If you are among the millions who count Deception Pass as a wonder of the Northwest you will be pleased to know the sweeping views from neighboring Sharpe Park include the Pass. Come prepared to exercise all of your senses, and if a photo record of your trips is a goal, keep that shutter finger ready.
Sharpe Park and Montgomery-Duban Headlands is a county-owned park abutting private property and the Fidalgo Island side of Deception Pass State Park. The classic Northwest shoreline forest is laced with trails, both of the family-friendly variety and some more suited to serious hikers.
Just steps from the parking area the park visitor is welcomed into an open meadow, ringed by trees and featuring picnic tables and a seating area built around a sun dial. From there the hiker enters the woods, but within minutes the trail swings along the perimeter of a lush wetland. Listen for the twill of redwinged blackbirds and keep watch for ducks and birds including the beautiful hooded merganser.
As you might expect, the initial trail surface into the forest and abutting wetland is enhanced with timber “curbing” and gravel. Before long, however, the trail is all natural, with occasional signposts the only evidence of man’s intervention.
Enjoy a diverse landscape of mosses, ferns and colorful wildflowers under a canopy of coniferous and and deciduous trees. Watch your step, as many trees push exposed roots into the path (almost as if they are resisting the intrusion of two-legged guests). Ultimately the hiker will find roots, branches and rocks serve as helpful “steps” and “handrails.” The soft forest path is a welcome departure from asphalt and concrete.
A trail map, available online, is an excellent idea, especially for the novice hiker who might find route decisions intimidating. Most popular among the trails is the path that leads to the Sares Head Overook, about 400 feet above water.
Again, those who appreciate photo evidence of their adventures are going to want to keep their cameras handy. It is not uncommon to encounter tiny forest birds and birds of prey including bald eagles and osprey. Also “performing” offshore from time to time are harbor porpoises, and wetland residents include ducks and songbirds.
If you have the time, consider packing in a meal. Water is always a good idea in terms of hydrating a body taxed by a vigorous hike. As the county park brochure says: “Be warned. You may discover this park is your favorite hidden gem!”
Note: Most challenging among the park’s trails is the Porpoise Park Trail on the far north side of the park. In addition to elevation, challenges include some terrain that requires extra precautions, especially when wet. All challenges are well worth it, however, as the area opens up to madrona groves and massive rock cliffs with waves crashing below.
Location: 14962 Rosario Road, Anacortes. From Interstate 5 at Burlington, take Exit 230 and head west on Highway 20. After 12 miles, cross the twin bridge over the Swinomish Channel to Fidalgo Island. In a few more miles turn left at Sharpe’s Corner, following the highway south toward Deception Pass and Whidbey Island. Prepare to run right when you see Pass Lake. Turn right on Rosario Road (before reaching the bridge) and the park is on the left in 1.7 miles. Look for a large sign and distinctive sculpture of a giant insect.
By Steve Berentson