Whistle Lake

ACFL Trails #26 - #207 - #21 - #204 (Mt. Erie to Whistle Lake)

To Whistle Lake: 2 mi. RT/60 min. – the shortest hiking route to Whistle Lake without driving there (can hike further, depending on how far you want to walk around Whistle Lake)
Description: Forested, hilly with one short steep section
Views: Whistle Lake

Directions: Follow signs to Mt. Erie and drive 1.4 mi. up the Mt. Erie Road until you see this sign on the left. If the three trailhead parking spots are taken, use the shoulder just ahead on the right.

Warm up on mostly flat trail #26 for .21 mi. then turn left onto #207 at the Whistle Lake sign (below left) and head downhill through heavy ferns and light forest. (When you decide how far to walk around Whistle Lake, remember that you will have to ascend this fairly steep slope at the end of your hike!)

After .4 mi. turn right at the broad path that’s #21 and follow it for .25 mi. to #204 that skirts the north side of the lake. As you walk along the lake, you can take various short trails on the right to get better lake views (or even get in for a swim if it’s warm enough).

The mileage above is based on turning around at first view of the lake – if you hike the entire lake loop on #204, then #205 (south side) and use #22 to connect back to #21, it adds 2.4 mi. to your overall hike.

View from north side of Whistle Lake, the most popular swimming lake on Fidalgo Island.

ACFL Trail #248

.5 miles roundtrip (400-ft. elevation rise) / 10 min.
Views:  Connects to #247 trails with views of Lake Erie, Mt. Erie and Lake Campbell
Directions: From Anacortes, drive south out of town on H Avenue, which becomes Heart Lake Road. Trailhead parking is on the left ½ mile south of the “twin trees” (see photo below left). From Hwy. 20, turn west on Lake Campbell Road, then right at the Lake Erie Grocery. The trailhead is almost immediately on the right, just after the white fenced yard.

There’s no warming up – trail #248 immediately climbs 400 ft. Recently on the way down, I passed a first-timer to this hike who said, “Why would anyone do this for fun?” and the obvious answer is, “Because it feels so good when you come back down!”

There are many rewards for this immediate expenditure of energy: access to the #247 trails that provide views of Lake Erie, Mt. Erie and many big leaf maples and Pacific madrones, rock falls and old cedars. 

Known as the climbers’ trail, #248 and its connecting #247 trail(s) indeed serve as the springboard for those climbing the face of Mt. Erie. 

At the end of the steep initial climb, pause to catch your breath and to decide whether you’ll choose the left fork (see northbound #247) or right fork (see south & eastbound #247). Both offer lake views and pleasantly challenging ups and downs, so either one is a winning choice.

ACFL Trail #247

#247 South and Eastbound (from #248)
1.5 miles roundtrip / 40 min. 
Forested, rocky in places
Views:  Mt. Erie and Lake Campbell
Directions: See #248 which connects to #247.

From #248, if you take a right, you’ll walk along the south side of Mt. Erie on a trail that was just recently “opened” and rebuilt by volunteers (thanks!), after years of being considered a private trail. The trail cuts through thick second-growth evergreens sprinkled with madrones. There are lots of mild ups and downs only a couple of longer inclines. Make sure to glance to your left to glimpse the south face of Mt. Erie, maybe even with climbers in action. (You’re more likely to hear them than see them.)

Within 20 minutes you’re here, overlooking Lake Campbell and its evergreen-forested mid-lake island.

The trail runs all the way to Whistle Lake, but that’s a project for another longer hiking day. 


#247 Northbound (from #248)
1.6 miles roundtrip / 40 min. (give or take 5 min. to catch photos [and my breath])
Description:  Sunny with forested pockets, rocky trail in spots
Views: Mt. Erie and Lake Campbell

Directions: See above for #248 that connects with #247.

Turn left off #248 for a mostly sunny hike that rewards immediately with a view of Lake Erie and the San Juans beyond. 

There are plenty of ups and downs to keep this trail interesting. But most interesting are features like the “sculpture garden” mid-trail comprised of a tumble of large rocks. if you’re lucky, a little further on, you’ll see someone learning to climb along a 30-foot rockface of Erie, close at hand. 
Even further along, after pushing up a minor hill, an old big leaf maple has stretched and bent along its neighboring rock wall. It’s especially striking at spring or fall when the leaves are glowing with color. 

As you walk, keep glancing up to the madronas perched on the cliff face or even catch a glimpse of a climber mid-climb.

All along the trail, pay attention to where you place your feet, especially in fall when the trail is buried in dinner plate-sized maple leaves. This trail is rocky and could be an ankle-turner if you’re not watching. But it’s virtually never muddy, which is great for November days when it’s been raining mercilessly and you want to grab more sunshine than can penetrate deep into most of the Forestlands trails. 

If you do the full roundtrip of the northbound trail, you’ll have deserved a rest on the bench that overlooks Lake Erie. A stand of madronas balances out the view of overhead power lines that stretch across the lake. 


#247  from the north “trailhead”
1.6 miles roundtrip / 40 min. to #248 connector; 3.2 miles roundtrip / 1.5 hrs. to Lake Campbell overlook on southbound/eastbound leg
Views:  Lake Erie, Mt. Erie and Lake Campbell

Directions: From Anacortes, drive south out of town on H Avenue, which becomes Heart Lake Road. From Hwy. 20, turn west on Lake Campbell Road, then right at the Lake Erie Grocery. Park on the west shoulder of Heart Lake Road just north of the “twin trees” (1/2 mi. north of the Lake Erie Grocery), then walk across the road to the trail adjacent to the east tree.

This entrance is the secret to taking this shaded/sunny trail and avoiding the BIG HILL (trail #248). This is also a rewarding way to start as you immediately encounter a rock wall with falling water and dripping springs and ferns, then a shady forest glen before reaching the sunnier portions of the trail. (See above for the full description of Trail #247.)

This hike is even a good one in the snow, once you know the trail. If you don’t know it, it could be dangerous, as the trail is narrow and a bit tricky in places. I’ve done it once in snow and it was beautiful – snow covering rock slides and madrone trees, ferns laced with white. If the snow blows in from the west, the mountain takes a direct hit and you’ll see more snow here than on other Forestlands trails where the heavy canopy of cedars and firs protect the trails.