Camping at Deception Pass State Park

  • Washington State Park website:
  • Judd rating: 5 stars out of 5
  • Stienstra rating: 10 out of 10
  • Access to water: a few hundred meters of easy walking
  • token-operated shower, flush toilets, drinking water
  • Activities: hiking, biking, paddling on Cranberry Lake
  • Outdoor Fam rating: 10/10

Deception Pass is the most-visited State Park in Washington State. It boasts a rugged, spectacular coastline, walking trails set in beautiful forests, awe-inspiring cliffs, and an iconic bridge that spans the namesake Deception Pass.

A boat passes under the bridge through Deception Pass.

It’s only 2 hours by car from Vancouver, and it surely deserves a visit.

Summer Programs

Not only does it have magnificent views, it also has a wealth of family-friendly programs led by park naturalists. We attended a talk on the history of the park, arts and crafts, and a guided walk on Lighthouse Point Trail. There was an activity booklet for Deception Pass, designed for a wide range of ages.

Once they finished their booklets, they were even sworn in as “Junior Rangers”!

Bowman Bay and Lighthouse Point Trail

There’s a boat launch at Bowman Bay, and that’s where we met the park volunteer for the walk.

We followed this very easy 3.1km route, which was our guide’s favorite trail in the park. At low tide, we can even bypass one of the only hill climb and walk directly on the beach.

The kids were a little tired, so we broke off from the group and did the walk on our own pace.

Also at Bowman Bay, there’s a small museum “Civilian conservation corps interpretive center”, documenting the founding of the park and the work done by CCC.

Rosario Beach Tide Pools

A nice rocky beach area is located just west of Bowman Bay, and guided tide pool talks are sometimes available by reservation. To protect the ecosystem, visitors were asked to follow a yellow rope to minimize trampling.

Checking out a story pole about a girl marrying a sea god and becoming The Maiden of Deception Pass.

West Beach and the Dunes Intepretive Trail

There’s a fresh water lake in the park called Cranberry Lake, which is good for swimming but otherwise too small and bland to make me want to paddle.

Cranberry Lake

Instead, West Beach right next to the lake is awesome for sunsets, and the paved Dunes Trail was very fun to bike on.

In fact, we came out to the beach both nights we camped here just to soak in the beautiful sunset.

Deception Pass Bridge

After we checked out from our campsite, we visited the Bridge. It’s very high up, and very close to highway traffic which includes the occasional trucks, so it’s a pretty thrilling walk.

A quick note on the camping itself: the lower forest loops are closest to the North Beach (where the amphitheater is) and West Beach, but the sites are fairly small. Even though 2 cars and 2 tents were allowed in our site, it would have been a little difficult to actually fit.

A small concession at the Cranberry Lake campground is available for snacks, souvenirs, and tokens for shower.

Also, the state park is very close to a Naval air base, and there were frequent fighter jets that create a thundering noise.

With both rocky and sandy beaches, forests, swimming, biking, boating, and historical landmarks, all with a gorgeous backdrop and a wealth of family-friendly programming, it’s easy to see why Deception Pass is the most popular state park. (I think Moran still takes the number 1 spot in my book in terms of awesomeness, but Deception Pass would be a close second.)

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