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State Park Hikes

Twenty Washington State Parks: Ten off-the-beaten-path parks, ten popular parks, and more than 20 great hikes. Buy your Discover Pass and visit your state parks. Most offer trails that can be hiked year-round.

In April and May, enjoy abundant spring wildflowers and views of Banks Lake at Steamboat Rock State Park. Photo by David Hagen.

With more than one hundred state parks, Washington has one of the largest state park systems in the country. Nearly every state park offers some hiking, and many feature miles of overlooked trails full of wildlife, plant-life and landscapes.

Hiking and camping all year long

Nine months out of the year there is nary a soul in the campgrounds, and state park trails are generally open year-round for hiking. In fact, winter, spring and fall are the best time to visit many of these locations. You'll see plenty of flora and fauna while having the trails virtually to yourself.

WTA has compiled a list of trails in ten state parks that you may not have heard about. Just to be fair to some of our other favorites, we mention ten popular parks at the end of this feature. There's something for everyone here and all can be hiked year-round. Why not try a few of them out this season? Be sure to click through on the links for driving directions and hiking guide descriptions.




Larrabee State Park

Not only is Fragrance Lake an excellent year-round destination, the trail has seen a lot of love from WTA volunteers. Photo by Bob Griffith.

Location: South of Bellingham
Hike: Fragrance Lake
Roundtrip: 5.5 miles

Explore the Chuckanut Mountains by making a visit to Larrabee State Park. It's the only place in the state where mountains meet the Sound, making it a special place to explore. Looking for a water-side stroll? Try Clayton Beach. Feel the need for some elevation gain? The Fragrance Lake trail climbs 1000 feet in just over two miles to a pretty, mountain lake - with opportunities for views of the San Juans. This park is more discovered than many described below, but the many miles of trails and year-round appeal provides opportunities to return again and again.

>> These trails have been maintained by WTA volunteers. Volunteer Today!


Camano Island State Park

Camano Island State Park. Photo by Alan Bauer.

Location: Camano Island
Hike: Marsh & Loop Trails
Roundtrip: 2.5 miles

Wonderful trails, coastal bluffs, majestic madronas, bald eagles, Puget Sound views - and you don't need a ferry to get there. Welcome to Camano Island State Park where you can piece to get a 2.5 mile hike that gives you a taste of it all. Want to stay the night? Book one of the popular-for-a-reason Cama Beach Cabins early!




Iron Horse State Park

The Iron Horse State Park trail system runs for more than 100 miles, including this peaceful stretch along the Yakima River. Photo by Hiker Jim.

Location:  I-90 corridor
Hike: Iron Horse Trail
Roundtrip: Various

More than 100 miles long, Iron Horse State Park follows an abandoned railbed from Cedar Falls (near North Bend), under Snoqualmie Pass and all the way to the Columbia River. Bikers know this trail, but hikers will find much to love along this route. In summerime, the Tunnel section is a fun curiosity - 2.3 miles under Snoqualmie Pass (bring headlamps and avoid in winter). Year-round, the Washington Creek section of the trail offers a good alternative to popular Twin Falls or Rattlesnake Ledges. And the Yakima River section is especially sweet in spring and autumn, with wildflowers and fall color.


Millersylvania State Park

Deep Lake in Millersylvania State Park. Photo by Solo Steve.

Location: South of Olympia
Hike: Millersylvania S.P. trails
Roundtrip: 4 miles

Need a great place to stretch your legs as you drive between Seattle and Portland? This is the park for you. Eight miles of hiking trails zigzag around Millersylvania State Park - you can make your own loop through the peaceful forest, across wetlands and beside Deep Lake. And outside of summer, this place is virtually deserted.



Olympic Peninsula & Southwest Coast

Dosewallips State Park

The Steam Donkey Trail at Dosewallips State Park takes hikers through some tall trees. Photo by Joe Hendricks.

Location: Olympic Peninsula - East
Hike: Steam Donkey Trail
Roundtrip: 3.5 miles

Go hiking and shellfish hunting on the same day! This state park at the mouth of the Dosewallips River near Brinnon has great family camping, beaches, birding and hiking. In winter, you may even get a good glimpse of elk; fall offers the chance to hunt for chantrelles. The 3.5 mile Steam Donkey Trail loops through the forest, along creeks and the Dosewallips River. If you're on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula, this park is definitely worth a stop.

>> These trails have been maintained by WTA volunteers. Volunteer Today!


Griffiths-Priday State Park

Follow the boardwalk out to the dunes and beach at Griffiths-Priday State Park. Photo by Bob Griffith.

Location: Washington Coast
Hike: Copalis River Spit
Roundtrip: 4 miles

A secret gem along the Washington coast! A three-quarter mile trail from the parking lot traverses gorgeous grassy dunes and deposits you on the untrammeled Copalis River Spit, a protected beach that extends northward for another mile or so. This is a place free from vehicles and the madness of Ocean Shores to the south.



South & Columbia River Gorge

Columbia Hills State Park

Go in springtime for fabulous flower displays at Columbia Hills State Park. Photo by Alan Bauer.

Location: Columbia River Gorge - East
Hike: Dalles Mountain
Roundtrip: 8 miles
Winter closure info: Closed Nov 1, 2012 - April 1, 2013

Also called Horsethief Lake State Park and Dalles Mountain Ranch, this park on the eastern edge of the Columbia River Gorge near The Dalles is a fabulous springtime destination. Every April and May, the meadows erupt in a riot of wildflowers. How nice is it? Guidebook author and photographer Alan Bauer says that "Words don't express my joy for this region." And he's seen a few beautiful places. There are several hiking options in the park. The Dalles Mountain hike is a tough one - more than 2,400 feet of elevation is gained in four miles. A shorter and easier alternative is Horsethief Butte.


Central & Eastern Washington

Wenatchee Confluence State Park

The Horan Natural Area is a year-round oasis where the Wenachee River meets the Columbia, just outside of Wenatchee. Photo by Alan Bauer.

Location: Wenatchee
Hike: Horan Natural Area
Roundtrip: 2.5 miles

Birds, birds, birds! The park is just a few minutes from the heart of Wenatchee, but you can hardly tell you're near a bustling urban area - not with all of the bird call. The Horan Natural Area is the prize for hikers here. Easy walking takes you along and over the Wenatchee River, traversing wetlands and fields and offering broad vistas. It's worth a visit in any season, but is especially teaming with birds in spring.


Steamboat Rock State Park

Steamboat Rock State Park. Photo copyright Alan Bauer.

Location: Near Grand Coulee
Hike: Steamboat Rock
Roundtrip: 4 miles

Hikers who have been to Steamboat Rock return full of hyperbole. It's the best place on Earth! That place is awesome! And the photos confirm the raves. So you should just head there and see for yourself. The trail takes you to the top of the rocky butte and back again, and along the way you'll be properly impressed by the basalt cliffs, the deep blue of Banks Lake and the views far and wide. Go in spring, and see the land come alive with wildflowers.


Columbia Plateau State Park

It's lonely country out here! Photo by Mr. Pays-Bas.

Location: Spokane and the Tri-Cities
Hike: Columbia Plateau Trail
Roundtrip: Various

The Columbia Plateau State Park is a 110-mile railbed of the old Spokane Portland and Seattle Railway that has been converted in two parcels as a multi-use trail. The  23-mile section south of Cheney bisects the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge and passes through channeled scablands, lakes and high desert sage country. Another 15-mile section north of Pasco travels along the Snake River - wide open, lonely country. Chances for seeing a variety of wildlife is high, especially early in the morning or in the evening.


Ten More State Parks


The above is a list of off-the-beaten-track state parks, but you may wonder if we have forgotten many of the real gems of the system. We haven't. Here are ten more state parks - fully discovered and loved by many visitors - that offer great hiking opportunities as well.

The middle falls at Wallace Falls. Photo by rylin.

Deception Pass State Park, Whidbey Island.
Miles of trails along and above the shores of Puget Sound. Don't miss the Headlands trail or Goose Rock.
>> These trails have been maintained by WTA volunteers. Volunteer Today!

Mount Moran State Park, Orcas Island. There are more than beaches to the San Juan Islands. Climb Mount Constitution or hike to Mountain Lake on Orcas Island, the most rugged of the islands.

Wallace Falls State Park, Stevens Pass - West. If you like waterfalls, you must visit this state park. Three waterfalls. Nine tiers. Amazing photo opportunities. And the park has even more hiking trails to explore as well.  >> These trails have been maintained by WTA volunteers. Volunteer Today!

Lake Wenatchee State Park, Stevens Pass - East. Come in the summer for camping, boating and hiking. Come in the winter for skiing and snowshoeing. And try hiking the Shore Trail on your next visit.

Olallie State Park, North Bend area. The name of the state park may be unfamiliar, but the trail is beloved. Twin Falls is one of the most popular hiking destinations near Seattle. The two-tiered waterfall is not to be missed.

Fort Flagler State Park, Olympic Peninsula. Washington State Parks has taken over three old military forts near Port Townsend, creating a hiking and camping mecca for visitors. Fort Flagler, on Marrowstone Island, has excellent hiking, but don't miss opportunities at Fort Worden too.

Evening at Cape Disappointment State Park

Cape Disappointment State Park, Southwest Coast. No disappointment here. Beaches, trails and lighthouse make this an excellent place to hike. Check out the North Head Trail, among others.
>> These trails have been maintained by WTA volunteers. Volunteer Today!

Beacon Rock State Park, Columbia River Gorge. Hikers delight! Climb to the top of Hamilton Mountain high above the Gorge.
>> These trails have been maintained by WTA volunteers. Volunteer Today!

Sun Lakes State Park, near Grand Coulee. This popular camping park has trails that walk through the remains of Ice Age floods. Try Umatilla Rock or Park Lake Side Canyon.

Mount Spokane State Park, near Spokane. This state park is the favored playground for skiers, hikers and campers from Spokane. It has 100 miles of hiking trails, including one that goes to the top of Mount Kit Carson.
>> These trails have been maintained by WTA volunteers. Volunteer Today!

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