Central Washington is home to a multitude of state parks, each with their own unique features and viewpoints. If you’re looking for a daylong adventure through a beautiful park with river views and hiking paths, you’re in luck because the Ginkgo Petrified Forest has been patiently waiting for your visit.
Starting your journey east, coasting along Vantage Highway, you will see large rolling hills speckled with wind turbines from the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility. With the twists and turns of the road, you will start to see these markers fade away as you get closer to the base of the park.
There are two entrances to the park, but if you want to see more petrified wood, you will want to start at the base along the highway.
Starting the Hike
At the start of the trail of petrified wood there is a small museum with information about the hike you are about to start and the wood you’re going to see. Sadly, due to the pandemic, this museum is currently closed but will reopen once conditions are improved, just in time for future visits.
As you head along the trail, you will see there are many different paths you can take with numbered signs guiding each way. These numbers represent the different petrified wood pieces along each path.
Either way you decide to walk, you are bound to see at least three or four different types of petrified wood on display. There is also a wide array of plant life from leafy bushes to bright purple flowers strewn along the side of the trail.
This hike is good for beginners because there are many stopping points for rest and plentiful views to keep you motivated. While walking, if you look out past the hills you can see across Vantage Highway and almost have sight of the Columbia River — your next stop on this trip.
After you have finished hiking the first portion of the wood forest, you may want to head further down to Vantage to visit the lookout point at the end of the park.
Ginkgo Gem Shop
When you first arrive in town you will see a sign for the Ginkgo Gem Shop where (during normal circumstances) visitors can shop for souvenirs and pose for pictures next to life-size dinosaurs, to remember the trip. Though, due to some closures, you will want to keep heading straight toward the other half of the park.
Visiting the Vantage Viewpoint
At the next stop you will see a large sign guiding you into this portion of the park, as well as the bright blue river to your right. If you decided to bring lunch for the day, this is a good place to stop and rest at one of the many picnic tables available.
During this stop you have plenty of opportunity to sit and take in the views, learn some history or bask in the sun under a grove of bright green trees.
If you choose to watch the view, there are lookout points with coin-operated binoculars for you to use to see any flying birds or passing boats up close.
For those who want to learn a little more history about both the river and the forest, make sure to check out all of the displays with photos and explanations of how this area was developed.
Finally, if you’re more interested in getting some sun and relaxing, there is a large grassy area partially shaded by trees, perfect for lounging outside.
Be sure to grab some snacks, your camera and any other essentials for this day getaway. Whether you are a solo hiker or want to spend the day outside with a group of friends, the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park should be your next outdoor destination.