Home to rugged coastal headlands and dense forest, peaceful coves and picture-perfect panoramas of the Olympic Mountains, Deception Pass State Park offers gorgeous surrounds for hiking and sight-seeing.
Its immense reputation is matched by its proportions. By numbers, Deception Pass State Park has 4,134 acres of ancient forest, 15 miles of saltwater shoreline, four freshwater lakes, three campgrounds & 38 miles of hiking trails. There’s a huge abundance of wildlife too – including 174 species of birds.
Regularly listed as one of Washington’s most stunning state parks, it’s also one of the most visited, attracting approximately 2 million tourists each year.
I find myself in this park at least once a fortnight, and will always take out of town guests here.
Fun fact: Deception Pass was named so by Captain George Vancouver, who mistakenly believed these islands were a peninsula. Vancouver was the first European to identify the passage between Whidbey and Fidalgo islands, though the area had been home to coastal Salish tribes for thousands of years.
Without further ado, here are my favourite sights and hikes in Deception Pass State Park.
Those without the time to hike this beautiful state park can still access stunning views. The iconic Deception Pass Bridge – which is on the National Register of Historic Places – is the best place to start.
Vista points can be found at either end of the bridge, however the north end offers the most dramatic views, where the rugged cliffs drop to meet the turbulent waters of Deception Pass. It’s pretty fascinating to observe the tidal flow and whirlpools below.
I’d recommend parking in the lot on the south end of the bridge (Whidbey Island side), and use the pedestrian lanes to walk across the bridge. You’ll be rewarded with views of not only the pass, but surrounding islands and Olympic Mountains too. Take time to observe the water below, as on clear days you can often see seals below!
The best way to explore Deception Pass State Park is on foot. The old-growth forest is enchanting to wander through – and there are 38 miles of trails to experience!
Hiking trails at Deception Pass are extremely well marked and very accessible for most visitors. Most trails are easy or moderate, so you can experience the best of the park without having to be extremely fit.
Goose Rock Summit & Perimeter Trail
Either head straight to the summit, or take the longer scenic route via the Perimeter Trail. The Perimeter Trail is my preferred, winding its way around the channel to Cornet Bay, before ascending the back side of Goose Rock. End on a high note (literally) and admire the sweeping views below, then take the Summit Trail’s direct route back down.
Easy to moderate. Approx. 2.3 miles total. The Summit Trail is only 0.3 miles.
Headlands Trail – Bowman Bay to Rosario Head, Lottie Point and Lighthouse Point
On the Fidalgo Island side lies a series of headland trails leading to stunning vista points of the Pass channel, islands, Olympic mountains and views back toward the famous bridge.
Ample parking is available at Bowman Bay, and using this as your start point, begin with the short loop trail to Rosario Head. Once arriving back at Bowman Bay, head out toward Lottie Point, then Lighthouse Point.
I’ve hiked out to these headlands on three occasions, and each time I spot seals and porpoise so close to shore!
Easy. Approx. 5 miles with just 350ft elevation gain. More details here.
Deception Pass State Park has nearly 15 miles of shoreline, so there’s many beautiful waterfronts and beaches to explore.
Wander the length of the park’s most popular beaches, starting from rocky West Point, along North Beach to Gun Point, then Macs Cove. It’ll take you all the way to the base of the bridge, where picnic tables await.
Pass Lake Loop
Another trail one on the north side of the bridge. Pass Lake Loop Trail winds through the forest along the freshwater lake’s west side. This area is a popular fishing spot, and the trail connects to both the Ginnett Trail and Naked Man Valley.
Hoypus Hill Trails
Slightly further away from the tourist grind lie the quiet hidden trails of Hoypus Hill & Hoypus Point. If you’re looking for serene forested trails, this is the place to spend your time.
There are a number of interconnecting trails around the hills, so bring a map. Cornet Bay Marine Area has a parking lot to use as your jump-off point.
Explore from the water
Want to admire the views from the water by fast boat or kayak?
Deception Pass Tours take you under the famous bridge and surrounding waters by jet boat.
It’s worth noting that only experienced kayakers should navigate through the pass itself, as the currents are incredibly dangerous.
Three campgrounds are available in Deception Pass State Park. Quarry Pond campground is open year-round. Cranberry Campground is a forest site, and Bowman Bay is a fantastic beachside option – these two campgrounds are seasonal.
The Finer Details
You’ll require a Discover Pass to park your car in the main parking lot, the south end of bridge lot, or Bowman Bay. Fee is $10 per day, or $30 for an annual pass that enables access to all Washington State Parks.
There is a very small parking lot at the Fidalgo Island end of the bridge that does not require a pass. It’s more for those taking a quick look from the scenic viewpoint.
Have you visited Deception Pass State Park? What are your favourite hikes or activities?
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