Explore Anacortes Community Forest Lands, then discover year-old Bastion Brewing.
THE HIKE: Heart Lake and Sugarloaf View, Anacortes (approximately 4.1 miles)
This four-mile loop through Anacortes Community Forest Lands takes you around Heart Lake and up to Sugarloaf View. The first half, a trail that hews close to the lake’s edge, is an undemanding trek, suitable for the most novice of hikers.
It’s only in Mile 3 that the going gets a little tougher. As you tackle ever-steepening inclines en route to a splendid glimpse of Skagit Bay and beyond, you’re bound to break a sweat and kick up a little dirt.
Still, it’s a relatively simple hike and one that’s great for kids (I encountered a day-camp nature lesson at the summit). At 1,044 feet, Sugarloaf is lower in elevation than neighboring Mount Erie (elevation 1,273), but Sugarloaf distinguishes itself by being inaccessible by road, making it easier to embrace the natural isolation of the vast Forest Lands, a 2,800-acre mosaic of city-managed woods, wetlands, lakes and meadows with more than 50 miles of multiple-use trails.
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FACILITIES: A parking lot just off Heart Lake Road can accommodate a couple dozen cars. If that’s full, the lot at the base of Mt. Erie Road is a good alternative. Two vault toilets at the Heart Lake lot, and a boat launch.
THE ROUTE: Trails are marked by brown signs denoting the trail number and listing permitted modes of transit. To get started, look for the sign for Trail 210 out of the parking lot and around Heart Lake (not to be confused with Trail 242).
Right out of the gate, you’ll spot a quaint, wooden bench at the lake’s edge. It’s a perfect place to stop and snag a photo.
I advise against venturing into the water, however. A posted sign tells of an ongoing battle with milfoil, filamentous algae mats, Hornwort and toxic blue-green algae blooms. Per the bulletin, Anacortes Parks & Recreation is working with scientists from Western Washington University and Herrera Environmental Consultants to resolve this ecological headache, but for now it’s probably best to steer clear of Heart Lake’s murky depths.
Back on Trail 210, you’ll move through a forest of firs and ferns. It’s enjoyable, and never arduous, though the canopy is thick and the sun reaches the forest floor only now and again.
You’ll continue like this for roughly 2 miles until the trail dead-ends…