Best Washington State Parks

Daniel Brown
• Saturday, 26 December, 2020
• 8 min read

You’ll love experiencing the Pacific Northwest landscapes here with the park’s boat ramps, hiking trails, and fishing at the lake. You can camp overnight at the state park with your tent, camper using electrical hookups, and cabins available for rent.

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Today, locals and visitors come here to go boating on the lakes, hike on the trails, and enjoy the sightseeing experience. The Vista House Overlook is an excellent viewing area, and the whole park offers opportunities to learn about natural history and geology.

The park features beautiful lighthouses, an ocean coastline, and lots of hiking trails. It was named after a trip that Captain James Aires took to find the Columbia River that was unsuccessful.

You can learn more about local history by visiting the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center onsite. You can access lots of trails from Crawford Oaks Trailhead for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

There are about seven miles of hiking trails at the park, as well as boat ramps, ranger-led tours, fishing, and swimming in the lake. There is one of the region’s most iconic waterfalls here and wide-open spaces in the high desert for some peace and solitude.

Limited first-come, first-served tent camping is available at Pa louse Falls State Park if you’re looking for a primitive experience out in nature. Here you can enjoy scenic views, boat rentals on the lake, hiking, horseback riding, biking, and cross-country skiing in the winter.

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This state park has camping available for your weekend trip is also near the Gorge Amphitheater that is popular for summer concerts. The park offers 3.7 miles of hiking trails, freshwater fishing, junior ranger programs in the summer, and some playground equipment for kids.

It’s on a stretch of shoreline between Seattle and Tacoma, making this a popular destination for city-dwellers craving a dose of nature. It’s the only state park in Washington with an underwater artificial reef for diving enthusiasts to enjoy.

You’ll also find campsites, a dump station, and campground restrooms with showers. Take in the views of the Columbia River Gorge and set up camp at the 4,458-acre year-around campground at Beacon Rock State Park.

It’s in proximity to Portland and Vancouver and includes over 26 miles of roads and trails for recreational use. It has 2.5 miles of hiking trail and opportunities for boating, saltwater fishing, oyster harvesting, swimming, and water skiing.

This scenic park offers standard campsites and full hookup sites for your weekend trips. Other activities you can do in the park include badminton, bird watching, horseshoes, volleyball, and tennis.

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You can bike, hike, or drive to the summit of Mount Constitution to see the San Juan archipelago from here. Other features of the park include a badminton area, softball and baseball field, volleyball court, horseshoe pits, and wildlife viewing opportunities.

It’s a great place for horseback riding, rock climbing, mountain biking, and hiking. With terrain ranging from temperate rain forests to high-desert plains, Washington is one of the most adventure-endowed states in the nation.

In its many state and national parks, you'll find natural features like glaciated mountains, active volcanoes, accessible hot springs, alpine lakes, and an abundance of wildlife. Whether you're looking for a little adventure, or maybe a multi-day excursion, even just a view to remember for years to come, check out our list of the best state and national parks in Washington.

Standing 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier is the most iconic peak in the state of Washington. In spring, summer, fall, and winter, you can find visitors exploring the subalpine meadows, alpine lakes, and rugged peak in Mount Rainier National Park.

Wildflowers bloom in every direction on the Niches Peak Loop near the White River Entrance on the east side of the park. For a less primitive overnight experience, visitors have a wide range of lodging options such as the historic Paradise Inn within the park.

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The park's many rivers, lakes, and wild coast lend to fishing and boating opportunities throughout the year. For land lovers, Olympic National Park offers enough backpacking and hiking trails to keep your feet moving forward for a lifetime.

But with an extensive trail system stemming throughout the area, it's not difficult to find your own private spot to explore. While places like Rialto and Ruby Beach are popular, chances are the most life you'll see is in the tide pools brimming with exotic sea creatures.

This glaciated peak is accessible on the 17.4-mile How River Trail, which can be done on an overnight backpacking trip. Backpacking in Olympic National Park, in general, embodies a kid-in-a-candy-shop mentality with the variety of routes to explore.

The best time to visit Olympic National Park is typically July through August when things warm up after a wet spring. These public spaces cover more than two million acres of rugged mountain scenery on the northern border of Western Washington.

Over 90 percent of the North Cascades National Park Complex is designated as the Stephen Mather Wilderness, which protects a vast amount of the forest from the surrounding logging and mining industry. The rugged nature of North Cascades National Park makes many of the scenic vistas and attractions a little harder to access.

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The hard work of multi-day hiking or ferry-boat riding into North Cascades National Park is worth the effort, however, and within its boundaries lies some of the most dramatic mountain scenery many will ever see in their lifetime. Both modes of travel astound with Cascade peaks and vibrant Northwest hues of green and blue.

Other scenic stops on Highway 20 include Lake Shannon and the western town of Winthrop in the Method Valley. For a family-friendly hike, the paved quarter-mile Washington Pass Overlook Trail provides amazing views of Liberty Bell Mountain not far from the highway, and the popular, 7.2-mile Maple Pass Loop provides different challenges and views throughout the year, including golden larch trees in the fall and blossoming wildflowers in the summer.

This nature facility offers hands-on and overnight facilitation for cultural and ecological learning opportunities in the North Cascades National Park. Stretched between the northern tip of Whitney Island and Hidalgo Island and connected by an iconic high bridge over the Deception Pass waterway, Deception Pass State Park offers numerous outlets to explore the surrounding Puget Sound area.

Today, visitors learn about the history of the CCC at the Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center in the Bowman Area of the park. While the history of the park and the CCC is interesting, it's the wide range of recreational activities that really draw a crowd throughout the year.

Be sure to keep your eyes out for the abundant wildlife that shares the area, including orcas in the water and seabirds in the air. Three different campsites are available at Deception Pass State Park, and each offers tent sites and electrical hookups.

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If you prefer to spend your nights indoors, the Cornet Bay Retreat Center offers 16 cabins available to rent, plus a main lodge and recreation hall. For more adventurous outings, a primitive cabin is available on the nearby Ben Your Island within Deception Pass State Park.

Only 12 miles away from the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth, Lake Wenatchee State Park is a popular destination for Washington residents and tourists alike. It's not just the scenic views of Lake Wenatchee and the impressive Dirty face Peak overlooking the waters that draws a crowd, but also the wide access to recreational activities.

To make your visit an overnight one, Lake Wenatchee State Park offers more than 150 tent sites within two different campgrounds. While this scenic waterfall, often described as the best in the state, is the main attraction in the park, many visitors travel here for the chance to surround themselves with nature.

A hiking trail makes its way through the area and is lined with interpretive markers explaining the rich geological and cultural history of the falls. Located on the west side of San Juan Island, Lime Kiln Point is regarded as one of the best places to spot whales in the world.

While exploring this 36-acre, day-use state park, admiring the craggy coastline it encompasses, it's hard to miss the historic lighthouse overlooking the shore. On the shores of the Wampum Reservoir along the Columbia River, this unique Eastern WashingtonState Park contains one of the most diverse collections of petrified wood found anywhere in the nation.

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The Trees of Stone Interpretive Trail provides a 1.25-mile hike lined with undisturbed petrified logs in their natural setting. All 50 full hookup sites at the adjoining Wampum Recreation Area have been known to fill up during the nearby Gorge Amphitheater concert season throughout the summer and shoulder months of the year.

Cape Disappointment is a great place to explore the Washington coast and the significant cultural history of the area. The State Park is named after an unsuccessful voyage of Captain James Aires to find the Columbia River.

Visitors will find an abundance of hiking trails at Cape Disappointment, all leading to plenty of whale-watching opportunities. The park also offers plenty of seashore to explore along Birch Bay and expansive views of the Cascade Mountains and the Canadian Gulf Islands.

Visitors enjoy the abundant benches found in the park for a scenic picnic by the seashore. Camping is also available at Birch Bay State Park, with more than 140 sites that facilitate tents and RVs.

Standard camping amenities, including restrooms, showers, and a trailer dump station are also available. This scenic state park was originally constructed as a fort to protect Puget Sound and the nearby Bremerton Naval Shipyard in the early 1900s.

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Evidence of this defensive history can still be found in Manchester State Park (once known as Fort Middle Point), particularly in the abandoned torpedo warehouse that now serves as a covered picnic shelter. A popular thing to do here includes walking along the shoreline that comprises the eastern border of the park.

This part of the park has excellent views of Rich Passage and the surrounding Puget Sound, including nearby Bainbridge Island. Whether it's a weekend destination or stopover on your Puget Sound adventure itinerary, Manchester State Park offers a glimpse into the natural world of Washington and the history that surrounds it.

Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park, in the high-desert landscapes of Eastern Washington, is a geological wonder waiting to be explored. Today, Sun Lakes-Dry Falls stands as a skeleton of one of the biggest waterfalls in geological history.

It is also a testament to the impressive acts of nature that formed much of the scenery in Eastern Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Boating on the remaining lakes and tributaries left behind by the glacial movements is a popular thing to do.

The Visitor Center at the park features informative exhibits about the history and creation of Sun Lakes-Dry Falls. Likewise, the top campgrounds in Washington deliver with a wide range of landscapes including waterfalls and volcanic craters.

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The top white water rafting and kayaking adventures in Washington also highlight the wild side of the state. For winter adventures, our guide to Washington ski resorts have you making turns in no time.

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