Cap Sante is a forested rocky headland jutting out into Fidalgo Bay from the northeast corner of Anacortes. The name is French for "Cape Health," and was bestowed by Anne Curtis Bowman in 1877. Her maiden name was itself the inspiration for the name "Anacortes." The historical note below offers links for more details.
The streets of the cape provide access to a number of homes, some quite new, others historic. The headland itself is a dedicated park (Cap Sante Park) that has a few trails. An area along the southwestern shore also is a park (Rotary Park) that has a broad shoreline trail leading to a picnic area, plus a disc golf course that offers additional hillside trails.
It's an easy drive to the viewpoint (Cap Sante Lookout) at the tip of the cape, and if you have limited time, or if anyone in your party has mobility issues, that would be a good bet.
To get to know the area on foot, there are a number of options for a hike. Any hike here will involve a mix of city streets and actual trails. You can explore on your own if you like, or follow the route suggested here that will get you to the most interesting areas efficiently. Since the route passes by homes, please stick to the public sidewalks and trails, and respect neighbors property.
Begin near the intersection of 4th St and T Ave, and head east up 4th St to the junction with V Ave. Turn right, and follow V Ave as it first drops a few feet and crosses 5th St (your return route.) Then continue on V Ave as it begins to climb and bend around to the left, passing through a partially forested area. Soon it bends around to the right and becomes W Ave. A group of homes here, both new and vintage, occupy a compact enclave surrounded by park land.
Continue past the homes and head uphill again, once again in forest. Near the top of the hill, just before a sign proclaiming "Welcome to Cap Sante Park," there is a wide spot on the right where 1 or 2 cars could park. A well-established trail heads into the forest from here. Follow it, and in about 300 feet reach an area with a lot of bare rock.
First, check out the knoll to your right that offers a good view toward downtown Anacortes and beyond. Then backtrack a few feet and follow a narrow uphill path around the left side of the rocky area to reach more open, rocky slopes heading uphill to the high point of the cape, only a few hundred feet away.
At the high point, the views to the west, south and east are superb. From the eastern edge of the high point, Mount Baker may be visible. On an exceptionally clear day you may be able to make out the summit dome of Mount Rainier, over 120 miles away to the southeast.
It's possible to scramble down the east side of the cape to the lookout parking area but it's safer to return to W Ave and follow the road around instead. From the lookout area, find good views to the south and east. A sign offers info about Anacortes in the early 1900s when many wood-processing mills were operating.
Once you have looked around the rocky headland, start back on the road and be alert for a trail on the right, just before you reach a speed limit sign. It's fairly obvious but like other trails in the park it is unsigned. It's well-established, and even is shown (very approximately) on online maps. Partway along there is a very well-worn, vintage stone staircase.
As you head farther down that trail you will pass a few side trails on the right. These apparently no longer enjoy regular maintenance. The first two may seem prohibitively rough and you should pass them by. The third side trail is much more inviting, and you can explore it easily. It leads to the site of "Marine Stadium," an impressive stone amphitheater built as a WPA project in 1938, but unfortunately now abandoned. It once was the site of band concerts, and a viewpoint for boat races.
Return to the main forested trail as it proceeds downhill, soon reaching the end of a one-block-long continuation of W Ave. Head north to the end of that block and, at the T-junction, turn right onto 5th St. In a little more than a block reach a very small park at the water's edge. It has three benches and a fine view out to the east. (Please remain in the park and be respectful of neighbors' yards.)
Enjoy the view for a while then, when you are ready, head back west on 5th St to reach V Ave, thus completing your loop. Follow V Ave back to 4th St, and take 4th St back downhill to return to your parking place. At this point you have hiked about 1.6 mi.
Extending your hike
Ready for a bit more exploration? You can add up to 1.6 mi of easier trail to your hike and see some different views. Head south on T Ave until you cross 6th St, where T Ave bends gently left and becomes Rotary Park Ln. It passes some older buildings that today house the Anacortes Yacht Club. Continue on a short way and soon come to a trail fork at the edge of Rotary Park.
The trail on the right, Rotary Park Trail, continues on a few feet above water level passing some large madrone trees. This trail ends at a viewpoint with several picnic tables, two of them under a covered pergola. There are good views out toward the water and up to the cliffy south face of Cap Sante. Down-going stairways offer access to the stony beach. Another pair of stairways head uphill and loop through two higher levels that have additional picnic tables. Ongoing social trails may head further uphill but they quickly become narrow, steep and often muddy. These are best avoided.
Now, return back to the trail fork at the edge of Rotary Park and explore the left trail. This trail leads through a Disc Golf course with nine chain baskets, located on the hillside and linked by a network of very rustic trails. (A bulletin board at the trailhead offers a course map)
On a busy summer weekend golfers may be present. If so, be alert for flying discs! But on a weekday in the off season you might have the area all to yourself and enjoy a quiet stroll around the trails. These are particularly appealing in late October or early November when the leaves change color and a lot of maple leaves are down. When you have seen as much of the course as you like, return to your car the way you came.
The entire city of Anacortes is a wildlife refuge. Deer roam freely, not just in adjoining forested areas but in town too, even in yards and across busy streets. You are quite likely to see deer on Cap Sante. These sightings offer great photo ops, but remember these deer still are wild.
If you approach them closely they may not react well and could become dangerous. And please do not offer them snacks. No matter how well-intentioned, your offerings are not good for the deer. Natural browse is abundant here all year, and the deer are well fed.