This is a pleasant walk around Briggs Lake on San Juan Island. Don’t let the detailed instructions deter you — though there are a few intersections to navigate, this is a great way to explore the wooded highlands of San Juan Island, enjoy some lake views, and perhaps catch sight of a bald eagle.
Start your hike at the junction of West Valley Road and Roche Harbor Road. You won’t be able to see Briggs Lake from here, but know that you will be circumnavigating the lake counterclockwise. As you face the trailhead, choose the path on the far right. This will lead you to a trail immediately adjacent and parallel to West Valley Road. The road itself may be visible through the trees on your right.
Follow this singletrack as it winds gradually uphill, continuing to run parallel to the road. At 0.25 miles, come to a junction. Take a right at this junction, and just 50 feet later you will intersect a service road. To the right is a yellow gate; you’re not going that way. Instead, take a left on this service road and stay left again as the route immediately winds through another clearing and junction.
You will know you are on the right track as you start to gradually climb up the service road, with a small creek running down the ravine to your left.
At 0.6 miles there is a signed junction for Mt Young to the right. Stay straight. At 0.75 miles Briggs Lake finally comes into view. Please respect all signs and do not take animals within 50 feet of the Lake. There is also no fishing, swimming, or boating in the lake.
At 1 mile, you’ll pass a short trail towards the lake, and enter a clearing with mossy rocks and madrona trees characteristic of the island. Listen for bald eagles twittering in the trees above as you continue to catch glimpses of the lake to your left.
You may notice a signed junction for DNR (Department of Natural Resources) property on the right at 1.3 miles, as well as unsigned singletrack branching off the main trail at 1.5 miles. Ignore both of these and continue straight. You are now rounding the southwest side of the lake, via a nice long stretch of gently rolling double track along the southwest side of the lake.
At just under 2.5 miles take a left at a T-junction, following the sign and arrow to Roche Harbor Road. Ignore faint double track veering off to the right at 2.6 miles and continue to stay on the well-worn path. Now heading northeast, continue back to your car, staying on the well-traveled service road and ignoring any tracks or paths that branch off.
At 3.3 miles, reach another T-junction and take a right. From here it's a gentle half-mile descent down the dirt road to Roche Harbor Road. When you reach Roche Harbor Road, take a left and follow a short path back to your car at the intersection of West Valley and Roche Harbor Rd. Congratulations, you successfully circumnavigated Briggs Lake!
WTA Pro-Tip: Note that throughout this hike you will see occasional signs for the “Lake Loop”. This is different from the route that you are following today, so don't be tempted to follow the signs! As with all hikes, we recommend using a GPS and/or map and compass as you navigate.