Visiting Deception Pass State Park

Camping in March in Washington was totally new territory for me. First, I hadn’t been camping in 6 years, so I definitely felt out of practice. Second, I had only ever planned one camping trip before. Third, the weather in Washington tends to be rainy and unpredictable. What I’d read about Deception Pass State Park suggested that it was a good place to camp in the winter — it’s coastal, low elevation camping, so it’s a much safer bet than mountainous areas. I booked a reservation for mid-March because I figured we could take our chances at that point and hope for the best. Read on for detailed tips and information about camping in and visiting the park!

Our first family camping trip! This was before none of us slept well that night, when we were quite cheerful.

Deception Pass Weather

According to the Washington state park website, Deception Pass is the most visited state park in all of Washington. I have a suspicion that it is precisely because it’s a place that can be appreciated and explored all year. Moreover, Deception Pass is one of the most commonly recommended areas to visit in winter in Washington. When you want to get outdoors without dealing with snow and below-freezing temperatures, Deception Pass is a great choice.

That being said, know that it’s a place that is pretty busy year-round as a result. Don’t expect empty trails and campsites, even when it’s winter!

Our experience with weather in mid-March was pretty nice. It was in the high 50s and partially sunny one day, and in the low 50s and cloudy the next. The night time was fairly windy and chilly but nothing that long underwear and warm sleeping bags couldn’t fix.

Monthly average highs and lows. As you can see, the temperature varies less here than in many areas of the state. Courtesy: Google.

Deception Pass Campsites

There are multiple camp areas around Deception Pass State Park, the largest of which is the Cranberry Lake campground (Lower Loop A, specifically) and where we stayed. There are about 145 sites in the Cranberry Lake area, and we noticed a lot of RVs. The campground had really clean, large bathrooms with running water. Our site was directly across from a water spigot (but also the trash cans). There was a decent level of space between sites; it neither felt particularly private nor isolated. Overall, an excellent campground that I would recommend utilizing. The cost for our site on a Saturday night was $28, and I reserved it January 2nd. Camping in Deception Pass is possible from March 1 through October 31st.

Our site, #135, had a spacious tent area and a long driveway in addition to a firepit and picnic table. This campsite was pretty standard for the campground.
Deception Pass State Park seasonal operations

Deception Pass Trails

Deception Pass State Park has some hiking trails, but you won’t find any intense summit trails. There are mainly easy, gentle, coastal hikes that I might classify more as “strolls” than hikes, ranging from .25 miles to 2.2 miles. We did the Goose Rock Summit Trail and Lighthouse Loop trail, two of the most popular in the area. There are a number of additional trails in the area, including:

  • Lottie Point Loop (1.5 miles)
  • Pass Lake Loop (2.2 miles)
  • Cranberry Lake trail (2 miles)
  • Goose Rock Perimeter Trail (1.9 miles)
Goose Rock Summit for sunset
The beach right off the Lighthouse Point Loop trail

Places to Visit in Deception Pass State Park

Map of Deception Pass area, which we were given upon entering the campground

Deception Pass State Park encompasses areas on two islands, Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island. We camped on Whidbey Island but it is super easy to get between the two islands via the iconic bridge. Some of the top areas include Bowman Bay, Rosario Beach, North Beach, West Beach, Hoypus Point, Kiket Island, and Cornet Bay. There are areas of the park where you can fish, bike ride, ride horses (though you’d need to bring your own), and canoe.

Bowman Bay beach
Lottie Bay, which we passed as part of our Lighthouse Point Loop.

Why visit Deception Pass State Park?

Thinking of visiting Deception Pass State Park? Here are some top reasons you should add it to your list!

  • Beautiful, rugged coastal scenery
  • Easily accessible view points to appreciate the San Juan islands, mountains, and coast
  • Striking sunsets
  • Gentle hiking trails
  • Most areas are pet friendly, so you can bring your pup along for the adventure
  • It’s not super isolated; you can access gas, food, and other services within a 10-15 minute drive
  • Visits are possible year-round without worrying about snow
Striking sunset over the water

Tips for Visiting Deception Pass State Park

  • Arrive early. The parking areas near the bridge and at West Beach were extremely full when we arrived mid-day on a Saturday. There were cars parked for quite a ways along the road leading to the bridge area on Whidbey Island. If you want to secure parking spots, set your alarms and get there before everyone else does.
  • Bring your Discover Pass, or purchase one on-site. You’ll need it to park within the park.
  • Don’t expect intense hiking to be your main plan here. This area has lovely trails, but they’re short and gentle. No tall mountains to summit here!
  • If you like to eat or drink with a nice view, definitely bring a picnic blanket. While we only used our picnic blanket at Goose Rock Summit, I was eyeing several other awesome areas for picnics throughout the park, particularly in the Lighthouse Loop area as well as North and West Beaches.
  • If you’re planning to camp, know that you need to reserve ASAP. When I reserved our site on January 2nd, many of the campsites were already reserved for our mid-March dates. There are also really great amenities at the campground. The beautifully clean restrooms with showers were really impressive.
  • Consider bringing a friend or the whole family! This area is great for all ages and would be awesome for a relaxing friends’ trip or a family event.
Enjoying North Beach
Posted by:Elizabeth

Wandering Californian living in Seattle. Nature-loving, thrill-seeking weekend adventurer. Storyteller.

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