If you don’t tell too many people I’ll let you in on the perfect Skagit Valley day trip. Guemes Island. It’s the small, unassuming island you see from the Washington State ferries. It’s off to the east with dense clumps of cedar and spruce, sandy colored, dramatic cliffs and long beaches dotted with humble houses. There are four roads that hug and intersect the island, making the total distance around about 13 miles. Hop on your bike and ride the sweet, little Guemes Ferry over, and exhale. There’s nothing to do over here but breath in the naturally sweet and salty air, relax, explore, enjoy the views and escape from reality for the day.
The Guemes Ferry, at 6th and I Avenue, runs about every half-hour, give or take. You can find the ferry schedule and prices here . Hop on your bike, or rent one from bikespot or Skagit Cycle, and make the 9:15 a.m. ferry. Enjoy the quick, five-minute ride and watch your stress disappear in the ferry’s wake.
The Guemes Island General Store is your first stop, right off the ferry. Load up on snacks, cold beverages (adult or otherwise) and indulge in a fresh baked good. Or two. There are stacks of large cookies, made fresh each day with love, right on the island; chocolate chip, oatmeal macaroon, peanut butter. And, the must-have is the Morning Glory muffin loaded with carrots, raisins and good-for-you but tastes-good-too ingredients. Now you’re ready for adventure. First stop, Guemes Mountain. Head east down South Shore. The wind will whip your hair while you enjoy the unobstructed views of the Guemes Channel, Cap Sante, and the Cascades in the distance. Ride about a mile and a half. When you come to the – what us locals call “the chicken foot” – intersection, bear hard left. In another quarter-mile, you’ll see a bike rack on your left. Park, stretch and start your hike up the mile-ish incline to the summit of Guemes Mountain. Even though you’re going up, you’ll feel like you’ve descended into a magical fairy forest with a cathedral of trees all around you. There are two stop-off points with benches to rest and catch your breath. When you reach the top be sure to take the loop and get every view that this mountaintop provides. And, of course, enjoy that cold beverage you picked up.
With a quick descent you’re back on the road. Pedal southward through the towering forest, which will curve westward and become Edens Road. Get ready for a hill climb, it’s short, but it’s a doozie. You’ll come to an intersection we call the four corners. Here, you have a decision to make. If you’ve come to the island on a Monday or Tuesday, turn right and head north, following the road downhill, along the beach. Oh, hello again, Mt. Baker. Uphill and past the sign for the Guemes Island Resort, and you’ll find your reward at DIGS Kitchen – a mobile food truck at the Guemes Island Resort serving handmade, thin crust pizzas creatively topped with locally sourced ingredients, open Monday & Tuesday 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. I’d recommend whatever is on special. There are picnic tables and views of Mt Baker ready to welcome you for lunch, as well as a nicely curated store at the resort that carries cold beverages. Wander around the beach at Young’s Park after lunch. Skip rocks. Lie down in the grass. Gaze at Mt. Baker. This is what the locals do in the afternoon. It’s like siesta.
If it’s any other day, turn left and head back to the Guemes Island General Store for lunch. (insert menu items here) are waiting for you on the covered porch or under a shady umbrella on the patio. You can test your lawn game skills with cornhole or disc golf, or get nostalgic with a hoola hoop, or veg out in a hammock. This is your getaway day. Enjoy it.
Now friend, your day can end here and be a complete success. The Guemes Island General Store would love you to hang out all afternoon if you’d like. Game for a few more miles? Awesome. Head out of the parking lot and take a quick left on to South Shore Road. It’s a hilly, but enjoyable five miles past Kelley’s Point, along West Shore Road, back down Edens Road and right back to the Store. If you’re leaving DIGS Kitchen, pedal back to the intersection of North Beach Road and West Shore Road (at the sign for Guemes Island Resort & DIGS) and take a right. Soak in the hills and valleys of the west side and the crazy amazing views of Cypress Island. When you hit the hill at Edens Road, you can continue straight, then right at Guemes Island Road, or go right at South Shore Road. Either way, you’ll end up back at the store. It’s a small island. You won’t get lost.
It’s only five minutes away, but Guemes Island can feel like you’ve really escaped. It’s a happy island where folks wave at you, start up a conversation just to be friendly, and enjoy island time to its fullest. If you come, shhhhh. Don’t tell too many people where you’re going. Let it be your secret getaway.