12 Shockingly Beautiful State Parks Across the Pacific Northwest

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The Pacific Northwest is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty. Its coastlines, high mountain peaks, stunning waterfalls, and varying landscapes mean that no matter where you turn, there is a sight to behold.

In many states, these parks would be the peak attraction, but here, they are just one of a dozen state parks that show off this area’s incredible beauty. And that’s not even including the region’s four national parks that encompass the best of the best that nature has to offer!

So whether you’re visiting the Southern Oregon Coast, Central Oregon, or Puget Sound, there is a state park nearby that you can camp at and explore.

Deception Pass State Park, Washington

Coastal Landscape of Massive Bridge Connecting Islands
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Deception Pass State Park is best known for its scenic bridge that crosses above the narrow passage of water that separates Fidalgo Island from the popular vacation destination of Whidbey Island.

During changing tides, water rushes through this narrow pass, posing challenges for boaters and a playground for marine life.

The park is more than just the bridge, though, as it is filled with trails, hidden beaches and coves, and a campground perfect for getting away during our warm summer weekends.

Ecola State Park, Oregon

Aerial panorama shot at approximately 350 feet above Cannon Beach looking towards Ecola State Park on a sunny blue sky day on the Oregon Coast
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Standing just to the north of the uber-popular beach town of Cannon Beach, Ecola State Park offers a chance to get away from the crowds and connect with nature.

Here, you can walk the trail to the secluded Indian Beach or head out on a longer hike to the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse viewpoint. The lighthouse, locally known as Terrible Tilly, is a long abandoned lighthouse located on a rock approximately a mile out to sea.

There is also a hiker’s camp for backpackers making their way along the length of the Oregon Coast Trail, which runs from the mouth of the Columbia River to the California border.

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

Cape Disappointment State Park Lighthouse
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This Washington state park features not one but two stunning lighthouses that you can visit. Add in wide, sandy beaches, a hidden cove with an ominous name, and spacious campgrounds, and you have one of the best parks in the Pacific Northwest.

Located at the far southwestern tip of Washington at the mouth of the Columbia River, Cap Disappointment State Park is home to Cape Disappointment and North Head Lighthouses.

While Cape Disappointment Lighthouse has seen better days, North Head Lighthouse is in immaculate condition and even includes a Keeper’s Quarters, which can be rented as a vacation rental.

Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

Stunning view of North Falls in Silver Falls State Park near Silverton, Oregon
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While most visitors looking to experience Oregon’s iconic waterfalls head to the Columbia River Gorge, locals know that the best bang for your buck is at Silver Falls State Park.

Located south of Portland in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, the park is home to the scenic Trail of Ten Falls, which, as its name suggests, takes you past 10 amazing waterfalls. You even get to walk behind a few on this 7.4-mile loop.

If you’re looking for a unique running adventure, check out the half marathon that takes place on these trails in early November each year.

Moran State Park, Washington

Orcas Island View of the Puget Sound, Forests, and Mountain Peaks from Eastsound
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The San Juan Islands are already beautiful on their own, but if you throw in a state park that encompasses the tallest point on Orca Island, you have a winner.

The view from the top of Mt. Constitution offers 360-degree views of Puget Sound, the mountains to the east, and the rest of the islands that make up this idyllic area.

Within the park, you’ll also find campgrounds, which are a nice, affordable option in this otherwise expensive area, and Mountain Lake, which is the perfect place to paddle the day away.

Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

Sunrise at Smith Rock State Park in Oregon
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When you get your first up-close look at Smith Rock State Park, you may find yourself wondering how this stunning area isn’t worthy of national park status. The size probably plays a part in that, as Smith Rock is actually fairly small and much of the land to the east is private property.

Within the park, you’ll find towering basalt cliffs that have been attracting rock climbers for decades. As you hike along the Crooked River, keep your eyes on the rock above to try and spot the climbers making their way to the walls.

For a truly leg-burning hike, take the trail up and over Misery Ridge, which puts you front and center with the iconic Monkey Face rock formation.

Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon

Ocean view from Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon
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Cape Lookout State Park sits along one of the few stretches of the coast where Highway 101 heads inland and away from the coastline. This gives the park a more secluded feel which is highlighted by the trail that leads out to the Cape Lookout Scenic Viewpoint.

The viewpoint’s prominence out into the ocean makes it one of the best spots on the entire coast for whale watching during their seasonal migrations in the winter and spring months.

Fort Worden State Park, Washington

Post Townsend. Fort Worden State Park, flock of seagulls on the beach
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Located on the Olympic Peninsula, Fort Warden State Park abuts the scenic and historic town of Port Townsend.

The park is the home of an old military installation, which means that in addition to the beaches and ocean views you’d expect to see at a coastal Pacific Northwest state park, there are also old military installations to wander around and explore.

Within the park, you’ll also find the Port Townsend School of Woodworking, which has been teaching the art of fine woodworking to students since 2008.

Oswald West State Park, Oregon

The beach at Oswald West State Park.  It is part of the Oregon state park system and is located about 10 miles south of the city of Cannon Beach.
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Oswald West State Park is a favorite amongst Oregonians for its wild and scenic features like secluded beaches, hiking trails, and even a waterfall.

The star of the show within the park is the Cape Falcon Trail. This trail takes hikers on a 4.5-mile journey through the park and out to the Cape Falcon viewpoint, offering stunning views up and down the coast.

Make sure to take a peek at Devil’s Cauldron. During high surf, this feature comes alive as the surf thunders through the caves below.

Palouse Falls State Park, Washington

Palouse falls and rainbow
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Home to the dramatic 200-foot Palouse Falls, this remote state park in Eastern Washington is also one of the smallest parks in the state. Visitors who make the drive out here come for one reason and one reason only: to view the stunning Palouse Falls.

The area’s cliffs and winding river make it one of the most popular photography spots in the region. Come prepared to wait, though, as the park’s parking lot is surprisingly small and can fill quickly on weekends.

Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon

The wreck of the Peter Iredale, 100-year-old shipwreck
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Located just across the Columbia from Cape Disappointment State Park sits Oregon’s Fort Stevens State Park.

This huge park is home to campgrounds, miles of hiking and biking trails, old military installations, and wide sandy beaches, but its most popular attraction is one that landed on its shores more than 100 years ago.

The Peters Iredale was a 285-foot-long sailing vessel that ran aground in 1906. Today, the skeleton of this boat still sits on the beach and draws in curious onlookers and photographers.

When the tide is out, you can walk through the ribs of the ship and take in just how huge this boat was when it met its fate on this sandy beach.

Lake Wenatchee State Park, Washington

Lake Wenatchee State Park
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Nestled on the east side of the Cascade Range, Lake Wenatchee State Park is a popular summer getaway for the stunning mountain views and warm waters of Lake Wenatchee.

With plenty of camping spots, playgrounds, and a shallow swimming beach, this park is a great option for families looking for an east side getaway.

About the author
Derek Carlson
Pacific Northwest native, cross-country skier, hiker, mountain biker, wannabe fly fisherman, writer and owner of Roam the Northwest