Deception Pass State Park (Oak Harbor, WA)

After over a month exploring Canada and Alaska, we reentered the United States just south of Vancouver. On the suggestion of a CouchSurfer in Haines, who was from Bellingham, WA, we headed to Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island for some camping. We’ll tell you about the campground tomorrow. Today, let’s talk about the state park itself.

But first, a funny, but almost could’ve been not funny, border crossing story. On our way back in to Washington, we got the standard questions. Any fresh fruit or vegetables? Any alcohol? Any firearms? Etc. Our big-eared pal Knox is one very alert (some might say “on edge”) puppy. So when we stop to talk to anyone out the window, whether it’s a coffee shop barista or a border guard, he sits up and comes as far forward as the seat belt allows. And stares a hole through the person.

So the border guard notices this and says “Your Cujo is staring me down.” It’s especially humorous that he called him “Cujo” since we jokingly call him that, especially back in his less friendly days. Finally, after processing everything, the guard says “Okay, can I pet him?” Oh boy! Now there’s a bad idea! We just told him that Knox is very protective of the truck (which isn’t a lie) and that it would be a bad idea. Crisis averted!

Standing At The Foot Of Giants

Since the extent of visiting Washington for either of us prior to this trip was Scott flying into Seattle, hopping on I-5, and driving north to Whistler for a ski trip, we really had no idea what to expect. The thing that struck us immediately, long before we even made it to Whidbey Island, were the trees. We know about northern California and its huge redwood trees, but for some reason, we never thought that further up the coast would have trees that are just as big and beautiful.

Not being arborists, we consulted the all-knowing Wikipedia to find out what kind of trees we were dwarfed by: “The principal trees are Douglas fir, red alder, bigleaf maple, western red cedar, and western hemlock.” None of that means much to us, other than “yeah, I’ve heard of that.” Nonetheless, these trees reached up a good 150-200 feet and maybe beyond. While not in the same class as the great trees of NorCal, the coast of northern Washington is full of these large old growth forests. Truly beautiful and a great “Welcome back!”

Hiking & Other Recreation

Deception Pass State Park is the most visited state park in Washington with over 2 million visitors a year. There’s something to do in every season here. To name a few, you can go boating, cross-country skiing, hiking, horseback riding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and scuba diving.

Hiking was up our alley, given the lack of snow and our lack of a boat. Out of the 38 miles of trails in the park, we took a 3-4 mile hike out of our campground around the beach, up to the Deception Pass Bridge, and around the base of Goose Rock, sticking to the water. You can also hike up to the top of Goose Rock, one of the “peaks” of Whidbey Island. All of these trails offer great views of the surrounding beaches, forest, and open water.

Getting Here

Deception Pass State Park is located on the north end of Whidbey Island (the 40th largest island in the US), a little southwest of Bellingham. There’s only one way in and one way out: over the Deception Pass Bridge on Washington State Route 20.

Technically, there are two bridges, crossing both Canoe Pass and Deception Pass, with a total length of nearly 1500 ft and a height of 180 ft. Twenty thousand cars cross the two-lane bridge daily. Anyway, the easiest way here is to take I-5 to either Burlington or Mt. Vernon, depending on whether you’re heading north or south, and get onto WA-20. Follow that to the west and you’ll eventually hit Whidbey Island.


Trees, trees, trees! And bridges! Some water, too! And did we mention trees?