Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park boasts a landscape that's both astonishing and unique. Visitors can take in views of cerulean lakes surrounded by towering cliffs and wide, stark stretches of high desert.
Located in north-central Washington, three miles from Coulee City, the 4,024-acre Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park is situated along the historic National Ice Age Floods Geologic Trail. The park was created between 1933 and 2002 with the purchase of 15 separate parcels of land and contains 12 freshwater lakes, including more than 70,000 feet of shoreline at Dry Falls Lake.
The landscape at Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park was created 13,000 years ago by the massive flooding caused by the Ice Age and was originally the ancestral lands of the Coulee, as well as Colville Indian Tribes. The Ice-Age-sculpted landscape, filled with deep gorges and blue water lakes, is spectacularly picturesque. The 400-foot high by 3.5-mile-wide cliff known as Dry Falls was once was a waterfall four times the size of present-day Niagara Falls.
Activities at Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park are plentiful, with opportunities for boating, watersports, hiking, and wildlife viewing - plus, there's even a nine-hole golf course. In addition to an interactive Visitor Center, there are several 1938 Civilian Conservation Corp structures to explore.
The weather at Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park is generally arid, with little moisture throughout the year. Temperatures can range from the mid-70s and 90s in the summer months to the mid-30s and 50s during the winter. If you planning an RV road trip to Washington, the captivating natural wonder of the area makes this state park a must-see!
Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park is accessed from Washington Route 17, which runs north-south across central Washington. The area immediately around the park is quite flat, so you need not worry about any steep hills or winding roads. If you're coming over the Cascades, from the west, you will have to contend with a bit of mountain-driving (still, though, you'll be on well-maintained, major roads).
Within the park, routes vary in difficulty and conditions. The road to Dry Falls Lake is the longest drive and most difficult if you have a larger RV or trailer. If you are pulling a trailer, you may think about unhitching before making the drive on this road, which has numerous curves and hairpin turns. The road to Deep Lake is an easier drive with fewer turns and the terrain is less undulating. There is also a road that will take you to the boat ramps at Park Lake.
Using an additional car, or traveling by bike, is preferred by most RVers and those pulling trailers. The main campground consists of seven loops that are connected by one two-way road that is narrow with curves for you to maneuver. The road out of the campground leads to Dry Falls Lake and can be congested at times during the high season.
Weather hazards here include icy roads and snow (during the winter months) and wind (year-round). Be sure to check the weather and wind forecast ahead of time, especially if you have a high-profile vehicle!
All spots at the main RV campground are back-in. If you have a medium or small RV or trailer, you shouldn't have much trouble maneuvering into your spot. Larger rigs may require a bit more patience. Once you are parked, you'll be within easy walking distance of the campground's amenities (including water spigots, modern restrooms, and showers), as well as the amphitheater and the Boy Scout trailhead.
There's additional parking available at several of the park's other lakes and trailheads. There's not always a ton of room for large vehicles, though, especially during the summer. If you can, unhitch your trailer, take a personal vehicle, or ride a bike.
Sun Lake's RV campground is set right on the western shores of Sun Lake itself. Even those in the furthest back sites will be no more than 500 feet from the shore. Take in spectacular views of the water and surrounding cliffs while enjoying the shade provided by rows of stately, planted trees.
The campground is spread out over nine loops which contain almost 200 campsites, including 41 full hookup campsites (these include water, 20- and 30-amp electric and sewer connections) for RVs and trailers. The nine loops are connected by one road. Each campsite is furnished with a fire ring.
The longest sites are 65 feet, though most are shorter than that (in the 40-50 foot range). If you're traveling with a large rig or trailer, try to book well ahead of time in order to get a suitable spot. Several of the campground's loops are reserved for tent campers or small trailer or RV campers. All spots are back-in, and leveling will be required for most campsites.
Each loop within the campground contains flush toilets, showers, and freshwater drinking stations. Water access is limited during the winter months; the campground's spigots are shut off, however, you can still get water at the entrance station. There is a dump station located near the entrance for RVs and trailers. You are encouraged to dump full holding tanks at the dump station before parking.
Generators may be used from 8 AM to 9 PM daily. Pets are welcome but must be restrained by a six-foot leash at all times within the campground. Reservations are available from mid-April to mid-September and can be made online. Bookings are taken up to one year in advance.
During the off-season, from October to April, most campsites are still open and offered on a first-come, first-served basis only. Reservations are not accepted during the off-season.
During peak season, unreserved spots can also be taken on a first-come, first-served basis. However, if you're traveling with a medium or large RV or trailer, reservations are highly recommended. Although Sun Lake has lots of spots, only a few dozen are suitable for larger rigs, and these fill up fast during the summer.
Planning a reunion, scouts meeting, or other large gathering? Sun Lakes has a lovely group camping area that's set away from the bustle of the main campground. Group camping is primitive, with only tents allowed. The site can accommodate up to 75 guests. Reservations can be made over the same online portal as for the regular campground.
There are plentiful opportunities for watersports at Sun Lakes. Swimming, motorized boating, kayaking, canoeing, water skiing, and wakeboarding are all popular here. There are two boat ramps for motorized boats at Park Lake and one boat ramp for motorized boats at Deep Lake. Kayaking and canoeing are popular at all lakes but especially Dry Falls Lake. There is a swimming beach located at Park Lake where you can test your fortitude in the chilly waters.
Several of the park's roads, including those that go to Deep Lake and Dry Lake, are suitable for biking. A ride on either of these routes will take you through fascinating landscapes, created during the Ice Age when melting waters flooded the area to form the blue water lakes. You can also take a mellow ride around scenic Park Lake, cruise the roads within the campground, or ride to Vic Meyer Lake. Watch for traffic while biking on the roads within the park area.
Fishing is superb within Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park, where there are 12 freshwater lakes open to fishing. You can use a motorboat to troll on Deep Lake and Park Lake. Other fishing opportunities are limited to the shoreline or fishing from a canoe, kayak, or belly boat. Rainbow trout are the most commonly caught species here, and they're restocked three times every year. Brown trout, smallmouth bass, perch, and an occasional walleye are also found in the park's waters.
Check with Washington State Rules and Regulations for bag and size limit of catches. Also, make sure you have a proper Washington state fishing license before casting your line!
For those looking to stretch their legs and explore the park in full, Sun Lakes offers an extensive network of hiking trails. Over 15 miles of footpaths wander through this geologic wonderland. Families will enjoy the mile-long Boy Scout Trail, a mellow but beautiful path that offers interpretive signage along its way.
For a longer trek, you may want to take the five-mile loop trail to Umatilla Rock. Another superb hike within the park is the Caribou Trail, which will take you to an overlook above Deep Lake. There are also trails to several of the other lakes within the park. You can check the Visitor Center for trail closures and conditions, or get recommendations on which trails to take.
If you're looking for more trails or a longer, more remote trek, you can head to one of the nearby National Forests. About an hour and a half to the west, straddling the Cascades, is the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. About two hours to the northeast is the rugged Colville National Forest. Both of these forests offer hundreds of miles of hiking and backpacking trails.
There are tons of opportunities for wildlife viewing and bird watching in this unique landscape - be sure to bring your binoculars along. Some of the park's resident critters include bobcats, coyotes, deer, elk, raccoons, and marmots.
Avian species here include both year-round residents and seasonal visitors. You may catch sight of Nashville warblers, red-eyed vireos, Cassin's vireos, yellow warblers, Wilson's warblers or a whole host of other neotropical songbirds, as they flit through the campground's trees during spring and fall. Woodpeckers, herons, quail, pheasant and several species of geese can be seen here as well. Looking out over the lake, you may see hawks, ospreys, or even bald eagles circling and diving for a meal.
Dry Falls Visitor Center is a great place to visit to get an overview of the park’s geologic and cultural history. The center offers numerous ranger-led talks and hikes. The center is packed with interesting interactive exhibits that explain the importance of area including wildlife, marine life, geologic history, and the cultural history of the native Indian tribes that resided in this fabulous landscape.
After you've taken in the exhibits, you can stretch your legs and take in the sights outdoors. The overlook at Dry Falls is a short walk where you will be treated to panoramic views of the numerous lakes; make sure to bring your camera, as this is a superb place to take photographs.