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Washington State is a place of nature and wilderness. It hosts multiple state parks, national forests, reservations, islands, and hundreds of miles of coastline. Washington is in the Pacific Northwest, bordering Canada, and is renowned for its natural beauty.
The State of Washington sells a Discover Pass, which grants access to millions of acres of protected land across the state. They call it “your ticket to Washington’s great outdoors.” The pass costs $30 dollars for the year, and $10 dollars for the day. Discover Passes can be purchased here.
This is a pass that all visitors will want to have if they’re planning on exploring nature and camping in Washington state. Here’s a guide to exactly what’s accessible with Washingon’s Discover Pass.
Washington State Parks
The Discover Pass gives you access to over 100 developed state parks. This may seem like an overwhelming amount of parks to choose from, so we’ll offer info on some of the greatest hits in popular areas of the state.
Deception Pass State Park is located near the San Juan Islands and the Olympic Peninsula. This northwestern area of the state is easily one of the most frequented parts of Washington, so it’s no surprise to learn that Deception Pass is the most visited state park in Washington.
Here, visitors experience ocean cliffs, charming coves, and an impressive and imposing bridge. The park offers good opportunities for fishing, hiking through forests and along bluffs, bird watching, whale watching, and an abundance of glorious ocean views. Deception Pass State Park is actually split across two different islands, Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island. Combined, the state park has a total of 77,000 feet of saltwater shoreline!
The Deception Pass camping options include 167 tent sites, 143 RV/utility sites, multiple group camping sites, 20 restrooms, 10 shower facilities, and much more. Pets are also allowed and drinking water is provided.
Cape Disappointment State Park is located in another popular area of Washington State—the Columbia River mouth. This is where, according to the Washington State Parks website, “lighthouses stand sentinel atop windswept cliffs, sea smells waft up through the air and waves collide with a crash where the Pacific Ocean meets the Columbia River below.” Visitors can hike through old growth forests and marshlands, launch their boats from Baker Bay, and go digging for clams or fishing for dinner.
The Cape Disappointment campground offers campsites starting at $20 dollars per night. The grounds offer 137 standard tent sites, dozens of RV sites, 50 full-hookup sites, 18 partial-hookup sites with water and electricity, group sites, and potable water. Both fires and pets are allowed!
Dash Point State Park is located along Poverty Bay, across from Maury Island. The park is also within close range of Tacoma and Seattle, making it a great option for a quick weekend trip.
The park contains beautiful forest hiking and plenty of coastal activities such as skimboarding, fishing, sandcastle building, and swimming (mostly in the summer months). Whether your boarding along the shores or bird watching in the oasis of diverse wildlife, Dash Point is an ideal getaway from the urban centers of Tacoma and Seattle.
Dash Point Campground is right off Dash Point Road (Highway 509). It contains some campsites close to the water and some in more wooded areas. The grounds also have group sites, tent sites, drinking water, and even cabins. Both fires and dogs are allowed too!
State Park FREE Days
From discoverpass.wa.gov: “Washington State Parks offers several ‘free days’ when a Discover Pass is not required to visit a state park. The following dates are the 2020 State Park free days”:
Jan. 1 — New Year’s Day
Jan. 20 — Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
March 19 — State Park’s 107th birthday
April 11— Spring day
April 22 — Earth Day
June 6 — National Trails Day
June 7 — Fishing Day
June 13 — National Get Outdoors Day
Aug. 25 — National Park Service
Sept. 26 — National Public Lands Day
Nov. 11 — Veterans Day
Nov. 27 — Autumn day
Note—free days apply for day-use only. The Discover Pass is still required for overnight stays on free days.
Natural Areas in Washington State
Natural areas consist of preserves and conservation areas which all make the list of accessibility with a Discover Pass. There are more than 80 natural areas in Washington State. We’ll list the popular ones we feel shouldn’t be missed.
James T. Slavin Conservation Area
We listed James T. Slavin partly because it’s located in eastern Washington, an area we haven’t mentioned yet.
The conservation area is located just south of the city of Spokane. It features a large lake and hiking trails along pastures and through forests. The James T. Slavin area is another convenient getaway option not far from a city center, where you can get your fix of fresh air.
Paradise Valley Conservation Area
Many visitors come to Paradise Valley for its 13-mile long trail, which winds across the 793 acres of preserve. Most of the site is wooded, but there are pockets of wetland areas as well. Paradise Valley is located just northeast of Seattle, a mere 35-minute drive from downtown.
Mima Mounds Preserve
Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve consists of 637 acres of Garry oak woodland, oak savannah, and prairie grasslands. The preserve is located in southwest Washington State and contains some well maintained hiking trails and an abundance of beautiful views.
And finally, visitors gain access to more than 30 wildlife areas in Washington state with the Discover Pass. Here are a few notable areas.
- Big Bend Wildlife Area – Located in northern Washington, this area boasts basalt cliffs, rolling hills, permanent (and seasonal) creeks, and ponderosa pine forests.
- Mount Saint Helens Wildlife Area – This 10,500 acres of land includes tidal mudflats, old-growth forests, ancient lava flows, and open grasslands. The area is located in southern Washington.
- Similkameen-Chopaka Wildlife Area – The Similkameen-Chopaka Wildlife Area is in Northern Washington state very near to the Canadian border. The area is a great place for bird watching, hiking, and even spotting some bighorn sheep and mountain goats.
- Wells Wildlife Area – This wildlife area includes nearly 9,000 acres of wilderness in Okanogan and Douglas counties. Visitors experience riparian vegetation, lakes, and springs.
This article was brought to you by Wenzel.