Touring - San Juan / Gulf Islands camping
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05-02-07, 09:12 AM
I am planning to do a tour around the San Juan and Gulf Islands in June and would really prefer to wing it as far as the itinerary goes. Problem is, everything I've read makes it sound like the campgrounds (at least on San Juan is.) fill up and reservations are needed. My experience in the past in CA/OR/WA has been that any campground with hiker/biker sites will always have room for a couple more. Is this the case on the Islands, or do I really need to bite the bullet and make reservations?
05-02-07, 10:39 AM
My experience on Galiano Island has been as you say. When they say they're full, they mean that they have no more room for cars. However, bike campers take up so little space that there's always some room left.
05-02-07, 11:02 AM
Washington State Parks really don't have hiker/biker sites per se. Some parks have walk-in sites - like on Lopez Island and Orcas. The county parks are even smaller - esp on San Juan Island. Camping sites on the San Juans are extremely limited with lots of people - including cyclists - wanting them. If you wing it - I'd suggest that you find a campsite by early afternoon - then take the rest of the day to explore. I've found the Gulf Islands to be even more swamped with tourists - of course I was one of them. You may want to consider reservations on weekends - at least.
05-02-07, 11:10 AM
I also don't like restricting myself to itineraries and having to make reservations. I have done a lot of touring camping on both and only made one reservation and that was at Moran St Park on Orcas.
You are making me go back in time but this is what I remember. It's been about 10 years since I have been to Galiano, but back then we used to camp at Dionisio Provincial park. There was a dispute over the access road so it was turned into a marine park. But, it was pretty easy to walk your bike around the gate and into paradise. It is a magical place. I just checked and looks like it is still a Marine Park. The person above is referring to Montague Harbor Provincial Park and there is open camping where you can usually find a spot if not always. Montague is also an excellent spot (if Dionisio isn't accessible).
On Salt Spring Island there is Ruckle Provincial Park which is also on the water and another fantastic spot. I know it's popular so you might need reservations here.
I remember on Mayne Island there was a B and B that allowed camping in their yard as well as a place that rented Kyaks that did the same.
Regarding the San Juans, the most popular campgrounds would be Spencer Spit on Lopez, Moran on Orcas and San Juan County Park on San Juan. Moran isn't large and fills up even midweek during the summer. It's beautiful and might be worth a reservation. Maybe make it your first stop?? But if it is full, Doe Bay Resort isn't too far away and they at least used to offer camping w/ a clothing optional hot tub and sauna. This would actually be my first choice. They have changed owners a lot over the years so can't say what's happening now but a quick search will tell you. The tent sight used to be on a point over looking the water.
Personally, I don't think reservations are necessary except for Ruckles and Moran. If your first choice is full, you should be able to find something else like a private campground (although there aren't a lot of private ones. The only one that comes to mind is Lakedale on San Juan).
I have to say that I was on San Juan Is a couple weeks ago and I can't believe how busy it is there now. Even mid week in the off season there was lot of traffic. Unless you have more time than you know what to do with, you won't miss much by skipping San Juan. The consensus of my friends and I is, if we have the time, we spend it in the Gulf Islands. If not, then we go to the San Juans. The Gulf Islands were a lot less developed.
If you need more info, let me know.
05-02-07, 12:46 PM
I had no problem on San Juan Island. They have a hiker/biker/kayker site that fits 10 (or is it 20?) people. Further, the campground workers said that the biker/hiker site rarely fills up and if it is full they would find someplace for a biker to put a tent. And, the site is GORGEOUS, a front-row view onto the straight (Juan de Fuca). All of the cager sites are well behind the hiker-biker site, so, it's peaceful, not having to deal with RVs and such.
Lopez has both a state and a county campground. The county campground has a biker/hiker site, it's pretty big, but I always like to reserve a campground along the water, even though it's more money. I'm not sure what their policy is for when-the-biker-hiker-kayaker-site-is-full.
05-02-07, 12:59 PM
Oh, I forgot to mention, it's relatively easy getting reservations if you a) are one tent (not a group) and b) are there on a weekday. I planned my first trip to Lopez and San Juan Islands only 2 weeks advance notice, and, got site reservations. I had to play around a bit with the days, but, it wasn't too hard. It was on that trip that I learned about the hiker-biker-kayaker availability on SJI.
You can't reserve biker-hiker sites; they are first-come-first-serve.
05-02-07, 09:04 PM
Thanks for the help all.
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