The hike up Young Hill is a San Juan Island classic. A moderate trail leading to surprisingly expansive views, and the short side trip to the English Camp cemetery offers a chance to observe unique natural and historical features.
From the parking lot at English Camp, find the trail in the eastern corner of the lot and head southeast. At the first branch in the trail, which you will encounter minutes after starting your hike, stay right. (Taking a left leads to Bell Point.)
The trail starts climbing almost immediately; very gradually at first, steeper sections will come as you approach the summit. But first, cross San Juan Valley Road at 0.3 miles. Cross carefully and pick up the trail on the other side of the road, following a smooth, wide grade the entire way. Be sure to pause and admire the many Pacific madrona trees, with red bark that peels away to reveal a smooth, light-green trunk beneath.
At 0.36 miles, a signed path on the right leads to the English Camp cemetery, worth a stop as you ascend or descend Young Hill. The cemetery is a memorial to seven Royal Marines who died on the island in the 1860s. Four of them perished by drowning, and the cause of death is unknown for the remaining three. While paying your respects to these English soldiers, look up and observe the gnarled Garry Oaks that surround the cemetery. These oaks are part of an ongoing restoration project, and are making a comeback thanks to prescribed burns carried out by the National Park Service.
After your side trip to the cemetery, head back to the main trail and continue climbing. You will reach your first viewpoint at 0.8 miles, and although this is not the summit of Young Hill, it does include an informative plaque naming some geographic features that are visible on a clear day. Keep climbing, and at 1.0 miles reach the summit, with even better views of the Salish Sea and surrounding islands.
Several trails branch out from the summit, and there are many options for those looking to extend their journey. Before you wander down that maze of trails, be sure to download maps from the San Juan Island Trails website, and be confident in your navigation skills. There is no cell service beyond the summit of Young Hill.
WTA Pro Tip: There is limited parking where the trail crosses San Juan Valley Road. If you have very small children or others who aren’t up for the two-mile roundtrip climb, you could start your hike at the road and end at the first viewpoint. This results in a 1.2 mile roundtrip walk which will still give you a sense of your surroundings along with views of the island and water.