The month of June has three “state parks free days,” more than any other month. On June 11 for National Get Outdoors Day, June 12 for Free Fishing Day and June 19 for Juneteenth, you can access all Washington state parks without paying an entry fee.
In general, our Western Washington state parks are lowland and coastal, while mountainous higher-elevation public land lies in federal hands or with the Department of Natural Resources. That means beaches, forts, islands, lighthouses, bays and coastal forests are all fair game for the free days. Not a bad trade-off.
When it’s not a free day, visiting a state park costs $10 for a one-day pass. But yearlong access is a good deal: The annual Discover Pass is just $30. Passes can be purchased online at store.discoverpass.wa.gov, over the phone at 866-320-9933, in-person at 80 retailers across the state (REI is a reliable choice) and from automated pay stations at all of the parks below except for Sequim Bay.
Here are six parks that showcase the wealth of variety in state parks offerings. Check them out during the free days this June.
Dash Point hides in plain sight, straddling King and Pierce Counties on Puget Sound. An easy jaunt from Seattle or Tacoma, the park offers prized waterfront access in the most heavily populated corner of the state. There’s an ample 3,300 feet of beachfront with views of Vashon Island. Skimboarders in particular take advantage of the low tide shallows to zip along in just a few inches of water above the sand. If you need a break from the beach, there are 11 miles of forested trails in the upland portion of the park. With 114 campsites, Dash Point makes for an ideal close-to-home camping destination.
5700 S.W. Dash Point Road, Federal Way; 253-661-4955
The “Triangle of Fire” once guarded the entrance to Puget Sound at Admiralty Inlet with a trio of forts that ensured no enemy naval vessel could slip past. All three forts — Worden, Casey and Flagler — are now state parks. Of the three, Fort Flagler on Marrowstone Island is the most out of the way, and thus the quietest. Military buffs will delight at the gun emplacements stationed along the Bluff Trail, while beachcombers can enjoy a long sandy walk, especially at low tide, below the bluff. The Beachcomber Cafe has seaside essentials like ice and beach toys, as well as burgers, sandwiches and coffee. The cafe is popular with campers who can set up near the water’s edge. Olympic Kayak Tours offers guided paddles through the scenic waters of Admiralty Inlet.
10541 Flagler Road, Nordland, Jefferson County; 360-385-1259
For whale watching without the expense and environmental impact of a motorized boat tour, pitch up with your binoculars at Lime Kiln Point State Park on the west side of San Juan Island. Gray, humpback, minke and, yes, orca whales are all known to frequent these waters from spring through fall. Rocky trails hug the cliffs where you can pick out your favorite viewing spot. Check in at the Lime Kiln Interpretive Center for the latest whale sighting reports before you head down to the water’s edge. If whales prove elusive, the park’s 103-year-old lighthouse is guaranteed to be on display.
1567 West Side Road, Friday Harbor; 360-378-2044
“May These Gates Never Be Closed” reads one of the inscriptions on the Peace Arch, a 101-year-old landmark along the westernmost point of the U.S.-Canada border. Sadly, they did close to nonessential travel for over 16 months, dealing a serious blow to our region’s shared identity as Cascadia. But for those eager to rekindle cross-border connections, the Peace Arch once again welcomes the “Children of a Common Mother” (another inscription) from both sides of the 49th parallel that separates the two countries. While many glimpse the arch from a car window while crossing the border, the arch anchors a unique state park that’s also a British Columbia provincial park. Visitors are allowed to travel freely within the park’s boundaries as long as they return to the country from where they arrived. Why stop and stretch your legs? To explore 40 acres of gardens, home to over 200 perennials and 20,000 annuals, as well as lovely views of Semiahmoo Bay and the islands beyond. Don’t miss the annual summer sculpture exhibition.
19 A St., Blaine; 360-332-8221
Want to maximize your odds of dry weather after our soaker of a winter and spring? This corner of the Olympic Peninsula sits in an exceptional rain shadow, making for one of the driest climates in Western Washington. Trips to Sequim usually entail lavender farms and walks out Dungeness Spit, but this state park tucked into a pleasant bay shouldn’t be overlooked. It provides access to the Olympic Discovery Trail, a multiuse recreation trail that stretches 120 miles from Port Townsend to the Pacific, and a plethora of moorage for boaters. The Ramblewood Retreat Center is also located here if you are planning an event with a large group.
269035 Highway 101, Sequim; 360-683-4235
Warm saltwater is a precious commodity in the Pacific Northwest. At Twanoh State Park on Hood Canal, the summer sun does the work to heat up the shallow waters. Locals have known this tip for a long while: Twanoh became a state park in 1923. With such an old vintage, the park is also a treat for architecture buffs who are fans of the rustic style of park shelters built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. When the tide recedes, oysters are there for the plucking and shucking — make sure you have a valid shellfish license. If you’re feeling sunbaked, the park also creeps up the hillside to the south with a gentle hiking trail through a mossy forest and along a salmon-bearing creek.
12190 Highway 106, Union, Mason County; 360-275-2222