Larrabee State Park, Washington’s first state park, is known for its scenic coastline views of Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands. The 2,748-acre park has 8,100 feet of saltwater shoreline and is part of the Chuckanut Drive section of the 22-mile scenic byway, State Route 11. This curvy road passes along sandstone cliffs and past where the Cascade Mountains meet the sea. The park, located a few hours from Seattle and minutes from Bellingham, Washington, is a coastal recreational hotspot. You can take a day trip and visit the North Cascades National Park, or stay close to the water, kayak, search the tidepools, and watch the sunset, and never have to leave the park’s boundaries. Campers can fish the lakes and streams for trout or dig up some tasty razor clams to cook for supper. RVers will enjoy a Pacific Northwest’s camping and recreational experience when they park their vehicle at Larrabee State Park. The park’s scenic views and varied outdoor activities will beckon visitors to stay outside and enjoy nature in its purest form. The lush green campground offers one activity that most campgrounds can’t provide: trainspotting. Train enthusiasts and kids will love hearing and seeing the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, and the Amtrak train run past the campground up to 16 times a day.
Larrabee State Park is located six miles south of Bellingham, Washington. When driving south on the Chuckanut Highway, exercise extreme caution on curves and downgrades. People driving north from Seattle, an 80-mile drive, should be aware of road restrictions on certain sections of the Chuckanut Highway. No vehicles over 18,000 lbs are allowed on Chuckanut Drive between miles 9—14. Large RVs are not recommended.
The campground is on the western edge of the state park near the coastal boat launch. The roads inside the campground areas are paved, making it reasonably easy to navigate, although some of the turns can be tight.
Washington requires that all visitors purchase a Discover Pass to access state-managed recreation lands. Visitors can buy day passes or a yearly pass. Passes are available for purchase online, by phone, and in person.
The Larrabee State Park Campground is a year-round, pet-friendly campground that requires reservations between May 15 and September 15. Outside of that window, the campground operates on a first-come, first-serve basis. During the off-season, some facilities work on a limited basis. The campground offers full hookup sites, electric-only sites, and primitive camping sites. Electricity ranges from 20 to 50 amps. Maximum site length is 30 feet, but availability is limited for the larger campsites. Check the individual camp specs when reserving your site for more information on size, shade, and leveling issues. The campground offers picnic tables, hydrants, toilets, showers, and a dump station. Generators may be operated only between the hours of 8 AM and 9 PM. Please note that a working train runs through the park, just west of the campground. While leashed pets are welcome at the campground and on most trails, they are not allowed in any of the developed buildings.
During the offseason, the park remains open for recreation and camping. The Larrabee State Park Campground offers first-come, first-served camping with limited amenities. Before heading to the park, ensure you have enough water on board your rig, and that you are prepared to camp in your self-contained RV or motorhome.
Larrabee State Park is just one of the many places along the Washington coast where people can take part in one of the Pacific Northwest’s most popular hobbies. Recreational shellfishing, or clam digging, is an activity people of every age can enjoy. Even on the coldest and wettest of days, you can have a successful clam and oyster dig. Buy a license, pick up some tools, and head to the beach to see what you can dig up! Always check the rules, regulations, tide tables, and beach status before attempting to dig for clams. Issues such as red tide may temporarily close popular clamming beaches.
Pack your metal detector in your Airstream so that you can head to the park’s metal-detecting area and hunt for treasures in the sand! Metal detecting is a favorite activity in Washington, and more than 30 state parks, including Larrabee State Park, provide visitors with sanctioned metal-detecting areas. If you are planning on trying out this unique pastime, you must first register with Washington State Parks and agree to adhere to the code of ethics and posted rules and regulations which govern this activity. If you happen to stumble upon a find that appears to have any historical or archeological significance, do not remove it from its location and report the finding to a park employee as soon as you can.
Spending time outside in the almost surreal scenery of Larrabee State Park will provide nature lovers with an unforgettable experience. The trails at this state park offer hikers the opportunity to experience both hiking along the Pacific Northwest’s evergreen-lined, oceanfront cliffs as well as wandering through the woods to find a secluded lake. Rock Trail is an easy 1.7-mile trail that features beautiful wildflowers and interesting rock features if you are looking for a simple walk in the woods, and Chuckanut Drive is an equally tranquil 13.1-mile trail with spectacular views. If you are looking for something more challenging, you might enjoy the Chuckanut Mountain trail, a 6.1-mile trek with an elevation gain of nearly 2,000 feet. Whether you enjoy a leisurely hike, or you are looking for a little more adventure with your mountain bike or horse, the 18 miles of trail system inside Larrabee State Park will give you and your family hours in nature.
Geocaching is a modern-day scavenger hunt made possible by the advent of cellular technology and the removal of selective availability from GPS technology. Participants search for caches, which are small containers, with a logbook or log sheet to track their find. In some cases, there are little trinkets in the caches which can be taken and replaced with trinkets of similar value, or specialized tokens that can be moved from cache to cache. The caches are typically put in place by other players, and they often have clues on the websites about where to find them. Along with several traditional caches that can be found at this state park, there are mystery caches, which often involve solving puzzles to locate them, and several EarthCaches set up by the Geological Society of America, where the participant finds specific geological formations to receive educational information about them.
If you enjoy fishing and you want a quiet and secluded fishing experience, then you will want to pack your fishing gear in your motorhome when you visit the park. Lost Lake and Fragrance Lake are both small lakes inside of the park, which are accessible on foot. You can hike to your mountain lake destination, then spend the rest of your day fishing the scenic waters. Both lakes are stocked throughout the year and are teeming with rainbow and cutthroat trout. Contact the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for more information on the fishing season or purchasing a recreational fishing license.
Bring your boats and paddle the coastline! The park’s boat-launch area is located close to the water, and it offers ample parking as well as pit toilets, making your day of boating convenient and fun. Both non-motorized and motorized boats are permitted on these lakes. The boat launch is available at high tide, but boats may become inaccessible during low tide cycles when the water retreats. The park sells the required daily watercraft launching permit, so be sure to ask the park office staff about purchasing a permit and preparing to boat.
Spend your day outside by preparing a day of picnicking for the entire family. Two reservable picnic shelters with sinks, electrical outlets, grills, and picnic tables can accommodate large groups of up to 100 people. If you don’t have that many people with you, but you still want to enjoy a picnic, then visit one of the 45 unsheltered picnic areas. These picnic areas are first-come, first-served, and they will help your group experience a day of food and fun.
At low tide, Larrabee State Park is one of the best places to explore tidepools in Washington State. You can discover several interesting creatures in these shallow, saltwater pools, including seastars, hermit crabs, small Dungeness crabs, and a variety of sea snails and sea slugs. Many sharp barnacles can also be found here, so be sure to wear foot protection when you are on the beach. When you are finished exploring, eat lunch at one of the picnic tables near the tidepools, or let the kids blow off steam at the playground.