-free campground.

Seasonal activities in San Juan Islands National Monument

In-Season

Kayaking

The most popular peak season activity that visitors enjoy when staying at the San Juan Islands is kayaking. Kayaking is a fun and adventurous way to explore the islands and get a different perspective of the beautiful landscape surrounding you.

Visitors can paddle between islands and enjoy a beautiful day out on the water. There are plenty of kayaks and other watercraft to rent, so you don't have to worry about making room in the RV for one.

Tide Pools

One of the more unique things you can do at just about any spot of shoreline at the San Juan Islands is to look for tide pools. This is best done early in the morning when the tide has receded. The height of the tide and how far inland it comes will differ based on the phases of the moon and the time of day.

When you come upon a tide pool, you may see a variety of different creatures such as crabs, starfish, oysters, mollusks and more. This is a fun activity to get outside and experience nature and wildlife with the kids. You may want to look up the tide schedule online to help you know the perfect time of day to visit!

Lighthouses

If you're visiting the Pacific Northwest from another part of the United States or a different country, seeing one of the many lighthouses available at the San Juan Islands is a great activity that you may not be able to do elsewhere.

Two of the more popular lighthouses that you can visit are on Pattos Island and Cattle Point. The lighthouse on Pattos Island was built in 1893. It lies at the most northwestern point of the lower 48 states.

Visiting this lighthouse also brings you nearby to several other fun activities. The lighthouse you'll find on Cattle Point is known for how many people photograph it for its beauty. This sounds like a great reason to go see it for yourself in person.

Off-Season

Hiking

It doesn't matter which island you visit, there are plenty of hiking opportunities. When packing your bag for your trip, make sure to bring high-quality camping boots. Hiking is a great way to get amazing views of the surrounding scenery that aren't available elsewhere.

Some trails have steep and rough terrain, which is perfect for the more adventurous hiker. On the other hand, there are plenty of flat and short trails for those visitors that are looking for a more casual and relaxing stroll through nature.

Photography

If you or someone you're traveling with is a creative individual, there are a plethora of photo opportunities all around San Juan Island National Monument. You can photograph some of the amazing wildlife, take photos of the beautiful mountains reflecting on the water of Puget Sound, and more.

Just about any spot makes for a lovely group or family photo, which is a perfect way to remember your vacation. You can bring your own fancy DSLR camera or simply use the one on your phone!

Wildlife Viewing

Another great activity you can take part in at the San Juan Islands National Monument is wildlife viewing. There are so many amazing animals you just might be able to see. From the water, you can see seals, orca, and plenty of different types of fish.

From land, you'll be able to see foxes, rabbits, deer, raccoons, wild turkeys and more. There are plenty of birds to see as well. You'll have better luck to see birds and the rest of these animals if you make sure to pack a pair of binoculars!

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