Orcas is one of the San Juan Islands, located above the northern entrance to Puget Sound, about 85 air miles north of Seattle in Washington state. Nobody seems to agree on how many islands make up the archipelago, but approximately 175 points of land are significant enough to warrant names, and four – Orcas, San Juan, Lopez, and Shaw – stand out as the largest and most populous. Of these, Orcas is the traditionally popular vacation spot, although the others are well worth a visit.
Geographically, Orcas is also the largest of the islands, with a total area of 58 square miles. Its year-round population of 4,500 is scattered across the island, but the small community of Eastsound serves as a hub for commerce and civic life. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, vacationers and the summer-home crowd more than double the island’s population.
Orcas is a favorite Northwest destination for cyclists. More than 50 miles of public roadways loop through the orchards and valleys of the island’s interior, and scenic views from the shoreline lie at the end of almost every route. Washington’s state ferry system makes it easy for riders to get here, and the island offers plenty of opportunities for an active vacation.
The rugged terrain of Orcas makes it popular among cyclists who enjoy a challenging ride. Mount Constitution rises 2,409 feet above sea level, making it the highest point in the San Juans, and riders who tackle the steep road leading to the summit will be rewarded with stunning views of the San Juan Islands as well as the Gulf Islands in nearby British Columbia. Overall, you can’t ride far on Orcas without encountering some tough hills, but the lush rural scenery and towering fir trees make every trip worthwhile.