Deception Pass State Park
Guide

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Introduction

If you’re looking for a magical escape of untouched natural beauty in Oak Harbor, Washington, on your next RV adventure, then you need to visit Deception Pass State Park. Teeming with enchanting caves and jagged cliffs, Deception Pass State Park is the most visited state park in Washington. Just north of Seattle, this state park offers 3,854 acres that are open for exploration with three lakes and jaw-dropping high bridges. The state park encompasses two serene islands, Fidalgo and Whidbey, that are connected by the Deception Pass Bridge.
When you take an RV trip to Deception Pass State Park, you’ll be greeted with three miles of mountain biking trails, six miles of equestrian trails, and 38 miles of hiking trails where you can venture through scenic bluffs and lush forests. You’ll love spending a day filled with family fun splashing along the shore at Cranberry Lake. You can take awe-inspiring photographs when you park your trailer at Kukutali Preserve, which offers amazing views of the islands. Deception Pass State Park provides the perfect opportunity for aquatic adventure as well, from boating to white-water kayaking.
When you take your RV out to Deception Pass, you’ll be vacationing in an area with a rich history. Visit the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Interpretive Center, where you can learn about the incredible history of the park that dates back to the 1930s. Take a stroll along the Sand Dunes Interpretive Trail and learn about the local ecosystem and natural history of the park. You might also want to check out the Maiden of Deception Pass story pole at Rosario Beach, where you can see a depiction of the story of Ko-Kwal-alwoot, which is a legend of the Samish Indian Nation.

RV Rentals in Deception Pass State Park

Transportation in Deception Pass State Park

Driving

You can drive your RV to Deception Pass State Park by taking Highway I-5 to WA-20. If you are coming from the Seattle area, it is a straight shot up I-5, and from the Spokane area, and you can take I-90 to I-5. The highways here are curvy, and some can be narrow, but with I-5, you will be just fine. However, some of the bridges in and around the park undergo periodic repairs, so you will need to check with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) before heading to the park to avoid any tricky turnarounds.
There are local roads inside the park that will take you to main attractions, including the interpretive center, campgrounds, trailheads, and scenic overlooks. There are no driving restrictions for trailers or RVs inside the park, but some of the gravel or dirt roads in the park may be narrow or have tight curves. Talk to the park office or ranger about issues you may have with getting around the park if your RV is over 30 feet in length.
Parking lots are dotted around the park at all the main attractions. You will find parking at the Deception Pass Scenic Vista, Bowman Bay Boat Launch, the interpretive center, and the eastern side of Cranberry Lake. You can also park at the campgrounds if you are staying overnight. However, you should only use the parking designated for your campsite.

Parking

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Deception Pass State Park

Campsites in Deception Pass State Park

Reservations camping

Bowman Bay Campground

Bowman Bay Campground, located on the northern island, Fidalgo, is the smallest campground in the park, featuring 18 tent-only sites and two sites open to RVs. The Bowman Bay Campground is open year-round and boasts shower houses, restrooms with running water and flush toilets. In addition, the park provides electric and water hookups to some of the sites. Each site has picnic tables and fire pits with grills.
You will also have convenient access to a nearby picnic area, nature trails, and all of the fun aquatic adventures located at Bowman Bay. The maximum length for RVs and trailers is 60 feet. You are welcome to bring your pooch, but it must always be properly restrained and supervised during your visit. It is best to make your reservations early because of the limited amount of RV sites.

Quarry Pond Campground

Quarry Pond Campground is open year-round, featuring 49 RV sites and seven tent-only sites. This campground features hot showers and modern restrooms with running water except for the winter months when the water is off. Each of the campsites boasts a large picnic table and a fire pit with a grill to cook on. Located on the southern part of Whidbey Island in the park, you’ll be within walking distance to all the fun at Cranberry Lake. The maximum length for RVs and trailers is 60 feet. All of the RV sites feature water and electrical hookups. You will be camping right by Quarry Pond, which is a one-acre pond that provides a plethora of aquatic critters to see. From fish to frogs and ducks to herons, there is almost always something moving around in there. You are welcome to bring your furbaby. However, it must remain on a leash or otherwise restrained during your stay. Reservations can be made from one day to one year in advance.

Cranberry Lake Campground

Open year-round, Cranberry Lake Campground is the largest at this state park, featuring 83 RV sites and 147 tent-only sites. The campground is located on the southern island of the state park, and it is divided into the Lower Loop A, Lower Loop B, and Forest Loop. You can stay at scenic sites that overlook Cranberry Bay and that are within walking distance to the Cranberry Lake Swimming Area. You’ll also have convenient access to one of the nature trails. There are modern restrooms with running water and hot showers, and each campsite has its own campfire ring with a grill for cooking and a picnic table on-site. The RV sites all feature water and electrical hookups. The water is shut off during the winter to prevent freezing. The maximum length for RVs and trailers is 60 feet, and sites can be reserved as little as a day or as long as a year in advance. Pets are welcome, but you must supervise them and keep them restrained at all times.

First-come first-served

Alternate camping

Ben Ure Cabin at Deception Pass

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have your own island? Well, you can have your chance if you come to Deception Pass State Park to camp. If you are looking for a unique accommodation experience, park your RV nearby and stay at the Ben Ure Cabin, which offers spectacular views of the Puget Sound and Mount Baker. This cabin is only accessible by watercraft, so you will not be sleeping in your RV here. The Ben Ure Cabin is modern and features a spacious deck, furnished electric kitchen, heat, electricity, bathroom, and an outdoor shower. Reservations are required, and you should do so at least six months in advance. Unfortunately, no pets are allowed, so you will have to leave your fur buddy at home on this trip.

Cornet Bay Retreat Center

If you want to park your RV on-site and stay in a hotel or cabin, accommodations are available at the Cornet Bay Retreat Center, located at the park. This retreat center offers beautiful views of Mount Baker, where you can stay at the main lodge, duplex, bunkhouse, or in one of its 14 cabins. The lodge offers a fully equipped kitchen, and the other accommodations feature restrooms and showers in the building or nearby. You will have beds, kitchen supplies, tables, chairs, and cleaning supplies. You’ll have to bring your own bedding and linens. The retreat center also features recreational activities on-site, including horseshoe pits, volleyball courts, and basketball courts. Among other activities, you can also do some kayaking, fishing, or take a walk on some of the hiking trails.

Seasonal activities in Deception Pass State Park

In-Season

Boating

There are loads of aquatic adventures waiting for you when you take an RV trip to Deception Pass State Park. From boating and kayaking to sailing and canoeing, you’ll love coasting down the majestic waters of Cranberry Lake or Pass Lake. Cranberry Lake allows boats with electric motors, while Pass Lake is open to non-motorized boats only. Cornet Bay features six saltwater boat launch ramps, and Bowman Bay features a single lane boat launch ramp.

Hiking

Once you park your rig at Deception Pass State Park, you can head out for a beautiful hike on one of the park's 38 miles of hiking trails. You’ll love hiking towards Lighthouse Point, where you can see ducks and waterfowl at Lottie Bay, and the enchanting Douglas fir forest is unforgettable. If you head out on the trail towards Rosario Beach, you’ll be met with scenic overlooks and a quiet picnic area. If you just want a short and easy walk, try the one-mile Deception Pass Bridge and Beach Trail. For more of a challenge, check out the 2.1-mile Goose Rock Loop Trail, which has a moderate rating due to the elevation gain of 531 feet.

Visiting the CCC Interpretive Center

It is always fun to learn something while you are on vacation. The park is open from mid-May to Labor Day, and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Interpretive Center is a must-see during your camper trip to Deception Pass State Park. You will love exploring the exhibits at the center, which detail the history of the park, which was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. You can find the CCC Interpretive Center in the Bowman Bay Day Area.

Guided Hikes and Ranger Talks

During the summer months, Deception Pass State Park features regularly scheduled interpretive programs, including guided hikes and ranger talks. Guided walks provide a chance to trek through the scenic nature trails of the park while you learn about the park’s ecosystem and wildlife from expert rangers. The whole family will enjoy attending a ranger hike where you can learn about the park’s natural and cultural history. Make sure you pack your hiking boots in the RV before heading to the park!

Swimming and Diving

You’ll love swimming at the beautiful Cranberry Lake Swimming Area, located on the southern island of the park. The whole family will enjoy splashing in the waves and building sandcastles on the shores of the lake. You can also go cliff diving and scuba diving in the bay during your RV trip to Deception Pass State Park, although you should take caution due to the strong winds and currents of the water. Cliff diving is dangerous, even for the most experienced divers, so do be extra careful.

Off-Season

Wildlife Viewing and Birding

Deception Pass State Park is a picturesque setting for wildlife viewing and birdwatching during your RV adventure to Washington. You can spot seals and otters on the bay and ducks on the lake. Many mammals call this state park home, including rabbits, foxes, coyotes, deer, and raccoons. If you pack your binoculars in your trailer, you can see all kinds of birds, such as owls, eagles, hawks, woodpeckers, and herons.

Horseback Riding

If you want to go horseback riding during your camper vacation to Deception Pass, you can ride along six miles of trails in the park. Most of these multi-use trails are located on the southern portion of Hoypus Forest. You will love riding on these scenic routes featuring lakefront views, ocean views, and forest landscapes. The 2.4-mile Old Hoypus Hill Logging Road is a fantastic equestrian trail to spend the day on with lots of gorgeous views, so bring a camera to carry around your neck for the chance to take a quick photo along your ride.

Picnicking

Deception Pass State Park offers several scenic spots for picnicking. Picnic tables are first-come, first-served, but no matter where you enjoy a delicious meal, you’ll be surrounded by untouched natural beauty. You can picnic on the beach while you listen to the tranquil waters of Cranberry Lake or set up near the playground so the kids can have some fun during your stay. There are also several picnic shelters you can reserve if you have a large group. The North Beach Picnic Area can accommodate 100 people, Rosario Shelter can handle up to 125 visitors, the West Beach Shelter hosts up to 50 people, Bowman Bay S-4 can host up to 75, and Bowman Bay S-5 can host up to 75 and is ADA accessible.

Fishing

Be sure to pack your fishing gear and bait in the RV before heading to the park. And bring a net, too, because you can catch some whoppers here. If you’re an avid angler, you’ll love a visit to Deception Pass State Park. Cranberry Lake and Pass Lake offer quiet spots for freshwater fishing. You can also enjoy catch-and-release fly fishing on Pass Lake. You will have the chance to catch salmon, shrimp, cod, and more.

Biking

You’ll love cycling the three miles of biking trails located at Deception Pass State Park. Most of these trails are located in the southern portion of Hoypus Forest. Once you head out of the RV, you can coast along scenic trails through forests with beautiful, lakefront views. The Pass Lake Loop is about two miles in length and climbs up to 473 feet with a maximum grade of 6%. The 0.6-mile Discovery Trail is fun with a high point of 174 feet and a maximum grade of 2%.

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