Getting Lost and Finding Peace in Deception Pass State Park, Washington

Day 45 (September 12)
Deception Pass State Park, Washington

The day after arriving at our base camp at Larrabee State Park in Bellingham, we make a day trip to arguably the prettiest coastal state park in the country: Deception Pass State Park

Bowman Bay in Deception Pass State Park, Washington
Bowman Bay

My father visited this park a few years prior to his passing, and could not stop talking about its jaw dropping beauty. Having only spent one afternoon here – late in his life and in poor health – Deception Pass made a big enough impact to make Dad’s list of favorite places. (As a racing sailboat builder Dad saw many pretty stretches of coastline in his lifetime, but something about this park was extra special to him. His opportunity to visit this park was a gift from – and shared with – a good friend).

Even knowing it will be an emotional day for me, I’ve really been anxious to get to this place. As with my time spent in Port Townsend, I can feel my father with me as I retrace his footsteps.

CCC Interpretive Center Museum at Deception Pass State Park, Washington
CCC Interpretive Center

We park the car at Bowman Beach for the day and have lunch at one of the picnic tables in the grassy area overlooking Bowman Bay.

Deception Pass State Park was built in the 1930’s by the CCC, and even has a CCC Interpretive Center on site, housed in the park’s original bath house. We are bummed to find the interpretive center already closed for the season.

Bowman Beach in Deception Pass State Park, Washington
Bowman Beach

Bowman Beach is a protected Crescent-shaped beach; a great area for kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, walking the beach, and soaking in the summer sun. Beyond the grassy open picnic area, there are several nice 1930’s picnic pavilions which can be rented for large groups. The pavilions area excellent examples of CCC-era “parkitecture”.

 

A group of older gents on the pier are racing remote controlled dinghies in Bowman Bay. Their regatta is pretty fun to watch, but we’ve much to see and do today, so we begin our walk down Lighthouse Loop trail.

Radio-Controlled dinghy regatta in Bowman Bay, Deception Pass State Park Washington
Radio-Controlled dinghy regatta in Bowman Bay

We pass a few groups of people on the trails and at Bowman Beach, but with the exception of the bridge access area on Whidbey Island, the park is blissfully quiet on this weekday in September.

Overlooking the pier in Bowman Bay, Deception Pass State Park, Washington
Overlooking the pier in Bowman Bay

From this vista, one can really see how clear the water is here. There are even a few late-season wildflowers blooming along the sunnier areas of the trails.

Wildflowers on the Lighthouse Loop trail
Wildflowers on the Lighthouse Loop trail

We hike the Lighthouse Loop trail from Bowman Bay, keeping Lottie Bay just to our East. We reach a point, with awesome rocks for climbing and exploring, and wide open views of Deception Pass to the South and East.

Lottie Bay at Deception Pass
Lottie Bay at Deception Pass
Steller views from atop this rock in Deception Pass State Park
Steller views from atop this rock
WPA Built Deception Pass Bridge, Washington State Park
WPA-Built Deception Pass Bridge

Without a trail map in hand, we’re flying a bit blind. We cannot figure out the trail route from here, and we get separated. After a bit of wandering the trail in different directions, with no cell service and therefore no way to communicate to each other as to where we are, we eventually give up and meet back at Bowman Beach. Upon reading reviews of the Lighthouse Point trail, it’s apparent we aren’t the only hikers who’ve lost the trail.

This is where the Lighthouse Loop trail disappears Deception Pass State Park Washington
This is where the Lighthouse Loop trail disappears

Putting the past frustrating hour behind us (it’s impossible to stay upset on a beautiful day in this beautiful place), we resume our hiking and walk about a mile north to Rosario Beach and up Rosario Head. From Bowman Beach, the beginning of the trail to Rosario Head goes right through the Bowman Beach campground, worth noting if you are picking out a campsite here. This forested trail has a bit of elevation gain, but the trail hugs the coastline, and one has views of the water through the trees almost the entire hike.

Near the small boat dock at Rosario Head, one can read the history of the Samish people, the coastal Salish Native American tribe who inhabited this area for thousands of years. There is also a huge sculpture of the Maiden of Deception Pass, and a series of plaques that tell the legend of the Maiden. Low tide presents pools filled with anemones, though our timing is off to see them.

Be sure to hike to the top of Rosario Head for incredible views in every direction. We lingered here for half an hour just staring out at the sea and listening to the waves crashing on the rocks below.

View of San Juan Islands, Looking North from Rosario Head Deception Pass state park Washington
San Juan Islands – View looking North from Rosario Head

Although it’s difficult to tell from my images, we are perched on a very high cliff above the water. See the teeny-tiny boat down there? This couple is stealthily harvesting kelp (I’m not sure if they are doing this legally or illegally). In any case, it is interesting to watch.

Couple Harvesting Kelp near Rosario Head, Deception Pass State Park Washington
Couple Harvesting Kelp near Rosario Head

Before leaving the park, we drive over Deception Pass Bridge to Whidbey Island, park the car, and walk out on the bridge. Highway 20 is busy here, with lots of pedestrians and vehicle through traffic moving through. It is easy to lose one’s self in the beauty of this place, so whether you are driving or walking, take caution here and always be aware of your surroundings.

177 feet down to the water - Deception Pass Bridge, State Park Washington
177 feet down

This park is so stunning that a drive over the bridge and through the park is worth doing even if you only have an hour to spend here. That being said, one really needs several days to thoroughly explore Deception Pass State Park.

Looking East from Deception Pass Bridge Washington
Looking West from Deception Pass Bridge
Looking East to Miller Bay from Deception Pass Bridge Washington
Looking East to Miller Bay from Deception Pass Bridge

Our next trip to the PNW will definitely include camping at Deception Pass. We covered a lot of park territory on Fidalgo Island, but we still have dozens of miles of trails to cover on Whidbey Island, Little North Beach to walk, the CCC Interpretive Center to see, Bowman Bay to kayak…

If you’d like to catch up on our Washington travels so far, click here to see our series of Washington posts

Curious where else we’ve been? Click here to check out our list of parks visited.

2 Comments

    1. Thank you, Jet! I highly recommend adding Deception Pass to your travel list, especially if you can visit on a weekday when school is still in session. The place is so peaceful.

      Liked by 1 person

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