There are over 200 parks in the impressive Washington State Parks System. (Who knew?) They all feature an exceptional array of environment, scenery, and various recreational opportunities.
So whether you’re looking to go hit the beach, cool your heels in a cabin, go camping or hiking, engage in water sports, or simply have an outdoor birthday party, Washington has the park for you. So buy your Discover Pass and enjoy yourself! These are the 13 top state parks in Washington.
1. Beacon Rock State Park
Beautiful Beacon Rock State Park is situated in the popular Columbia River Gorge. This park spans 4,458 acres. The main attraction is its namesake, the massive 848-foot-tall Beacon Rock.
You can hike the switchback trail to the top of the rock and take in the great view. You can also hike to one of the numerous waterfalls found in the gorge. Veteran visitors suggest making the trek to Multnomah Falls. You can also go cycling, horseback riding, and rock climbing. You can visit nearby Portland as well.
2. Cape Disappointment State Park
This park in Ilwaco is ironically named. It is reportedly anything but disappointing. Here you’ll have your choice of cabins, campsites, or yurts.
There’s also a boat launch and great hiking trails. This place is more than an exceptional assortment of outdoor adventures, it also has some history to it. Here you can explore two different historic lighthouses situated high on the bluffs overlooking a portion of the infamous “Graveyard of the Pacific” named thusly because of the many shipwrecks that happened there. Stay in the historic homes there too.
3. Dash Point State Park
Located in Federal Way, Dash Point State Park is just off I-5, not far from Tacoma and Seattle. Here you can go biking, boating, camping, and hiking. What makes it a top contender though is the shoreline here.
When the tide is out you’ll find an expansive area great for strolling and tide-pooling too. If you want to visit other parks near Tacoma and Seattle, consider Lake Sammamish State Park located in Issaquah, Saltwater State Park south of Seattle, and Tolmie and Millersylvania state parks near the city of Olympia.
4. Deception Pass State Park
This is the state’s “most visited state park.” Found on WA-20 in Oak Harbor Deception Pass, those in the know say it’s “Stunningly gorgeous” and “has it all.” This park covers an area of 3,854 acres.
It features a camping and a marine park, 33,900 feet of freshwater shoreline, 77,000 feet of saltwater shoreline, and a trio of lakes. There is also a popular high bridge that offers visitors incredible views. There’s a lot to do here including beachcombing, camping, and hiking. You can also fish or swim in Cranberry Lake, hike, do some whale watching from the park’s many bluffs, or stay in a cabin that can only be reached by non-motorized boats.
5. Fort Casey State Park
If you’re a history buff, then head for Coupeville where you’ll find famous Fort Casey State Park. Here you can explore the military installation known as Fort Casey. Erected in the 1800s, this fort was built for defensive purposes and was used for military training until some time in the 1940s.
See the two rare disappearing guns, the mounted guns, and a battery too. Don’t miss visiting the old Admiralty Head lighthouse either. Not into history? You can go camping, boating, fishing, and hiking here too.
6. Gingko Petrified Forest State Park
This state park on Ginkgo Avenue in Vantage also has a lot to offer travelers. There’s a lot more than the petrified wood to see. The property extends over 7,124 acres.
Here you can see a special interpretive center that features unique outdoor exhibits of petrified wood. There’s also the popular Trees of Stone Interpretive Trail that includes “20 petrified logs in their original” environment.
But this place is more than exhibits. Another highlight is the 27,000-foot shoreline on Wanapum Lake. Here you can enjoy boating, fishing, or swimming. Spend the night in the neighboring Wanapum Recreation Area.
7. Lake Wenatchee State Park
For some real “Northwest goodness,” experienced travelers suggest this Lake Wenatchee State Park in Leavenworth. Lake Wenatchee is an attractive five-mile-long alpine lake. The park offers a number of different outdoor activities, including boating on the lake and even guided horseback tours of the park. This particular park is even a great palace to visit in the winter. You can not only try snow camping here but you can also try snowshoeing across the many miles of local trails.
8. Larrabee State Park
If you’d like to check out the state’s first state park, you’ll find it close to Bellingham on beautiful, scenic Chuckanut Drive along Puget Sound. Here you will find coves, two freshwater lakes, tidelands, and even a small beach where you might spot resting sea pups as well. Outdoor activity offerings include boating, camping, diving, fishing, hiking, and more. You can also check out tide pools and even harvest shellfish along the 8,100 feet of rugged shoreline here.
9. Lime Kiln Point State Park
This park can be found on West Side Road in Friday Harbor. While many people think you have to climb aboard a boat to watch whales, the truth is you can do it from land as well. Indeed, this is one of the best places in the entire state from which to watch whales if you’re prone to getting seasick.
While it is a comparatively small day-use park, it offers exceptional opportunities to see gray whales, humpback whales, minke whales, orcas, and even porpoises. The best time to visit is between the months of May and September. You can also see the exhibits, take a hike, or tour the local lighthouse.
10. Moran State Park
You’ll find this park on Olga Road on peaceful Orcas Island. This is a great place for watersports because there are five different lakes here. There are also a good 38 miles of biking trails and hiking trails.
Check out the stunning view of the San Juan Islands. This park is also great for camping too because there are several campgrounds here. Sleep by the water should set up camp in the Southend campground. If you’re into swimming head for the Northend campground.
11. Palouse Falls State Park
Appropriately enough, this particular park is on Palouse Falls Road in LaCrosse. Palouse Falls is special because it is one of the only waterfalls not destroyed by huge Ice Age floods that cut a path through the US over 13,000 years ago. The water crashes down over pretty, picturesque canyon walls, making this place a favorite of photographers and painters alike. There are multiple campsites here in this 94-acre state park. Thus, you can see the falls from three different viewpoints.
12. Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park
Head for Coulee City. for it is there you will find yet another remnant from the Ice Age floods. The Sun Lakes-Dry Falls, however, is only home to a former waterfall. This one was once four times as big as famous Niagara Falls. Here tourists can go boating, fishing, and even hiking through this ancient landscape.
13. Wallace Falls State Park
Last but not least, there is Wallace Falls State Park on Wallace Lake Road in Gold Bar. This park encompasses 1,380 acres ensconced in the Cascades. This park features verdant forests, sparkling lakes, and, of course, waterfalls.
This is a wonderful place for hiking too. There are 12 miles of exceptional hiking trails. Naturally, the must-see attraction here is the 265-foot, triple-tiered Wallace Falls. If you’re into backpacking, be sure to get a permit from the park staff so you can take advantage of the more challenging backcountry hiking opportunities offered here as well.
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