Stop by the Anacortes Visitor Information Center (819 Commercial Ave., 360/293-3832, www.anacortes.org) for a guide to trails within the 2,200-acre Anacortes Community Forest Lands around Mt. Erie and Cranberry, Whistle, and Heart Lakes. More than 25 miles of trails are here, with mileage, elevation, and highlights. Many of these paths can be linked into loop hikes for folks of varying physical ability.
The 3.5-mile Whistle Lake Shore Loop circles this small body of water, offering water views, lots of birdlife, and old-growth stands of Douglas fir and cedar. An easy and almost-level path is the Erie View Trail, which departs from Heart Lake Road and follows a seasonal creek to a fine view of Mt. Erie a mile out.
From the trailhead at the intersection of Mount Erie and Heart Lake Roads, hike the half-mile Pine Ridge Loop Trail for more views of Mt. Erie and Sugarloaf. This moderately difficult hike takes from one to two hours.
Another short hike is the 1.6-mile Sugarloaf Trail, starting on Ray Auld Drive six miles from its intersection with Heart Lake Road. Follow the trail from the marshy trailhead straight up, ignoring side trails, to views to the west of Port Townsend, the San Juan Islands, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and north to Bellingham.
The Cranberry Lake area also has a number of hiking paths, including the mile-long John M. Morrison Loop Trail, which starts at the end of 29th Street. This easy loop hike provides bluff-top views of Cranberry Lake and old-growth Douglas fir forests, where some trees are seven feet wide.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition