Rolling dune-colored hills; rocky snow-covered mountains; sandy beaches lined with tide-pools and sea stacks; glacier carved azure-blue lakes; trails winding through mossy evergreen forests… Washington has some of the most varied geography on the planet. It’s all open for everyone to explore by visiting one of the state’s many parks. You can find something here for everyone. With spring in the air Washingtonians can now find their favorite park in Washington.
With over 130 parks to choose from, here a few highlights from Washington’s state park network — places to go with kids, for accessible trails, and to ride a bike, hike or paddle. You can find a complete list of state parks and recreational areas across the state here.
Willapa Hills State Park Trail
Willapa Hills State Park Trail runs 56 miles from Chehalis, in Lewis County, to South Bend, in Pacific County. This trail allows visitors easy access scenic views of Willapa Valley in western Washington. It’s the perfect spot for family friendly and accessible adventures because it offers a relatively flat route for pedestrians, non-motorized wheeled users, and equestrians to explore year-round.
You can start your trip in Chehalis or Adna, although there are many other places to go. Lewis County has trailheads at Adna and Rainbow Falls State Park, as well as Pe Ell. Pacific County has access points in Lebam Menlo Raymond South Bend. View the map for this trail.
Spokane River Centennial State Park Trail
The Spokane River Centennial State Park Trail is a great way to discover the beauty of eastern Washington. It runs from the Nine Mile Recreation Area at Lake Spokane all the way to the Idaho border.
The 40 mile trail follows the Spokane River to Riverside State Park. It is suitable for all types of travelers, including hikers. The trail then heads east, through downtown Spokane to the Spokane Valley. If you make it all the way to Idaho, you can continue your journey all the way to Coeur d’Alene on the North Idaho Centennial Trail. Along the way, you can stop and explore the 40 historic sites along the trail. You will also be able to enjoy the high desert ecosystems and geology. See a map.
Lake Sammamish State Park
It’s not a mirage. Lake Sammamish State Park, just outside of Seattle, is a family friendly oasis. The 531-acre park features two beaches on the lakefront with sand shores that are perfect for playing games and building sandcastles. This park features a new, modern playground. Tibbetts Beach offers kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for rent. The 1.5 mile flat, paved hiking and cycling trails are also available. Look out for nesting birds like eagles, herons or great blue.
Lake Sammamish hosts a variety of fun events for the community all year round. They include nature, birding, stewardship projects, paddling and cycling events, kids’ obstacle courses, summer concerts, and the annual summer Parkadilly Fair.
Pro tip: It’s a very popular park. Try planning a midweek trip to avoid the bulk of crowds that flock to the park’s waters on the weekend.
Rockport State Park
The winding trails of Rockport State Park at the base of Sauk Mountain, in Skagit County, will amaze little explorers. This is an emerald treasure, with its towering old growths trees, dense understory and watchful avian inhabitants. The park’s 632-acres have five miles of easy trails, and an accessible one-mile loop trail. Interpretive signs will teach you and your family about the giant trees that surround you. View a park map.
Sun Lakes – Dry Falls State Park
Grant County is home to one of the world’s most important geological wonders. Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park is part of the ancient Grand Coulee riverbed and offers sweeping views of channeled scablands.
You can see where a waterfall once roared thousands of years ago. It is now a 400 foot-high, 3.5 mile-wide cliff that stretches over deep gorges, dark reflective lakes, and deep canyons. Park Lake’s boat launch is the best, with its social atmosphere. Deep Lake provides a more remote experience for paddling or kayaking. Dry Falls Lake is a lure that attracts anglers who want to fish for trout. Hiking trails wind up the hills dotted with sage and scented by sage to reach table-top cliffs that offer panoramic views. For visitors who want to combine a desert getaway with a round of golf, the park offers both nine-hole golf and miniature. See a map to get a better idea of where the park is.
Millersylvania State Park
Millersylvania State Park is a summer paradise for beginning paddlers right in the state’s capitol, Olympia. Visit Deep Lake with your canoe, paddleboard or kayak to discover your new hobby. There are two swimming areas, miles of trails for hiking and cycling, watercraft launches and easy fishing. You can rent kayaks, pedal boats, paddleboards or other types of boats. Millersylvania is a great place to spend a weekend or a longer vacation. View a park map.
Lyons Ferry State Park
Discover the history of Lyons Ferry State Park, located in Franklin County. This 168-acre family-friendly park offers more than 52,00 feet of shoreline for you to explore. It is located at the confluence the Snake River and Palouse river. What makes this area unique is that it was the dividing point of the floods which occurred when glaciers melted and carved the Palouse river canyons 13,000+ years ago. In the Lyons Ferry Area, there was a Palouse Native American Village. Lewis and Clark and Corp of Discovery documented the first written accounts of the village while passing through in October of 1805.
The park is a great place to learn about the surrounding history, go boating, fishing in freshwater, paddle, swim, watch birds and have a picnic. View a park map.
Nisqually State Park — Washington’s newest state park addition
Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission continues to work hard on developing a new state park near Nisqually. This is the very first new state park since Cama Beach opened 15 years ago. Rasar State Park was also established in 1996. The new park will cover approximately 1,280 acre with hiking and riding opportunities.
Parks works closely with Nisqually Tribe in this project.
“The Nisqually Tribe is taking care of the Nisqually watershed from Mount Rainier to the sea. Our vision for Nisqually State Park is that it helps us tell our story through our art, culture and environmental stewardship,” Will Frank III, Chairman of the Nisqaully Tribe said. “We’ve always taken care of the land and river. Visitors to the park will see a living example of how we work together with Washington State Parks to make sure our homeland is protected for generations to come.”
State Recreation and Conservation Office has provided funding to Parks for some land acquisition and development. Visitors can visit the park, but there are few facilities while Parks develops the area.
As Parks continues developing the area, there will be camping, water access and interpretive services to connect with Washington’s and the Nisqually Tribe’s rich heritage and shared history.
Just like every one of Washington’s State Parks, Nisqually Park is a place where everyone has an opportunity to find their park this spring.
There is something unique about every single one of Washington’s state parks.
Which park is Washington’s oldest state park?
Larrabee State Park established in 1915
Where can people find Washington’s official state waterfall?
Palouse Falls features a 200-foot waterfall
What is the best park to see stars?
Goldendale Observatory includes a large, public telescope that is available (by appointment) for evening stargazing and afternoon solar programs.
Which park is best for seeing Washington’s official state bird?
American Goldfinch are found in all parts of the state. They prefer open fields that have trees surrounding them. Parks officials recommend heading to are Rainbow Falls, Seaquest or Birch Bay — but these birds could be anywhere!
What park was named after an American president?
Lincoln Rock was named after President Abraham Lincoln by late 19th-century explorers who thought the basalt outcropping resembled the profile of our nation’s 16th president.
What park has a lake the largest?
Lake Chelan — a 50.5-mile lake, with a depth of 1,486 feet
What park has the longest trails?
The Palouse-Cascades State Park Trail is more than 250 miles long. The trail connects multiple state parks and reflects Parks’ long-term commitment to developing cross-state trails
Which park offers the best chance to see orcas in their natural habitat?
Lime Kiln Point State Park is located at the western end of San Juan Island and is considered to be one of the world’s best places for whale watching from land.
What Washington state park has the only dinosaur found in Washington?
Sucia Island Marine State Park is where paleontologists found the femur of a dinosaur called Suciasuarus Rex. Recently, legislators approved the Suciasuarus Rex as the official dinosaur for Washington State.
Where is the best place to view our state treasure?
Petrified wood is the state jewel and can be found on the Trees of Stone Interpretive Trail in Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park.
A Discover Pass is required to access many of the state’s parks and recreation lands, including:
- Washington’s state parks
- There are more than 350 primitive recreational sites including camping and picnic areas
- Nearly 700 access points to the water
- Nearly 2,000 designated miles of water and land recreational trails
- There are more than 80 protected natural areas
- There are more than 30 wildlife reserves
A day pass costs $11.50 and an annual pass $35. You can purchase passes here before your visit! Today, when you buy the Discover Pass, you are helping to keep the state’s wonderful outdoor recreation sites open and accessible to the public.
Every year, Parks offers several days of free admission. The list of free days in 2023 includes the following:
- Jan. 1 — First Day Hikes; New Year’s Day
- Jan. 16 — Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- March 9 — Billy Frank Junior’s Birthday
- March 19 — State Parks’ 110th Birthday
- April 22 — Earth Day
- June 10 — National Get Outdoors Day
- June 11 — Free Fishing Day
- June 19 — Juneteenth
- Sept. 23 — National Public Lands Day
- Oct. 10 — World Mental Health Day
- Nov. 11 — Veterans Day
- Nov. 25 — Autumn Day
That list includes Earth Day — tomorrow, April 22. Why not celebrate by visiting your local park here in Washington?
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