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Conserving wildlife habitat, agricultural and forest lands, scenic open space, wetlands, and shorelines for the benefit of our community and as a legacy for future generations.

Guemes Mountain & Valley Property

Property Description

The Guemes Mountain & Valley Conservation Area was protected through an unprecedented partnership between Skagit Land Trust,  the San Juan Preservation Trust, and the residents of Guemes Island.  Hundreds of donors contributed to protecting this jewel of the islands. Read all about the Campaign to Save Guemes Mountain and the 2015 Guemes Forever Campaign to expand the conservation area.

“Guemes Island has a long history of visionary landowners undertaking voluntary land conservation. These protected lands add so much value to the island’s heritage. No matter the changes to Guemes Island over the decades, this area will remain rural and natural, and serve as a sanctuary for people and wildlife.” - Carolyn Gastellum, Guemes Island Land Steward 2017.

Community members tour Guemes Valley property, October 2017. Photograph credit: Skagit Land Trust staff.

A generous donation of 127 acres in 2017 expanded the size of the Guemes Mountain & Valley Conservation Area to a total of 206 acres. The Guemes Mountain & Valley Conservation area connects to over 500 acres of public and private land designated for conservation on Guemes Island.

The Guemes Mountain & Valley Conservation Area plays an important role as a buffer to adjacent protected properties along the coastline, including a parcel acquired by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to protect perigrine falcon and bald eagle nesting habitat, as well as habitat for other seabirds that nest along the rocky ledges on the coast. The mountaine prairie, woodland and wetland habitat of the Guemes Mountain & Valley Conservation Area property complements the shoreline feeder bluff of the Kelly's Point property, also managed by Skagit Land Trust on Guemes Island.

View from the summit of Guemes Mountain of Mount Baker, December 2009. Photograph credit: Skagit Land Trust staff.

History and Ecology

At 688 feet, Guemes Mountain is the highest point on Guemes Island and features stunning views of the San Juan Islands, Mount Baker, the North Cascades mountains, and the Skagit delta.  The mountain features five acres of a unique prairie habitat with a wide variety of wildflowers, including Camus lily, Fawn lily and Chocolate lily. This mountaintop prairie may also serve as important nesting habitat for ground birds. 

The bald top of Guemes Mountain is believed to have been treeless for many years, possibly through a combination of fire (either natural or human-led) and most recently due to logging. Consultation is needed with local Coast Salish tribes for information about the pre-colonial Indigenous use and history of the site.  It is believed that the grassland area was once larger and maintained by pre-colonial Indigenous peoples of the Coast Salish tribes. 

Camus lilies bloom atop Guemes Mountain each spring. Photograph credit: Phil Fenner.

Pockets of wildflowers survive on thin soils of the mountain top. Above: Camus lilies bloom atop Guemes Mountain each spring. Photograph credit: Phil Fenner. To protect this fragile habitat, Guemes Mountain is a day hiking site only, and camping, fires, motorized vehicles, bikes and horses are not allowed. Below, Chocolate lily. Photograph credit: Hannah Williams, Skagit Land Trust.

Chocolate lily. Photograph credit: Hannah Williams, Skagit Land Trust staff.

The forest lands of Guemes Mountain were logged most recently in the 1990s. Western red alder, willow and other early successional species have begun to revegetate the slopes of Guemes Mountain. Hikers today can find a mix of hardwood, softwood and shrub species including madrone, grand fir, western hemlock, bitter cherry, pacific yew, red flowering current and native rose. The section of trail that transitions from second growth softwoods (douglas-fir and western hemlock) to hardwood species is an excellent place for viewing woodpeckers. 

Guemes Mountain & Valley Conservation Area. Photograph credit: Skagit Land Trust

The lowland portion of the Guemes Mountain & Valley Conservation Area provides habitat for a number of species including  bald eagles, turkey vultures, swallows, warblers, finches, deer, beaver and amphibians. The Guemes Valley portion of the Guemes Mountain & Valley Conservation area protects 30 acres of working farmland and over 40 acres of critical wetland habitat that flow into the island's only aquifer via Cayou Creek.  The Guemes Valley property preserves one of the last remaining active agricultural areas of significance on the island, an expansive area of wetlands, and extensive second growth forest that is well on its way to becoming an older forest ecosystem. 

Community members participate in a tour of Guemes Mountain geology, July 2012. Photograph credit: Skagit Land Trust staff.

Above: Community members gather on top of Guemes Mountain in January of 2008. Photograph credit: Skagit Land Trust staff.

Stewardship

Restoration work on Guemes Mountain & Valley includes removing invasive plant species including: Canada thistle, bull thistle, foxglove, reed canargy grass, St. Johns wort, scotch broom and Herb Robert. Thanks to the hard work of volunteers, the Skagit Land Trust is actively managing invasive plant species on the property. 

Above: A group of Skagit Land Trust Staff, Volunteer Land Stewards and volunteers gather for a work party to remove thistle from along the Guemes Mountain Trail. Photograph credit: Skagit Land Trust staff.

Click here to view information about the land stewards for this and other Skagit Land Trust properties.

Guemes Mountain & Valley Conservation Area is part of broader effort of land conservation on Guemes Island and contributes to establishing a wildlife corridor with adjacent properties managed by the San Juan Island Preservation Trust and other land conservation agencies. 

Map of Guemes Island Coastal Wetlands Protection and Wildlife Corridor. Map generated in GIS by Skagit Land Trust staff (2017).

Above: Aerial map of lands on Guemes Island that is under Coastal Wetlands Protection designation. The Skagit Land Trust properties contribute to a wildlife and habitat corridor in the southern half of the island. Map generated in GIS by Skagit Land Trust staff (2017). Click on the map for a larger image.

Engaging Youth in Conservation

Guemes Mountain & Valley is a popular site for our Engaging Youth in Conservation program. Many groups have visited this site to participate in restoration work and to enjoy the natural beauty. 

Community members gather on top of Guemes Mountain. Photograph credit: Unknown.

The Skagit Land Trust Engaging Youth in Conservation Program provides hands-on learning experiences in nature and connects the subjects they are studying in the classroom to the real world. The program also instills stewardship ethics and shows students the difference they can make in their community. Photograph credit: Skagit Land Trust staff.

Access

Skagit Land Trust Map of Guemes Moutain & Valley Conservation Area and Guemes Mountain Trailhead parking.

 Click on the map above for an enlarged image. 

The protection of Guemes Mountain & Valley Conservation Area ensures that this scenic location is maintained in a natural state for the public to enjoy. Skagit Land Trust collaborated with Washington Trails Association to build a 1.2 mile long trail up the mountain in 2010-2011.  The trail starts on a trail easement, winding through forest on a neighboring property.  It then emerges onto SLT property, ending at a beautiful mountaintop with views of the surrounding San Juan islands. The trail has an elevation gain of 550 feet. Low impact day hiking is allowed, with dogs on leash and waste carried out. We do not allow biking, horseback riding, motorized vehicles, fires or overnight camping. The habitat at the top of the mountain is unusual and fragile. Please walk on the paths instead of through delicate vegetation.

Local illustrator and cartographer Jocelyn Curry illustrated a map of the Guemes Mountain Trail.

Local illustrator and cartographer Jocelyn Curry illustrated a map of the Guemes MountainTrail.

 

Click on the map above for a larger image. 

Click here for further information about the Guemes Mountain Hike from the Washington Trails Association.

Click here for a Google map to the Guemes Mountain trailhead. 

Parking is available for four cars and a bike rack is at the trailhead. If you bike, bring your own lock. Do not park on the side of the road because parked cars will block the ability of Guemes fire trucks to pass. Since parking is limited we suggest leaving extra cars at the Guemes Ferry free parking lot or in Anacortes.

The Guemes Island General Store has a courtesy bike program, where hikers can ride the ferry and borrow one or two bikes to get to the trailhead. Contact Guemes Island General Store at (360-293-4548) to reserve the bikes. Bathrooms are available where designated above on the map, at the Schoolhouse Park, the ferry terminal, and, for customers, inside of the Guemes Island general store.

Click here for the Guemes Island Ferry schedule.

 Guemes Island Ferry Terminal. Photograph credit: Skagit Land Trust staff.

How to Get There

Take WA-20 west to Anacortes. Continue on WA-20 Spur west. Turn right on Commercial Avenue. Turn left at 12th street. Turn right at I Avenue. Board the Guemes Island/Anacortes Ferry. Turn right on Commercial Ave. and travel 1.3 miles. Turn left on 12th St. and travel 0.5 miles. Turn right at I Ave. and travel 0.4 miles to the Guemes Island Ferry. From the Guemes Island Ferry terminal, turn right onto S. Shore Road (Southshore Road). Follow for 1.6 miles. Turn right on S. Shore Road follow for another 0.4 miles. Look for a gravel parking area on the right.

Property Info

  • Type: Trust-Owned
  • Location: Guemes Island
  • Acreage: 80 acres
  • Date Added: 2009 and 2015
  • Please visit this property!

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