Distance: Just under 3 miles, plus opportunities for more
Elevation Gain: 230 feet
Maps: Anacortes Community Forest Lands Maps – Heart Lake and Whistle Lake, or Green Trails Deception Pass No. 41S.
Description: Anacortes has done an amazing job protecting forest lands in the community. A large network of trails has been developed for a variety of uses. Several lakes fill the valley bottoms, and the forest feels much wilder than one would expect to find so close to town. Heart Lake is accessible, and you can piece together a nice loop around the lake using several trails. Following the directions on a card from Craig Romano’s Winter Hikes Card Deck, we started at the central parking area off of Heart Lake Road. We decided to hike in the opposite direction than Romano describes, as the kids said they wanted “to get the most boring part over with early”. Walk out the driveway back to Heart Lake Road, and cross the road to the trail on the other side. Trail 313 climbs (kids might think it’s steep in spots), but it’s a short climb. Reach a junction at Trail 21, turn right (down), and then look off to the left shortly for Trail 320. This path winds back and forth, then you’ll meet Trail 215; turn right. This takes you to the parking area for the Sugarloaf and Mt. Erie trails. You’ll want to cross Heart Lake Road again here, behind the picnic table, and hit the trail again on the other side of the road. Heading west, Hike on Trail 212 for about a quarter of a mile. When you reach a junction with trail 210, you have a choice – take the longer 210 following the lake shore, or cut across through forest and save about 1/2 a mile. My kids decided they’d prefer the shorter route, so we stayed on 212, took a right on 243, and hit 210 again heading north. Once the trail got close to the lake again, we found a nice spot to sit and have a snack. We continued along Trail 210 all the way around the west and north side of the lake, and back to the parking lot. There are several spots where we could look out to the lake, watching cormorants and other water birds. There is a nice view of Sugarloaf Mountain at one point.
Directions: From I-5 in Burlington, take Highway 20 west toward Anacortes. Cross over the Swinomish Bridge, and then take the exit for Highway 20 south toward Deception Pass and Oak Harbor. Turn right on Campbell Lake Rd. Turn right on Heart Lake Rd. (Mt. Erie Grocery is on the corner.) Look for the parking area off to the left, about 1.25 miles from the grocery. (You will have passed the Mt. Erie and Sugarloaf parking area shortly before it.) There is a large gravel parking area with outhouses. No passes are needed for parking.