Washington State Parks Activities
Camping in Washington State Parks
Washington may have a ton of great camping sites, however, the best one would undoubtedly be the Cranberry Lake Campground at Deception Pass State Park. Situated near Whidbey Island, this area is open to both tent campers and RVs with partial hookups available for guests to use. The site’s abundant shoreline, dense and stunning natural landscapes, as well as breathtaking views all make for a camping experience like no other. Set up your family tent, hang your camping hammock, and get ready to relax.
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Located just a few hours away from the mountain town of Leavenworth, Lake Wenatchee State Park is a beloved weekend spot, drawing in hundreds of visitors each week. The north and south campground areas have more than 150 campsites, accommodating both tents and RVs. The abundance of recreational activities this park offers and its phenomenal views make it a must-visit spot. If your back gets a little stiff when camping, using a cot for sleeping and having a camping chair with extra support can help. We reviewed the best camping cots and best camping chairs for bad backs, which you may find helpful.
For those looking to explore the sprawling city of Spokane, then camping at Riverside State Park is your best bet. Within the park lies Bowl and Pitcher Campground, which has over 32 sites and allows access to hot showers, as well as flushing toilets. Wake up to incredible views of basalt structures and the rushing waters of the Spokane River. Use your camping stove to brew your favorite coffee, and enjoy watching the river flow by.
There’s a huge chance that the camping experience you’ll get at Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park, which has a huge collection fo fossils on display. Overlooking the awe-inspiring Columbia River and Wanapum Reservoir, this recreational area is definitely one for the books! With 50 full-hookup RV sites and modern amenities like running water, this park should be on everyone’s bucket lists.
Those who want to explore the northeast region of Washington should check out Curlew Lake State Park, a criminally underrated spot has over 80 campsites available, all of which are well-equipped and well-maintained.
Hiking in Washington State Parks
Looking for a breathtaking yet beginner-friendly hike? Then the Wallace Falls Trail within Wallace Falls State Park is your best bet. This 5.6-mile route encompasses nine different waterfalls on the Wallace River although you don’t have to worry about steep climbs and sudden elevation gains. To add to that, the lower and middle portions of the route will take hikers to spots with outstanding views of the Skykomish River Valley, which is definitely an experience that everyone needs to go through at least once.
Advanced hikers, on the other hand, can opt for the Steamboat Rock Trail, situated within Steamboat Rock State Park. This route will take you up the massive geological feature where panoramic views of Washington await. Get ready for sore calf muscles and challenging climbs, though! If you have never hiked with trekking poles, we highly recommend them. Take a look at our pick for the best trekking poles.
Another incredible trail for intermediate hikers is the Umatilla Rock Trail within Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park, a five-mile route that features the impressive cliffside of Dry Falls, circumnavigating Umatilla Rock itself. This hike is ideal for those wishing to explore eastern Washington. There are a fair number of bears in Washington State, so we always recommend bringing a can of bear spray as a safety measure. We reviewed several options for the best bear spray.
Fishing in Washington State Parks
Washington is famous for its amazing trout and bass fishing opportunities, which is why anglers across the country consider it to be a premium fishing destination. Those of you who want to try their luck at catching slippery and clever bass can do so at Lake Sammamish, situated within Lake Sammamish State Park. Besides the traditional method of fishing, the park also allows guests to do some shore fishing.
Day Use Areas in Washington State Parks
Widely regarded as the “Picnic Mecca of Washington,” Deception Pass State Park is a picnic-goers’ paradise like no other, with over 50 sheltered and 261 unsheltered picnic tables scattered all throughout. After a delicious meal, explore the tide pools found at the park’s Rosario Beach or learn more about the state’s rich history and culture at their Interpretive Center.
Enjoy your meal amid a dense and beautiful forest at Riverside State Park. Or you may also opt to spread out a blanket by the rushing Spokane River or by the shores of a large, tranquil lake. Whatever your tastes are, this park has it all.
If you’re a large group looking to enjoy a picnic, then check out the old torpedo warehouse at Manchester State Park. This incredible structure has a majestic stone fireplace at one end and is big enough to fit an entire party. Smaller groups, however, can choose to take their meals at one of the park’s 36 unsheltered picnic tables. Most of these sites have their own braziers too so you can even whip up your own dishes.
The iconic Twanoh State Park has a ton of picnic tables to choose from although you can also opt to have a picnic on its soft, sandy beaches. After lunch, burn off the calories by wading in the cool and refreshing waters of the Hood Canal.
Boating in Washington State Parks
Looking to do some boat camping? Then Clark Island State Park is perfect for you! This destination is notorious for having exactly zero docks, although they do have tons of moorage buoys that are on a first-come, first-served basis. Once you’ve secured your watercraft vehicle, paddle over to the park’s expansive pebble beaches, or explore the rest of the island on water.
A marine park on Orcas Island, Jones Island State Park is known for its diverse wildlife and incredible fruit tree orchards. They also have boating campsites available, as well as a ton of amenities to accommodate avid boaters.
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Birding in Washington State Parks
With its wide range of diverse habitats and unique geographical features, birdwatching at Washington is undoubtedly an experience that you won’t find anywhere else. Head over to the Samish Unit with your binoculars, situated approximately four miles north of Bayview State Park, where raptors are in abundance, especially during the wintertime. Also found in this spot are Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, Bald Eagles, and a whole lot more. If you are looking to get into bird watching on the cheap, we reviewed the best budget binoculars for birding so you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy birdwatching.
Beaches in Washington State Parks
If you want to beat the summer heat at one of Washington’s incredible swimming holes, then you have a ton of options to choose from! However, locals agree that the best spots are found within Lake Sammamish State Park, Lake Wenatchee State Park, and Lake Easton State Park. As the most popular swimming holes, though, these places tend to get crowded, especially in the summertime. However, their refreshing waters and recreational activities are well worth the rambunctious and rowdy guests. Set up your beach umbrella, your beach chair, stake your spot, and enjoy a day at the beach.
Rock Climbing and Mountaineering in Washington State Parks
Situated near Stevenson, Beacon Rock State Park is a sprawling, massive park filled to the brim with rock climbing spots, various multi-use trails, and boating amenities. This ancient volcano is one of the most photographed places in the state, however, hundreds of tourists continually flock here to take on their many challenging climbing routes.
The cliffs sound within Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park also make for an incredible rock climbing experience. Before taking on the challenge, though, be sure to learn more about these impressive geological formations at the Dry Falls Visitor Center, which also offers several tips and tricks so you can make the most out of your excursion.
Intermediate to advanced rock climbers should head over to Mount Pilchuck State Park where routes will please even the most demanding outdoor enthusiasts. The strenuous and difficult climb can be somewhat dangerous, which means that only those skilled or experienced enough to do so should take it on.
The sandstone climbing routes at Peshastin Pinnacles State Park are a favorite among avid climbers. Upon reaching the summit, spectacular views of the surrounding flora and fauna await.
Horseback Riding in Washington State Parks
Approximately 28 miles of equestrian trails can be found at Bridle Trails State Park, located just east of Seattle. The perfect weekend getaway for horseback riding enthusiasts, the park also hosts a ton of equestrian events and festivals, making them the one-stop-shop for those who can’t live without their mounts.
The five-mile equestrian trail at Battle Ground Lake State Park encircles the crater of an ancient volcano, which has now been transformed into a beautiful deep green lake. The park also has a few equestrian campsites available, all of which are equipped with stall corrals, trailer parking, and the like.
Those looking to ride through stunning sagebrush and underneath towering bare basalt cliffs will love the trails at Steamboat Rock State Park. This ten-mile route is an experience like no other – one that can’t be found anywhere else in Washington.
Caving in Washington State Parks
Caving enthusiasts will love exploring Gardner Cave, the main highlight of Crawford State Park, which many proclaim to be the “Center of the Earth.” This 500-million-year-old cavern boasts of an underworld of deep geologic mystery, rich with various formations, as well as flowstone and rimstone pools. The park offers guided tours through this natural wonder, which is undoubtedly a must-try for all those visiting Washington.
Museums in Washington State Parks
The rich and colorful history of Washington can be explored at Cape Disappointment State Park, which is home to a center for interactive exhibits where guests can learn more about the Northwest’s past. See how forts are defended from warships and how skirmishes are staged from towering cliffs. These layers of fascinating history will make you want to return here over and over again.
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling in Washington State Parks
Many consider Deception Pass State Park to be the best diving spot in Washington where divers will enjoy marine-invertebrate creatures underneath crystal-blue waters. Situated between Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island, this incredible destination will allow guests to experience a whole slew of fascinating deep-sea animals. If you have never tried a full face snorkel mask, you should check them out.