Craft Island is a 2½-acre rock knob, reachable by an easy (but muddy) walk of just under 1 mile. (Mark Carlson / The Herald)

Craft Island is a 2½-acre rock knob, reachable by an easy (but muddy) walk of just under 1 mile. (Mark Carlson / The Herald)

Skagit County’s lovely Craft Island is worth the muddy trek

The rock knob at the mouth of the Skagit River boasts sandy beaches and swimmable water.

Don’t wear your best pair of hiking boots to Craft Island.

Unless your “best” pair of hiking boots are actually beat to heck and probably should be pitched into the trash bin.

The walk to Craft Island, a 2½-acre rock knob protruding from the delta at the mouth of the north fork of the Skagit River, can be a muddy trek — even in the summer.

But the muck is well worth it. And the walk is an easy, albeit sloshy, stroll. You can wear flip-flops or ratty old sneakers, or maybe even go barefoot.

The short (just over 1½ miles round-trip) hike takes you to a pretty islet with topography and flora like that of the San Juan Islands to the northwest. Juniper, mossy rock balds and, in season, wildflowers carpet the island’s sunny side.

And Craft Island also offers two absolute rarities for Western Washington: sandy beaches and, in warm weather, swimmable water.

At low tide, you can walk for miles on the hard-packed sand beach. (Mark Carlson / The Herald)

At low tide, you can walk for miles on the hard-packed sand beach. (Mark Carlson / The Herald)

To get there, you park at a state Fish and Wildlife access point at the end of Rawlins Road (see If You Go on this page). You don’t need a Discover Pass — there are no improvements here. But be sure to lock your vehicle and keep valuables out of sight. Our car was prowled there once.

The trail crosses over a dike and meanders in the general direction of the island. You might be tempted to ditch the trail and cut straight across the salt marsh directly toward the hump of land, but don’t do it. The marsh is pockmarked with holes and trenches that are hard to see and would be unpleasant, perhaps even dangerous, to fall into.

Juniper and moss- and lichen-covered rocks make the south side of Craft Island look just like the San Juan Islands farther north. It’s an easy climb to the island’s high point for views in every direction. (Mark Carlson / The Herald)

Juniper and moss- and lichen-covered rocks make the south side of Craft Island look just like the San Juan Islands farther north. It’s an easy climb to the island’s high point for views in every direction. (Mark Carlson / The Herald)

When the island is reached, you’ll scramble up a short rocky bank, follow the path through a pleasant little forest, and emerge on the other side with 360-degree vistas of Skagit Bay, the Cascade Range, Camano and Whidbey islands, and the Olympics.

It’s a great walk for kids and dogs, both of whom will love splashing about in the shallow water. There is a deeper river channel nearby, so keep an eye on small children if they venture in that direction.

You need to time your Craft Island visit with the tides. I recommend starting the hike an hour or so before a zero or minus tide on a warm sunny day. That way, you can enjoy water that’s warm enough to swim in when the tide rises on the sun-baked flats.

Craft Island can be visited by boat — although high tide is the best time to do that. (Mark Carlson / The Herald)

Craft Island can be visited by boat — although high tide is the best time to do that. (Mark Carlson / The Herald)

At low tide, you can walk the flats for several miles — maybe all the way to rugged Ika Island about 1½ miles to the west, depending on the river level. But consult the tide chart for La Conner and be careful — you don’t want to be stranded on a distant beach by the rising tide.

There are no toilet facilities on Craft Island and no drinking water. Plan accordingly.

Camping is not allowed, and you’re supposed to leave by sundown.

When you get home, hose the mud off your ratty old boots — but don’t throw them away. You’ll need them for your next sunny afternoon on Craft Island.

If you go

The Craft Island trailhead is at the end of Rawlins Road on Fir Island, Skagit County. Take I-5 exit 221 at Conway and drive west on Fir Island Road for about 5 miles. Turn left at Rawlins Road, just past the seasonal produce stand. Follow Rawlins Road to its dead-end. There is room to park on the road’s edge. When leaving, take care turning around — there are deep ditches on both sides of the road.

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