Washington State has long been known for its wild beauty, epitomized by tall pine trees, rugged landscapes and stunning coastlines. Though it is often reduced to no more than a photo-op by its famous bridge, Deception Pass State Park is the perfect place to discover all the natural splendor of the Evergreen State.
Discovering Deception Pass
Spanning the strait between Whidbey Island and Fidalgo Island, Deception Pass — while popular for the iconic bridges that cross the water hundreds of feet in the air — offers miles of hiking trails and multiple beaches where visitors can enjoy a picnic or spend a day. My hiking companion and I originally began our day trip to the park targeting Rosario Head Trail, but discovered that due to COVID-19 the area was closed to visitors. Lighthouse Point and the boat launch near the trailhead, however, remained open.
After purchasing our Discover Pass for the day to the Deception Pass State Park, we began the short walk along the beach to the trailhead. Despite the current pandemic, the area was packed due to the sunny weather, so be advised that masks and hand sanitizer are a must if you plan on visiting soon.
Hiking to Lighthouse Point
Lighthouse Point Trail isn’t generally challenging, but it does begin with a steep hike up the cliffside by the beach. You’ll likely be winded by the time you reach the top, but the sudden bird’s-eye view of the beach and nearby island below make the climb worth it. Not only are the views great, but Lighthouse Point is a study in Washington’s rugged topography and seaside flora. The smooth, peeling orange bark of Pacific Madrone stands in contrast to the blue-green water below, as the trees twist and grow atop the steep cliffsides. Oak Harbor is another place close to the lighthouse that is worth visiting. While there are fences for safety in some spots, several areas near the end of the trail have no such provisions, so you’ll want to keep a close eye on pets and small children.
My friend and I traveled down the path for close to an hour, passing several secluded beaches and picnic spots. The lush forest above us and the Salish Sea to our left made for excellent views, reminding me of what makes this state so special to begin with. The trail also passed by an exquisite view of Deception Pass Bridge, so naturally we stopped and took some postcard-esque pictures of the bridge over the expanse.
A Picnic in the Park
Eventually, we settled in for a picnic atop a high hill near the end of the trail. Though we weren’t on the beach, our spot was less crowded and offered views of the water and surrounding San Juan Islands from a higher elevation. As we ate lunch, we watched kayaks and fishing boats crisscross in the water below, and we enjoyed the company of a robin and the sounds of songbirds.
After lunch, we followed the trail to its end, passing impressive sea cliffs and rock formations as we went. With a final push up the last hill, we found ourselves on a high cliff jutting out into the sound, with views of another beach and islands in the distance. It was fascinating to see the way the pine trees clung to the sheer rocky cliffs, even as the water below slowly erodes new passages through the rocks. Although Lighthouse Point has a great final payoff for hikers, its sheer drop-offs mean you’ll want to keep a tight hold on any children, and even adults should be wary of wandering too close to the edge.
More to Explore
My friend and I admired the view for a while, before eventually turning back. The distribution of the hills and elevation gain across the hiking trails make the treks in and out fairly even in terms of difficulty. We found that the hike back did pass a little faster however, as we had already admired the views and didn’t feel the need to stop as much.
Although we weren’t able to complete our original intended hike, the day trip to Deception Pass offered great views and just the right amount of adventure. With the state parks slowly reopening, I’ll certainly be returning soon to explore more of the stunning trails and secluded beaches offered by this wild gem.
If you’re looking for more things to do on Fidalgo Island, check out our guide to the nearby city of Anacortes.
Photos: Alexandria Baker, Wayne Parsons.