"Rugged Views of Colliding Waters" Deception Pass State Park by glabah

Deception Pass State Park Travel Guide: 25 reviews and 106 photos

NOTE: As of July 1, 2011, a day use fee has been implemented at many Washington State parks. This fee is $10 per day, or a $30 fee for a year pass. There is a $5 fee in addition to the annual pass fee if purchased at one of the many resellers. Please see my Discover Pass tip for a little more about this. For a bit more about Washington State parks in general, please see my Washington State Parks tip.

There is nothing you can really point to about Deception Pass State Park. The famous bridges over the narrow passageway are two of the most spectacularly situated in Washington, but they hold no specific records of any sort. It's a nice park with a few beaches and a campground, and when the weather is clear it is possible to see the Olympic Mountains and over the water to Canada.

However, the combination is like none other, and that very combination of features, plus the fact that you can watch the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Skagit Bay collide beneath the bridges during a tide change, make this the most popular state park in Washington.

The park is only slightly out of the way if you are headed to Canada or the San Juan Islands, and only slightly more out of the way if you are headed to the Olympic Peninsula. If you have the time, I highly suggest spending a bit of time here.

They call the Pacific Northwest the "graveyard of the Pacific Ocean" and the reason for this name is no more clear at any other location than at Deception Pass State Park. At this location sheer rock walls converge on a series of narrow passages connecting the north end of Widbey Island to a series of small waterways on the inland side of the island.

Deception Pass between Widbey Island and Fidalgo Island were so named by none other than Captain George Vancouver himself. While exploring the region the expedition was quite convinced that Widbey Island was just another in a long series of eccentric peninsulas that make Puget Sound and the Straight of Juan de Fuca a complete maze of water. However, when they came to the north end of the island they discovered the passage between the two islands and realized the shape and attributes of the land had deceived them, and they had actually been looking at an island all along. The name Deception Pass was chosen to memorialize the mistake, and eternally remind all future generations that navigation in this region is not a simple matter.

Currents from the inland passageways are compressed through these narrow channels, and the rock walls down to the edge of the water is quite sheer. From the outside, this looks like no place for any boat of any kind at all. Yet, several commerical Kayak Trips pass through here, and even the occasional tourist boat such as the Victoria Clipper (Seattle to Friday Harbor, and thus not really something you can do out of Deception Pass State Park itself) come through these very rough looking waters.

Yet, that brutal scenery is also a place of beautiful vistas, and thus Deception Pass State Park is a very popular tourist destination.

The popularity of this location becomes quite clear when you drive though this area on highway 20. As you approach the two bridges that carry highway 20 from Widbey Island to the small but spectacular Pass Island, and then from Pass Island to Fidalgo Island, you will typically find a huge amount of congestion as people pull over to the side of the road to take a look at the vistas available in this area.

Camping, hiking, beaches, fishing, and kayaking are all part of what is available here. There are a few great day use areas too that are just good picnic and relaxation spots. For example, see the Cranberry Lake Day Use Area. There are several campgrounds, the most extensive of which is Cranberry Lake Campground, which has tent camping and trailer / RV camping sites. Certain areas of the park also have even more primitive hike in / walk in camp sites.

The Maiden of Deception Pass is one of the local legends associated with this location.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Beautiful, rugged state park with many amenities, close to Seattle
  • Cons:A very popular place, especially on nice weekends, close to Seattle
  • In a nutshell:Worth a visit, even when the crowds have invaded - but try to time your visit to avoid them.
  • Last visit to Deception Pass State Park: Apr 2010
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (12)

Comments (6)

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Nov 11, 2015 at 11:36 PM

    NIce page on this State Park. Like the bridges, views and the campground looks good too!

  • ettiewyn's Profile Photo
    Mar 21, 2011 at 4:39 AM

    Wow, excellent page - so much effort and information! It looks like a great place to visit. The spelling of the name is interesting and the story is great! I really want to learn more on the First Nations in the US. Thanks for this page!

  • aussirose's Profile Photo
    Mar 20, 2011 at 1:29 AM

    What a great page Glenn!! You certainly put a lot of work into this one mate! Love the legend story :o) And the bridges!! Wow!! Awesome pix!! Hugs, Ann.

  • Faiza-Ifrah's Profile Photo
    Jun 5, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    very nice tips. fishing line warning tip is great. i liked the story of Kw?kwál?lw?t (is this the name or is it a typo?) under the local customs the best ever. you did full justice writing it. the story has character development and emotions in it. nice.

  • cachaseiro's Profile Photo
    May 7, 2010 at 11:52 PM

    excellent page. the pacific northwest really has some stunning nature.

  • Manara's Profile Photo
    Apr 30, 2010 at 11:08 AM

    Stunning pictures!


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