Rediscovering Washington’s State Parks

The North Head Lighthouse at Cape Disappointment State Park offers a fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean – J. Kruse

Washington State Parks are reopening for camping across the state in areas that have achieved a Phase 2 recovery status during the COVID-19 pandemic. That makes this a great time to rediscover these treasured places we’ve been unable to visit for much of this year. If you are looking for some ideas on which ones to go to you could always start with the most popular parks. After all, people are coming to them in droves and they do so for a reason! With that in mind I reached out to Meryl Lassen with Washington State Parks and learned three of the most visited state parks in 2019 were:


DECEPTION PASS STATE PARK which is Washington’s most popular state park. Located on Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands, it received more than three million visitors last year, more than many of our National Parks. At over 3800 acres it’s a big park and there is plenty of salt and freshwater shoreline to enjoy whether you take in the views of Puget Sound from the beach or explore the three lakes found here. This big park also offers ample opportunities for camping with over 300 camping and RV sites available in three campgrounds, the largest near Cranberry Lake.


Besides camping and exploring this huge park there are several things you can do while you are here. The photogenic Deception Pass bridge is a place you have to visit that links the two islands. On Fidalgo Island Bowman Bay is a great place to hang out for the day and explore by kayak. If you don’t have a kayak or experience Anacortes Kayak Tours offers fun guided trips here to paddlers of all experience levels. The main portion of the park is on Whidbey Island. It features both a huge saltwater beach with great views and Cranberry Lake, a fun place to cast a line for trout, bass and perch. During odd-numbered years in the late summer you can also cast for pink and coho salmon off the beach. Finally, if you want to stretch your legs there are 38 miles of trails to explore including 3 miles of bike trails.


CAPE DISAPPOINTMENT STATE PARK near Ilwaco offers lots of things to do in a beautiful setting near the mouth of the Columbia River. History buffs will enjoy learning about this park, formerly known as Fort Canby, that served as a military installation. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is a world class museum chronicling this famous expedition that surveyed the Pacific Northwest. There are also two picturesque lighthouses are also worth visiting. The stretch of sand between the two lighthouses is Benson Beach which is perfect for strolling and there is also a freshwater lake where you can cast for trout.  The large campground at the park has 210 camping and RV sites. There are also 14 yurts here and three lakefront cabins for rent.  


RIVERSIDE STATE PARK near Spokane receives over a million visitors a year who come to this 9200-acre park for a variety of fun reasons.  Fifty-five miles of trail await hikers and bicyclists to include a link to the Spokane Centennial Trail which runs all the way to the Idaho border. Sitting along the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers fishing is an option as well as white water rafting in Class III rapids. Equestrians enjoy 25 miles of trails and there is even a horse friendly campground here. Three other small campgrounds (the largest having 32 campsites) are available as well.


If you want to visit our state parks keep in mind a Discover Pass is required to do so if you arrive in a vehicle. You can purchase an annual pass for $35 or a day use pass for $10. The funds from these passes helps provide funding to operate our parks system.  If you are low on cash and can’t afford a pass you can always visit on June 13th. This is “National Get Outdoors Day” and is a fee free day to enjoy our state parks.  


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