- Caption: Deception Pass – Courtesy of DeceptionPassFoundation.org
- Written by Steve Froese
It’s great to live in our neck of the woods! We have some of the most scenic highways and byways on the continent. For instance, here in the lower mainland of British Columbia, we can go snow skiing and water skiing on the same day for much of the year. For the rest of the year, we can explore the ocean and the mountains on the same day. While we share the same lakes, rivers, and streams with many other areas of North America, some would argue that we take our proximity to our glorious Pacific Ocean for granted.
I have a confession to make, my family and I find that the state parks and campgrounds in the U.S.A. are generally superior to our provincial parks. I think it is because the state and federal governments commit more money to maintaining the park infrastructure there. We haven’t got the budget to do that. But the public lands in both countries are well maintained and have something for everyone. We have certainly not even begun to explore every park in the Pacific Northwest, but those we have visited have for the most part been stunning.
I’m sure most reading this blog have experienced some of these parks, and many of you I’m sure have visited parks we have not. For those of you who are new to RVing or haven’t had the opportunity to visit the natural beauty of our area, I will provide a little insight into our experiences in the area and beyond.
Washington State Parks
My fondest memory growing up is visiting Deception Pass State Park in Oak Harbor in our family tent trailer. This is Washington’s most-visited state park for a reason. Crossing the Deception Pass and Canoe Pass bridges on the way to the campground offer stunning views of Puget Sound. The park itself is nestled in a thick forest, and you can walk to the shoreline of the ocean, or fish or swim in Cranberry lake.
Hikers have miles of shoreline to explore, and birdwatchers will not be disappointed. This park has something for every member of the family. The park is 3,854 acres, has 38 miles of hiking trails (1.2 of which are ADA), 3 miles of bike trails, 6 miles of horse trails, and 38 miles of hiking trails! You can even access the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail (PNT) from Deception Pass. This is a 1,200-mile trail network leading from the Pacific Ocean to the rocky mountains in Montana. Many of Washington’s state parks access this trail.
I did not have an opportunity to re-visit the park for many years, but when my family and I returned there, it was familiar and welcoming. Due to the number and size of large trees in the park, there is limited access for large RVs. If you are in the neighborhood, it is well worth a day-visit in your car prior to booking a camping site. Visiting the park for a day will give you insight into the beauty and majesty of the surrounding area and will provide the opportunity to negotiate whether your rig will fit in the campground.
There are several tight corners in the campground, which is mostly what restricts large RVs. Visiting the Washington State Parks reservation website provides more information in terms of rig size availability. I have managed to get my large RVs in there, but it’s a challenge and you generally have to indicate on the reservation the website you have a rig <30’. Really the only possible downside of this park is the Naval Air Station in Whidbey Island. Jet fighters fly over the area regularly. Some areas of Deception Pass State Park have electricity and water only, while others are dry.
The Washington State Parks website boasts a staggering number of campgrounds with varying levels of service. Even limiting the search to Northwest Washington, the plethora of parks spans from Birch Bay in the north to Federation Forest in the south near Tacoma. From Ocean City on the Pacific Ocean to Lake Wenatchee, Northwest Washington has so much to offer. It would take a very committed camping family to visit them all, and I highly recommend making the effort. All in all, there are over 140 state parks in Washington, and fortunately for us, the majority of these are North of Seattle.
There is also a high concentration along the pacific coast, and if you care to venture a little further south, I recommend doing so! We spend a lot of time travelling along US101, where there are several great parks. While not exactly in the Pacific Northwest, I would be remiss if I failed to mention our favorite state park haunt, which is Ft. Stevens State Park in Astoria, Ore.
Fort Stevens State Park – Oregon
Ft. Stevens was built in 1863 to protect the mouth of the Columbia River. What remains now will thrill history buffs and nature lovers alike.
Located near Astoria in Hammond, Ore, the park is a national historic site boasting 3,700 acres. The large area has full hook up campsites, as well as primitive and electrical sites. It also has yurts and deluxe cabins, most of which are pet friendly. There are over nine miles of paved bicycle trails, fishing, a historic shipwreck, and underground tours of the military battery. Fort Stevens is also the northern terminus of the Oregon Coast Trail.
While Deception Pass State Park is challenging for big rigs, Ft. Stevens is not, with it’s fully paved and serviced sites. Families can stay entertained for days at this large park, with its proximity to the ocean, miles of trails, and the historic fort. Oregon allows vehicles on much of its miles of beaches, but be sure to have an appropriate four-wheel-drive vehicle to avoid the obvious consequences.
While Ft. Stevens and Deception Pass are our two favorite state parks in the area, there are so many more we have yet to explore. Washington and Oregon both have fantastic state park web sites, so I encourage you to do some homework and trip panning and get out and enjoy our wonderful public camping spaces. This is one of the reasons our family loves to RV. State and Provincial parks are generally well maintained, beautifully set, and affordable
About the author: Steve Froese SteveF@northwestrving.com is a Licensed Professional Engineer in British Columbia, as well as an Interprovincial Red Seal RV Technician, which is equivalent to a Master Certified RV Technician in the USA. Steve was a personal friend and colleague of the late Gary Bunzer (“the RV Doctor”), and works closely with FMCA as the monthly “Tech Talk” columnist, as well as being a member of the Technical Advisory and Education Committees. Steve and his family are lifelong and avid RVers, mostly in the Pacific Northwest.