Matia Loop Trail
The Matia Island trail begins and ends near the Rolfe Cove pay station. The trail is a relatively easy one mile loop with no overly steep sections The small trails leading down the banks of the various coves can be a little challenging.
The steepest portion of the trail is at the very end of your trip if you begin your hike from the pay box and go forward and clockwise. I took the trail both ways and found clock wise to be more interesting, perhaps because the climb is so gradual and you are treated to numerous vistas near the end of your hike including a panoramic view of Rolfe cove where you can stop and snap a photo of your boat down below.
On your trip around the island you'll see a number of enormous fallen trees and a number of them that seem to have been hit by lightening-- Some survived and some didn't. The large tree to the left was snapped at its trunk probably during a winter storm and appeared to have fallen right onto the information board because I noticed it looked rebuilt and the top of it had new shingles. Its a good thing the tree didn't fall in the other direction on one of the campsites or on a row of tents.
Warning- Area Closed!
As you make your way to the large cove on the back side of the island you come upon a posted area that is off limits to the public. This portion of the island was placed off limits to protect the local wildlife, mainly Eagles and Puffins. This area also happens to be where the island's famous hermit used to live. Some people say that a crusty old man still lives there and you don't want to know what he does to unwelcome visitors-- At least I won't repeat it here. Even though probably none of it's true, I don't know that I'd want to find out for sure.
From the large cove located on the East side of Matia island you have a nice view of Lummi island in the background. There are no facilities, picnic tables, or pay box ashore, just a park sign welcoming you ashore. This cove appears to provide protection from all but easterly winds and waves and has a very shallow sandy beach. There is a somewhat steep access trail leading up to the main loop trail that some people probably shouldn't attempt to climb. All in all, this isn't an anchorage abut it just might hit the spot if Rolfe cove is full and you can't stand the thought of ending up in Echo Bay on Sucia again. (Important: Always check your charts before attempting to enter any cove or bay).
There is evidence along the trail that the winds on Matia must be incredibly strong at times. One area has steep rock walls on both sides that form a narrow canyon where the wind was breezy during my visit and the wind must really rip through there during storms. All of the lower branches of these trees had been snapped off and cleared out.
As you continue around the Matia loop trail to the south you happen upon a small cove that looks out over the water to the northern portion of Orcas Island. There are sometimes bald eagles in the area as well as dolphins and of course numerous puffins splashing around and having a grand time. This may be a good spot for you to land if you're in a kayak and looking for a secluded place to have lunch or rest up before continuing your journey, but there are no facilities here and the climb up to the trail is very steep and sandy. You simply can't beat Rolfe cove, whether you arrive by sailboat, power boat, or kayak.
You might be surprised to find a swamp or bog on Matia island but there is a small green lagoon that you pass by as your trail winds its way back to Rolfe Cove. This explains why there are so many mosquitoes and other insects buzzing around this part of the island. The surface of the water is covered in green algae that makes it look almost like a manicured lawn, but there are water plants poking out of it here and there and you'll see an occasional ripple in the water from something swimming around in it. Hopefully just a frog.
On your approach and when you leave Matia island, it looks like it's just a big rock in the middle of Puget Sound, but after spending some time on the island and walking its trails, You realize it's much larger than it first appears. Matia Island is approximately 145 acres and while not all of it is open to visitors, It is well worth a visit if you are ever cruising the northern San Juans. It is also a fantastic destination for kayaking on a multi-day trip from nearby Orcas Island.