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Heart Lake, Anacortes— November 2000

By Brenda Senturia

The trail around Heart Lake takes the hiker through some of the most beautiful large Douglas fir and western red cedar remaining in the Puget Sound area. Heart Lake is bordered by Heart Lake State Park on the south and Anacortes Community Forest Lands on the north. This 2-mile walk is flat and the trail passes through a number of interesting habitats. There are lovely spots for relaxing along the lakeside. The Heart Lake Loop is an excellent choice for a family hike.

Look for the trailhead (signs saying Erie View Trail and Pine Loop Trail) across Heart Lake Road from the parking area. Immediately, bear right and then again bear right on Trail 210 after a few hundred yards. The understory here contains many species, the dominant ones being miner's lettuce, sword fern, twinflower, dewberry, and creeping buttercup. Grand fir, western hemlock, and bigleaf maple are scattered through the forest. Red huckleberry, Indian plum, salmonberry, and red elderberry make up much of the shrub layer. The trail veers left near Heart Lake and more or less follows the shoreline all around the lake. Approaching a small stream crossing, there is a wetland with skunk cabbage, willows, and Carex obnupta. Continue around the lake. As you leave the state park, the character of the forest changes with more deciduous tree species. Watch for a few water birch trees here. The trail can be muddy, but doesn't involve any wading. Always staying right, you will cross the outlet stream and soon reach a parking area with pit toilets. For the last quarter-mile, follow the road back to the parking area.

There are wonderful birds along this trail (in season): nesting osprey, bald eagles, pileated woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, brown creepers, Hutton's vireos, and many more woodland species. Virginia rails are found year-round in the cattails and marshy areas. In winter, you can see ring-necked ducks, common mergansers, bufflehead, and common goldeneyes on the lake. Wood ducks and pied-billed grebes breed in the summer.

To reach the trailhead, take I-5 north to Exit 230 (Anacortes). Cross the freeway and head west on Route 20. Go about 12 miles and, before reaching Anacortes, turn left and stay on Route 20 toward Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island. In 1.8 miles, take Campbell Lake Road, staying straight as Route 20 turns left. After 1.5 miles, stay right at a 'Y' intersection, see Lake Erie Grocery. Stay on Heart Lake Road about a mile and park at the Sugarloaf Trailhead parking area on your right. Driving time is about 1¾ hours.

Updated: July 3, 2016
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