rises above Crow Valley.
Open woodlands and sloping meadows characterize the mountain’s southern end.
The Land Bank’s Turtleback Mountain Preserve is one of the most familiar and beloved landscapes in the San Juan Islands. Treasured by islanders for its dark, undeveloped ridgeline, it is a refuge for wildlife and a haven for those who wander the trails through a mosaic of forests, wetlands and open meadows. The 1,576 acre natural area was purchased in 2006 for $17 million dollars, with the Land Bank contributing $10 million, and The San Juan Preservation Trust and The Trust for Public Land raising the additional funds to preserve this special property forever. The Land Bank owns and manages the preserve, while the Preservation Trust holds a conservation easement that insures the mountain remains in a natural state forever.
Turtleback Mountain is one of the largest undeveloped properties in the county. Sheltering a variety of special habitats and species, the preserve is ecologically significant as well as beautiful. Grasslands and Garry oak woodlands cover the mountain’s dry southern slopes, while conifer forest blankets the remainder. Pocket wetlands scattered about the property provide crucial habitat for wildlife and moisture-loving plants. Seasonal drainage from the mountain nourishes the fertile wetlands of Crow Valley and the rich marine habitats of West Sound. Towering over Crow Valley and West Sound, Turtleback Mountain is visible from many vantage points throughout the county and beyond.
Turtleback is also a recreational resource. Its high meadows and rocky ledges provide unparalleled views of the San Juan and Canadian Gulf Islands. There are a variety of trails for hiking, bird watching, and nature observation. All trails are open for pedestrian use year around. Within the “multi-use trail area” horses and bikes are allowed on an even/odd day rotation – bikes on even calendar days; horses on odd calendar days via the north trailhead access only.
Fires, camping, and hunting are not allowed; dogs must be leashed at all times; use is limited to daytime on designated trails only; PLEASE take nothing and leave no trace. Preserve visitors are asked to always respect private property boundaries.
In 2006, San Juan Preservation Trust and San Juan County Land Bank, with the support of the community, came together to purchase and place conservation easements on Turtleback Mountain on Orcas Island in San Juan County. Hear audio link for the history of those organizations and how they collaborated to save this iconic piece of land in the islands.
Map & Directions
Preserve is open to the
public for pedestrian access. You can download a map and driving directions here or contact the Land Bank office at 360-378-4402 to request
New Trail Creates Southside Loop for Turtleback Hikers
We invite the public to read the Turtleback Mountain Preserve Stewardship & Management Plan. This final plan was approved in 2008
by the Land Bank Commission and the County Council, concluding an extensive process of gathering public input through written comments, meetings,
and public hearings.
The Management Plan will guide the care of Turtleback for years to come.
It designates three zones
on the mountain: one for pedestrians, one for multiple use, and one dedicated to Turtleback’s other, silent
users—its resident plants and animals. It makes a pledge to work with all citizens with respect, seeking ways that pedestrians, equestrians,
and mountain bikers can all enjoy Turtleback, remaining mindful of the Land Bank’s “low-intensity” requirement
Wise stewardship of the land’s ecological treasures is also
a top priority.
October 15, 2008
October 15, 2008
October 1, 2008
March 21, 2008
July 25, 2007
January 5, 2007
November 15, 2006
November 17, 2007 Turtleback A Year Later (external link)