Seattle is a fun city with lots of sites to see and fun places to visit in and around downtown. When you are ready for a few hours out in nature or have time for a day trip, you will want to visit one of the many Washington state parks within an easy drive of the city. From late spring to late fall, Seattlites are outdoors biking, kayaking, hiking, and camping. The woods are spectacular, and there are waterways and lakes everywhere you look.
All Washington state parks require a Discover Pass — currently about $10 for a day or about $30 for a full year. Day passes can be purchased at most parks or online. Most state parks allow dogs on leashes.
Inside The Metro: Dash Point State Park And Saltwater State Park
Just south of Seattle near the city of Federal Way are two beachside parks on Puget Sound that are easy to get to and a world away from the hustle of the city. Saltwater State Park is just off Interstate 5 and offers a large beach area complete with driftwood. There are a few trails through the woods, and there is a half-mile ADA trail. RV and tent camping are available here as well. You will have beautiful views of Maury and Vashon Islands across the Sound. Seasonal shellfishing and scuba diving on the artificial reef offshore are popular activities.
Ten miles down the road is Dash Point State Park. The park has camping, 11 miles of hiking trails, 8 miles of biking trails, and expansive beachfront access. The upper tier of the park has scenic picnic views of the Sound from several hundred feet of elevation. There are trails down to the beach and through the woods from the parking area. You can park at sea level and take an easy, paved walk to the beach which can extend for hundreds of feet depending on the tide. There are picnic spots, but most people take beach chairs onto the flats. Kids can make sandcastles, and adults can dip their toes in the warmish summer water. There is a pier at the south end of the park for fishing. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Olympic Mountains.
Just Outside Seattle: Lake Sammamish State Park
Just 15 miles from downtown Seattle lies Lake Sammamish State Park for day use. This is the most accessible of the nearby state parks because it’s just off of I-90. It has easy walking paths that take you from ample parking lots and children’s playgrounds to beachfront access and the lake. You can hike through the park from one side to the other in just a couple of miles. Many of the walking paths are paved, and hiking trails are well marked, level, and easy to walk. There is a beautiful beachfront area at the end of the park with lots of picnic tables with unobscured views of the lake. The boat launch features five beautiful docks, plenty of parking, and a large grassy area for picnicking.
Despite being so close to the highway, this is a peaceful place with lots of trees, birds, and relaxing spots to recharge. I saw a bald eagle the day I visited. If you want to explore more, visit Issaquah Salmon Hatchery nearby. Then finish your trip with a visit to one of the great restaurants and cafes on Front Street in the city center.
Outside The City: Flaming Geyser State Park
Head south of the city and east through beautiful farmland and woods to get to Flaming Geyser State Park. This is a day-use park on the beautiful Green River and is one of the most lovely spots you’ll find to spend time in nature. There are plenty of trails along the river and through the woods. There are paved walkways in the picnic area near the geyser and plenty of tables situated next to the river. The “Geyser” is an old methane plume that was found a hundred years ago. It’s nearly burned out now, and while the flame burns, it is more like a pilot light, and the water geyser is no more. Regardless, the park is worth the visit.
If you enjoy model airplanes, this is one of the few places in the metro that allows planes to fly in the open meadow. There are scheduled tournaments as well as people just bringing their planes to fly them for fun. Perhaps a bigger recreational claim is the excellent fishing in and near the park. You’ll see people fishing for salmon in the Green River both in the park and at other spots along the river closer to WA-18. Bring your gear if you are so inclined, but be sure to follow Washington State licensing and seasonal rules.
Day Trip To Kitsap Peninsula: Kopachuck State Park And Manchester State Park
Southwest of Seattle lies the Kitsap Peninsula attached to the Olympic Peninsula. You’ll go south past Tacoma, over the breathtaking Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and head west to Kopachuck State Park. This tiny park is situated between waterfront neighborhoods but is a world away. The small parking area has easy access (stairs and no ramp) to a sheltered picnic area and restrooms. Through the trees, you can see Carr Inlet below you. There are short but steep and rugged hiking trails and paths that will take you 1,500 feet down to the beach. The woods are old and filled with ferns and moss. The beach has driftwood and a nice sandy area for wading. Picnic tables are generously placed on different tiers of land adjacent to the beach. You’ll have a wonderful view of Cutts Island and the clay bluff that makes the island a distinctive sight. Be sure to stop in on the other side of the peninsula and visit the town of Gig Harbor. It has delightful cafes and shopping near the boatyard and harbor. The eastward return over the bridge to Tacoma has a toll you can pay with credit or cash.
Twenty-five miles north is a waterfront park with military history. Situated on the northern point of the Kitsap Peninsula is Manchester State Park. It is just north of the Bremerton Naval Base, which sits across Sinclair Inlet, south of Bainbridge Island, and due west of Seattle. During World War II, there were plans to make the area a munitions location to protect the naval base. The military never activated the plans, but the torpedo warehouse and concrete casement for a gunnery nest remain. The park has some great walking trails right on the waterfront with a small shore area for water access. The point offers great views of the waterway where the Seattle-Bremerton ferry sails through. The walking paths are not paved, but they are wide, level, and generally smooth. There are lots of birds and waterfowl to spot. You can catch a 30-minute ferry to Seattle for a delightful water trip back to the city. Fares from the Southworth to Fauntleroy terminals depend on the size of your car.
Full Day Trip: Deception Pass
It’s a 90-minute drive (85 miles) from Seattle to Anacortes, but Deception Pass is a must-see state park. The park is on the north edge of Whidbey Island. You can either drive north and cross the bridge to the park or take a ferry to the island from Mukilteo (southwest of Everett). Deception Pass is the waterway that connects Skagit Bay with the eastern edge of the Salish Sea. To the northwest are the Orcas Islands, the San Juan Islands, and Victoria, Canada. Deception Pass Park has forests and mountains as well as beaches. You won’t get a better experience in the Pacific Northwest than inside the most visited state park in Washington.
The bridges over the pass itself are astounding, rising far above sea level and connecting Fidalgo Island to Whidbey. There are old-growth forests that can be explored with miles of hiking and biking trails. There are 1.2 miles of ADA trails as well. The two beaches have ample parking as well as adjacent campground space. Birds are ever-present on the shoreline, as are kayaks and small boats on the lakes. Whales are present in the waters around the park as are bald eagles and many other birds of prey. Miles of shoreline and multiple lakes make fishing and shellfishing popular in season and with state licenses. Even in summer, this can be a foggy, misty place that is a delicious feast for your senses.