If you are looking for a gorgeous, family-friendly spot for either a day or camping trip, you can’t do much better than Washington Park in Anacortes. A mere 1.5-hour drive from Seattle, Washington Park offers something for everyone.
Enjoy the Kid-Friendly Beach and Playground
As you drive into the park, you will encounter expansive panoramas of Puget Sound and the nearby islands. Adults can enjoy these views while young ones play on the nearby playground. An expansive field and small beach offer even more activity options. While the beach is relatively small and rocky, during low tide it reveals plentiful tide pools teeming with crabs, small fish, anemones, and shells to occupy beachcombers of all ages.
The beach is also a great spot to launch your kayak, canoe, or small boat for a water excursion along the coastline.
Hike Loop Trail
For families looking to stretch their legs and discover even more beautiful views, Washington Park’s Loop Trail is a highlight. The paved trail is 2.3 miles long and reasonably hilly (it has 278 feet of elevation gain). However, benches and viewpoints are sprinkled throughout the trail, offering scenic opportunities to take a break.
The hike is primarily shady and forested and can feel like a welcome reprieve on hot, sunny days. After hiking about a quarter of a mile (going counter-clockwise) through the lush forest, you will come to the first scenic overlook. With striking views of Cypress Island, plentiful picnic tables and benches, and a grassy field, you will be tempted to abandon your hike in favor of a picnic or a little sunbathing.
Continuing on the hike is well worth it, however, as further along the trail, you will encounter a couple of secluded beaches to walk down to.
The final viewpoint is about 1.5 miles into the trail. One of the most striking features of this viewpoint is a preserved, driftwood-like tree, which provides a great photo opp. Exposed, red rocks and (when it is sunny) the bright blue waters of Puget Sound will have you feeling like you are closer to the Mediterranean than Washington State.
Other Trail Options
For those looking for a little more adventure, there are a variety of off-shoot trails from the Loop Trail. Keep your eyes peeled for signs indicating these public trails. The offshoot trails are largely short side-adventures. However, they tend to be under-utilized and can provide peaceful opportunities to explore the park in more depth and see views from a new perspective.
Remember to always follow the trails and do not hike off-trail to preserve the local fauna and avoid potential injury.
Planning Your Trip
If you would like to visit Washington Park for a few hours or a day, you can park your car in the expansive parking lots. Overnight parking costs $10 in these lots. Make sure you do not accidentally park in the group camping site parking lot (a common mistake that could lead to a fine and annoyed campers).
A covered picnic shelter with a grill, picnic tables, running water, and electricity is also available to rent for those hosting larger gatherings. Additional picnic shelters, picnic tables, fire pits, and barbeques are available on a first-come first-served basis. These shelters are in close proximity to the beach and playground and so offer many great activity options. They are a great choice for birthday parties, graduation parties, and even wedding showers.
If you are interested in camping, check out Anacortes’ Parks and Recreation website for campsite availability. The campground is very family-friendly and well-resourced. For example, Washington Park has numerous bathrooms (with showers!) that are reasonably clean and large. Water spigots and outlets for RVs are also available in a large portion of the campsites.
Those with flexible plans can even take advantage of the 25 first-come, first-served campsites. Keep in mind, however, that this is a popular campsite so make sure to arrive early and have a backup plan if necessary.
Explore the Surrounding Areas
Finally, a trip to Washington Park can easily become a larger adventure by incorporating a ferry trip to the San Juan Islands, an exploration of the charming town of Anacortes, or even a whale watching tour. The company Outer Island Excursions offers whale watching tours a mere 0.5 miles from the park.
Anacortes is proximate to many other great parks as well, including Deception Pass State Park, Mt. Erie, Cap Sante Park, and Rosario Beach. Adventurers of all ages can easily tack on a number of great hikes and excursions in these and many other nearby, beautiful areas.
Washington Park and the surrounding area is truly a highlight reel of great Washington scenery, and a trip there may quickly become one of your own Summer highlights.