Mar 14, 2023 - Things to Do

Washington state's most underrated (and less crowded) parks

The moon rises behind a majestic mountain.

The moon rises over Mount Shuksan in North Cascades National Park. Photo: Marli Miller/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

We all know that Washington has some of the most beautiful parks in the country, but some of the more popular ones — like Mount Rainier National Park — can get crowded, especially in the summer when some hiking trails can almost feel like freeways.

Luckily there are some underrated and lesser-known parks worth exploring.

Details: Here are a few suggested by Only in Your State and Outside Magazine.

State parks

  • Beacon Rock State Park, east of Portland on the Columbia River. Features a one-mile hike that takes you 848 feet up the side of a mountain and others that lead to wonderful waterfalls.
  • Fort Worden Historical State Park, near Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula. Along with Fort Flagler and Fort Casey, Fort Warden was part of the U.S. coastal defense system known as the "Triangle of Fire" and features war bunkers, batteries, beaches and a lighthouse.
  • Camano Island State Park, between coastal Snohomish County and Whidbey Island, is less crowded than most Puget Sound island parks. This 244-acre park offers forest hiking trails plus 6,700 feet of shoreline.
  • Joseph Whidbey State Park, on Whidbey Island. This day-use park has a stunning west-facing view of Victoria, British Columbia, Lopez Island and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Visitors come to see the sunsets and to watch storms roll in.
  • Dosewallips State Park, southwest end of Hood Canal on Olympic Peninsula. Near its much better-known sibling, Lake Cushman State Park, Doeswallips has camping, hiking, swimming and shellfishing. (Make sure to pick up a recreational license if you plan to dig for oysters and clams.)
  • Rockport State Park, east of Concrete. Pristine forest with 250-foot trees and hikes that range from strenuous to easy.
  • Leadbetter Point State Park, on Washington's coast between Ocean Shores and Long Beach. Less popular than many of its coastal neighbors, this 1,732-acre park has beach frontage on the Pacific Ocean as well as Willapa Bay. Birdwatching opportunities abound at the adjacent Willapa National Wildlife Refuge.

National Parks

Two of Washington's national parks — Olympic and Mount Rainier — each draw around 2.5 million visitors annually. By contrast, North Cascades National Park logged just 30,000 visitors in 2022.

  • Outside Magazine recently listed North Cascades among the most underrated parks in the country, noting that the park has more than 400 miles of trails, glaciers and remote alpine peaks. Additionally, there is an 18-mile dog-friendly stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail.
  • "Backpackers rejoice–there's enough scenery here to last a lifetime," the magazine declares.
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