Deception Pass State Park: The Complete Guide

Deception Pass State Park

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Deception Pass State Park

Address
41229 WA-20, Oak Harbor, WA 98277, USA
Phone +1 360-675-3767

Deception Pass State Park is Washington state’s most visited park, and that’s no small feat in a state park system that boasts more than 200 parks. This park earned its spot at the top due to its spectacular scenery, complete with an expansive bridge that connects the islands of Whidbey and Fidalgo, a plethora of hiking trails, cliffs, coves, and beaches to explore, and lakes to swim and fish in. The park is comprised of 3,854 acres and spans two islands; it has 77,000 feet of coastal shore (almost 15 miles!) and 33,900 feet of freshwater shore around three lakes. Sand dunes, a playground, and plenty of camping make this low-budget spot the perfect locale for an outdoorsy family vacation.

Things to Do

Deception Pass State Park's natural wonderland provides the perfect reprieve for an hour, a day, or even an overnight stay. Pack a cooler and some chairs to chill out at the beach for the day, or load up your backpack or tackle box for a more active adventure.

There are two interpretive centers in the park. The Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center is located in the Bowman Bay area and tells the historical story of the CCC who built a majority of the nation’s state and national parks. You’ll also find the Sand Dunes Interpretive Trail at West Beach where you can learn more about the ecosystems and plants at the park.

Explore historic Deception Pass by hiking one of its 38 miles of trails, including 1.2 miles of ADA-compliant trails, 3 miles of bike trails, and 6 miles of horse packing trails. Crossing the Deception Pass Bridge by foot gives you an up-close glimpse of the narrow passageway navigated by Captain George Vancouver in 1772. After his crew took a small boat through the straight to explore the waterway he named Port Gardner, he felt deceived by its size, granting it the name "Deception Pass."

Stroll the beach and peak into tidepools along the miles of shoreline at Deception Pass. You can’t really go wrong posting up along any stretch of beach here. West Beach, an iconic Washington spot, offers views of the Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains in the distance, and the San Juan Islands.

Go for a swim in Cranberry Lake (if the Puget Sound is too cold for your liking). This body of water is not far from West Beach and has a sandy shore with an enclosed swimming area. The water hovers between 55° to 60° F, which is not much warmer than the sound's summer water temperatures, but it still feels nice on a hot summer day. The lake also has a boat launch suitable for permitted human or electric-powered boats, kayaks, and paddleboards. Try your skills at fishing for lake trout by wading along the shore.

Scout wildlife and birds throughout the park. You might spot sea lions or seals basking in the sun on the rocks. Shorebirds of all species may circle overhead or nest in treetops. Stop into the visitor's center for a directory of species, then choose a quiet area to stop, wait, and watch.

Best Hikes & Trails

The walkway across the Deception Pass Bridge is one of the most popular jaunts in the park, but other trails, like Goose Rock Summit Trail and the trail to Lighthouse Point, get you off the beaten path.

  • Deception Pass Bridge and Beach Trail: This trail is an easy 1-mile out-and-back that takes you from island to island via the Deception Pass Bridge. The trail follows Highway 20 but is separated from the car route, and dogs are allowed on a leash.
  • Goose Rock Summit Trail: Goose Rock Trail is a moderate 2.1-mile loop that summits Goose Rock, giving you sweeping views of the park and the Puget Sound. Expect to gain 577 feet of elevation as you engage in activities like birdwatching and wildlife viewing while strolling about.
  • Lighthouse Point via Rosario Trailhead: This moderate 4.7-mile trail system takes you on a loop out to Lighthouse Point, and then on an out-and-back to Rosario Beach. It's essentially three loops in one, so you can hike as much or as little as you want. This trail is loaded with wildflowers and offers spectacular views of the sound and the lighthouse. Expects steep, narrow sections where you'll need to watch your footing.
  • Pass Lake Trail: If you want a good workout, embark on the 4.7-mile loop to Pass Lake. On this trail, you'll gain 1,204 feet in elevation, encounter running streams and slick rocks, and discover a cave and the remnants of an abandoned mining cabin. This is a great hike to take if you're looking to get away from the crowds.

Fishing and Boating

The protection of Whidbey Island makes great habitat for several species of saltwater fish in Cornet Bay. Expect to find coastal cutthroat trout, bottomfish, and various salmon species, like Chinook, pink, Coho, and sockeye all living among these waters. Cornet Bay has six different boat launches and Bowman Bay has one, but take care when navigating these waters—especially the straight—as swift currents, wind, and waves all require expert navigation skills.

Cranberry Lake and Pass Lake offer opportunities for quiet freshwater fishing. Here, you can catch rainbow trout, brown trout, largemouth bass, and yellow perch. Combustion boat engines are not permitted on Cranberry Lake and all motors are prohibited on Pass Lake, where only catch-and-release fly fishing is allowed.

You can also try your hand at clamming or crabbing in the bays, but be sure to pick up regulations and a fishing permit online through the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife or at a license dealer.

Where to Camp

Deception Pass State Park is well outfitted with facilities for both day use and overnight visitors. You’ll find picnic tables, fire pits, horseshoe pits, and even two amphitheaters within the park’s boundaries. The park's three campgrounds offer 172 tent sites, 134 partial hookup sites, 20 restrooms, and 10 showers. Reservations are highly encouraged.

  • Cranberry Lake Campground: Cranberry Lake Campground—the park's largest campground—is located between North Beach and West Beach on Whidbey Island. This site is open seasonally and offers over 100 standard sites, utility sites, hiker-biker sites, restrooms, and showers.
  • Quarry Pond Campground: The small Quarry Pond Campground is the newest of the bunch and open year-round, offering seven standard sites, 49 utility sites, one hiker-biker site, and five rustic cabins. There's a kitchen shelter and gazebo at the center of the campground, as well as restrooms and showers.
  • Bowman Bay Campground: This small rustic campground's 18 standard sites and two utility sites are close to the shore with nearby restrooms and showers.

Where to Stay Nearby

The quaint town of Oak Harbor, just south of the park's entrance on Whidbey Island, offers plenty of lodging opportunities, as well as restaurants and galleries. You can also stay in Coupeville, which is about 5 miles away.

  • Acorn Motor Inn: The fully-remodeled, no-frills Acorn Motor Inn, located in the town of Oak Harbor, offers double rooms, single rooms, and suites. Each room comes complete with high-speed wi-fi, a television with cable and HBO, a mini-fridge, and a microwave. In-room coffee is available upon request and two on-site duplexes can be rented for larger parties.
  • Coachman Inn Oak Harbor: The clean and updated Coachman Inn in Oak Harbor combines the retro feel of an old motor inn with sleek modern rooms. Here, queen rooms, double queens, triple queens, and suites with a pull-out couch are available to rent. On-the-go breakfast is available in the hotel's lobby and a seasonal outdoor swimming pool and hot tub provide additional summer fun.
  • Anchorage Inn B & B: Just steps from downtown Coupeville's restaurants and shops sits the historic Anchorage Inn, a Victorian-style bed and breakfast. This old sea captain's home is just steps from the water's edge in Penn Cove and has only seven rooms with a two-person occupancy each. Each room has a private bath and comes complete with a full breakfast that includes an entree, fruit, breakfast bread, juice, and coffee or tea.
  • Captain Whidbey Inn: Right on the shore of the Puget Sound in Coupeville sits a 1907 historical lodge and cabins. The Captain Whidbey Inn, with its hidden staircases and narrow stone-lined pathways, brings you back to the days when things were slower. The Scandinavian-influenced rooms provide a five-star feel, while the rustic, yet modernized cabins lend privacy with a water view. The on-site restaurant offers farm-to-table, sea-to-plate fare, and a cozy atmosphere.

How to Get There

You can travel to Deception Pass State Park one of two ways. The most direct route, if you’re coming from Seattle, starts by taking the Mukilteo Ferry to Whidbey Island, and then driving through Whidbey Island to the park via Highways 525 and 20. This route is subject to ferry delays and waits, however, it's the more leisurely way to go.

If you're in a hurry and want to skip the ferry, or you’re coming in from the north, take Highway 20 off of I-5 at the Burlington exit, located about an hour north of Seattle.

Accessibility

Deception Pass State Park does a great job of welcoming those with disabilities. Many of the trails, including the Deception Pass Bridge Trail and the Sand Dunes Interpretive Trail, are ADA-compliant, as are all of the park's campgrounds. There are four accessible restrooms and four accessible showers located inside the campgrounds. To locate all of Washington's state parks ADA features, check out the interactive map provided by the parks service.

Tips for Your Visit

  • To access Deception Pass State Park you will need to obtain a Discover Pass. You can buy a pass in advance or use the automated stations available in the park.
  • Pets must be on a leash at all times anywhere within the park. Please be sure to also pick up after your pooch's potty outings.
  • The park's quiet hours are 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., during which campers need to be mindful of their neighbors and RV travelers need to turn off their generators.
  • The salt waterways within the park can be very dangerous. The straight itself has a substantial rip current. Do not boat the saltwater passages unless you are an experienced seaman.
  • Boat permits are required to launch a boat from the park. Options include an annual boat launch permit, an annual Discover Pass and a daily launch permit (which you can buy at the park’s automated stations), or a daily Discovery Pass and a daily boat launch permit.
  • Check seasonal fire restrictions if you'd like to have a campfire. Fires may be prohibited in the middle of the summer during dry years.
  • There are no recycling receptacles inside the park. Plan to pack out your recyclables.
  • Please keep food in airtight containers and in vehicles out of reach of the wildlife. Feeding wildlife is not only discouraged, it's prohibited.
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Deception Pass State Park: The Complete Guide