Ross Lake Resort
Every day Seasonal
Photo Credit: Bud Hardwick
Ross Lake Resort is a small village floating on the waters of a remote mountain lake, surrounded by an alpine wilderness. The resort offers a dizzying array of services to all types of visitors: rustic cabins, boat and pedestrian transport, boat rentals by the hour or day, water taxi service throughout the 21 mile length of Ross Lake, and box pickups for through hikers. Open only during the late spring through early fall; getting to the resort is a major part of the experience. With no direct drive-up access a number of varied options are available to visitors. For those wanting the fullest of the wilderness experience, trail approaches are possible with one-way distances ranging from 2 ½ miles via the Ross Dam Trail to nearly 50 miles beginning at the Hannegan Trail. For a less strenuous approach arrangements can be made through the resort for a roadside boat pickup on the shores of Diablo Lake. From there a motorized portage followed by a second, shorter boat ride, can bring you to within a few steps of your floating cabin’s front door. When summer access to Hozomeen Camp is available, boaters can make the 21 mile journey to the resort but only after hauling their boat over 40 miles of gravel road by way of British Columbia, Canada.
A little more than a mile of trail connects the north end of Ross Dam with the resort and is a study in contrasts. From the great manmade monolith of Ross Dam the trail wanders off casually into the bush. Past a few ruins it becomes a typical forest trail with no hint of its extraordinary connection. Avoiding cliffs and rocky bluffs along the shore it gains elevation while occasionally providing somewhat aerial views of the lake and dam. The trail passes through open forest, past large rocky blocks and crosses streams decorated with small but picturesque waterfalls. At a trail junction, the Big Beaver Trail continues while the resort is a few short steep switchbacks down to the lake. From the lake shore besides a few anchoring cables and utility lines there is only a small walk-on gangplank making a connection between the resort and the land.
In addition to an office, small store, and various maintenance and repair shops a small marina services boaters both large and small. A virtual fleet of rental boats is also available allowing visitors to avoid the entire process of bringing their own. If your plans include camping, be sure to obtain the required permits from the National Park before arriving. Staying at the resort can be a relatively luxurious experience, at least by wilderness standards. If using boat and portage services there’s hardly any limit to the food and comfort items you can bring along. The rustic cabins are comfortably furnished, provide kitchens and baths, and there’s barbecue facilities on your surrounding deck. You may even want to upgrade to a more modern two story cabin if that’s what your group desires.
While there aren’t any restaurant facilities, through hikers long from civilization can prearrange for food and equipment caches to be shipped here providing a welcomed resupply of their necessities. In the not rare event that their plans change and they don’t make it this far, the resort will gladly ship their items back or donate them whichever the hiker prefers. During the busy summer and increasingly popular early fall, cabin and boat rentals may all be reserved so plan ahead and make arrangements early for that special trip. While all comers are welcomed to the resort there are only a few requirements for visitors. Be aware that each cabin opens on its own section of lakeside dock so tie up your boat in visitor areas and don’t block someone’s front porch. Also, while the resort owners like dogs the restricted space and varied clientele prohibit dogs from being brought onto the resort floats.
For many who come to the resort, especially repeat visitors who enjoy their annual trip, socializing and relaxing may be the main goals. Sitting in warm reflected sunlight, catching up on a year’s happenings, fishing during a lazy afternoon, or watching the daily change in the bird life may be all the excitement that they require. Though the resort is entirely waterborne there’s little sense of motion. Massive old growth logs are the primary source of floatation and provide a welcomed stability. Most visitors find the experience to be a subtle and pleasant “softness” and nothing like being on a boat. So whether a visit to the Ross Lake Resort is a destination or an interesting side trip, you’ll almost certainly find it a memorable and enjoyable part of your wilderness adventure.
Ross Lake Resort can only be accessed by trail, boat, or a combination of the two. Access points include Ross Dam Trail, Hozomeen Camp, and Diablo Lake (see related articles this website for more details).
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San Juan Islands