Deception Pass State Park is rich for exploration
Cathy McDonald visits one of Washington's most popular state parks, Deception Pass.
Special to The Seattle Times
Location: Deception Pass State Park, between Oak Harbor and Anacortes
Length of walk: Miles and miles of trails, including a 1.2-mile ADA paved path.
Level of difficulty: Gently sloping beach to moderately steep trails.
Setting: This is one of the state's most popular parks, so it's smart to try to visit here before the summer crowds arrive — and perhaps before a new $10 daily fee (or $30 annual pass) for state park entry is implemented this summer, as recently approved by the state legislature. The 4,134-acre park straddles Fidalgo and Whidbey islands and has 77,000 feet of saltwater shoreline and 33,900 feet of freshwater shoreline on three lakes. Whatever you want for a hiking experience, this park probably has it; stop off at the park office and get a map and ask for advice. Don't miss a walk across the Deception Pass bridge to watch the powerful currents swirl far below between two islands. For a final project, my kayaking class came up here and we navigated the pass at slack water, between tidal changes — and I could barely make headway against the currents even then.
Highlights: West Beach offers a great sandy walk (continue around the north end to view the Deception Pass bridge from below), with an accessible paved trail near the south end of the parking lot. For good forest walks (including some old-growth trees), visit the trails that go to Hoypus Point on the north end of Whidbey or Pass Lake on the south side of Fidalgo Island. Lighthouse Point has stunning views of the water and rugged coastline, as does Rosario Head, perhaps my favorite place in the park, where the huge carving of a local legendary maiden is a must-see. On a recent visit there, a giant eagle perched nearby in a tree for about 10 minutes, kelp swayed in the waters below, several types of water birds dove to fish in the waves, and a boat offshore loitered near what we guessed was a pod of Dall's porpoises. If you plan ahead, you can call to sign up for a free guided Saturday walk on recently acquired Kiket Island (limited numbers).
Facilities: Restrooms and portable toilets throughout the park; campground.
Restrictions: Leash and scoop laws in effect; bikes and horses allowed only on certain trails. Note that noisy U.S. Navy jets from nearby Naval Air Station Whidbey Island often fly over the park.
Directions: From Interstate 5 north of Seattle, take Exit 230 and head west on Highway 20. After 12 miles, cross the bridge to Fidalgo Island, and in a few more miles, turn left to follow Highway 20 south to Whidbey Island. One mile after crossing over the Deception Pass bridge, turn right into the main park entrance.
For more information: 360-675-3767 or www.parks.wa.gov/parks.Renton-based freelancer Cathy McDonald, a former geologist, has written about science and nature travel for 20 years. She's currently a travel guidebook editor/researcher at Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door. Contact her: email@example.com.
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.