Nestled in southwestern Washington just south of the Olympic National Forest lies a former logging camp turned recreational hub that attracts campers from all around. Lake Sylvia State Park has a rich logging history full of legends from the past. As early as 1868, the area was operating as a fully functional water-power sawmill. Today, visitors can still see the marks left by loggers in the form of aged stumps as well as logging artifacts and gear which are on display. Also on display is a large, wooden ball carved by a famous logger. Legend has it that he could walk on top of the ball and roll it across Lake Sylvia's waters, floating it from end to end.
Lake Sylvia State Park sits on 233 acres of land just under two hours outside of Seattle. In addition to the dense rainforest that covers the park, the park encompasses the 30-acre Lake Sylvia, which was created by damming Sylvia Creek. Park guests can enjoy seeing and photographing wildlife such as coyotes, bobcats, and deer as well as the occasional bear. A variety of birds love nesting in the nearby hemlock, cedars, and Douglas fir, which provide ample coverage and gorgeous backdrops to the lakeside views.
Situated just outside Montesano, Lake Sylvia State Park is easy to find. The park can be accessed by driving west on Highway 12. There is only one road, Sylvia Lake Road, that leads to the park’s entrance. This road is paved and smooth, offering visitors a beautiful scenic drive into the park. Be aware that the road has many turns and tight curves, so visitors will want to travel slowly and cautiously. There are several pull-out spots along the way where visitors can park for a few minutes to take in the views. Watch out for low-hanging branches that may scrape the RV or block the way.
RV campers can park at their designated campsites, and there is a parking lot for extra vehicles inside of the campground. Day use guests can park in the parking lot opposite the park’s office near the entrance.
The campground at Lake Sylvia State Park is located right next to the lake. There are 31 standard campsites that are suitable for RVs, tents, and trailers. Additionally, there are four partial hookup sites available. These sites are highly competitive and tend to go fast, so visitors who prefer hookups will need to make their reservations as early as possible. Be aware that the campground is seasonal and is only open during the park's peak season months of April through October.
Each campsite can accommodate up to eight people and includes a picnic table and grill. Other amenities offered in the park include drinking water, three restrooms with flush toilets, coin-operated showers, and a dump station. The campground is pet friendly; however, all pets must be kept on a leash at all times. Generators are permitted, but the use is restricted to certain hours in order to comply with the park's quiet hours.
There is one group campsite available by reservation only. This site can accommodate up to 50 campers and is limited to tent-only camping. Be aware that up to five vehicles are allowed to park at the group campsite and any additional vehicles after that will be charged an extra fee.
In addition to the standard campsites, the park also offers several primitive camping options. Four campsites are located near the group camping area and are designated as walk-in campsites. An additional two primitive campsites designed for bike-in and hike-in campers are located closer to the main campground. Some of these sites can be reserved while others are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Campers will need to bring all of their supplies in with them as no amenities are offered at any of the primitive campsites.
There is no better way to soak up the beauty of the park than to enjoy a serene picnic beside the scenic Lake Sylvia or among the towering green forest. Visitors have the option of choosing from any of the 75 unsheltered picnic tables that are spread throughout the park. Additionally, there is one sheltered picnic table located in the day-use area. All picnic tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so visitors will want to arrive early to claim their favorite picnic spot.
The park’s lively forest habitat and lakeshores present great birding opportunities. Every avid birder will confirm that a visit to Lake Sylvia State Park is a dream come true. On the river banks and soaring above the area are osprey, Canadian geese, and bald eagles. Mallard ducks, woodpeckers, and beavers are often sighted throughout the year. Other bird species can be spotted throughout the park, giving birdwatching enthusiasts a wide variety to search for through their binoculars.
Park visitors can discover the serenity of aquatic life by exploring the calm waters of Lake Sylvia on a boat. Lake Sylvia's unique elongated shape has created 15,000 feet of shoreline to explore and gives visitors plenty of space to spread out from other park visitors. There is a boat ramp available within the park and a daily launching permit is required from all boaters. Be aware that only electric and non-motorized vessels are allowed on the lake.
The day-use area has a roped-off swimming zone where park visitors can take a dip in the cool freshwater of Sylvia Lake. There is also a sandy beach along the shore where visitors can stroll and a playground equipped with toys nearby. Changing rooms are also available in the swimming area. Be aware that there are no lifeguards on duty and swimmers swim at their own risk. The swimming area is an open space with little to no tree coverage, so visitors will want to be sure that proper precautions are taken to guard against the sun.
The natural beauty of Lake Sylvia State Park is most easily seen on foot. With well-interconnected, lush trails, hikers can easily explore the park’s attraction in the company of their families and pets. Trails include a half-mile of ADA-accessible trails as well as several interpretive loops. Five miles of hiking trails provide visitors with an up-close view of the park's unique vegetation and rainforest habitat as well as the opportunity to see some of the native wildlife along the way.
Lake Sylvia is a popular spot for freshwater fishing. Guests can enjoy fishing anytime from morning until dusk to try their luck at catching one of the rainbow trout or largemouth bass that inhabit the lake. Anglers can fish from a variety of spots including taking a boat on the water, from the lake's shores, or on the ADA-accessible fishing dock. Be aware that all visitors who intend to fish are required to have a valid fishing license before casting their line.