Washington, my state, has 186 State Parks. That’s more than any other state. By comparison, California has only 118. Our favorite state park not in Washington is Utah’s Dead Horse Point.
All states have state parks. Even tiny Rhode Island has 9 of them, which is, surprisingly, more than Colorado, which only has 7. There are more than 6,600 State Parks according to Margaret Walls, who says the first 3 were New York’s Adirondacks, Niagara Falls, and Catskills. State parks are great travel destinations, especially in Washington.
Almost 80 of Washington’s parks have camping facilities. Our parks are even popular in the winter when they attract people who don’t mind rain and snow. There are about a dozen state parks along the Columbia River. Many are close to Puget Sound. There are several marine parks in the San Juan Islands. About a dozen parks, some of the best ones, have Interpretive Centers. There are more than 120 sno-parks and 3,000 miles of cross-country ski trails in Washington’s State Parks.
Among the more unusual attractions awaiting visitors are a petrified ginkgo forest, a dormant waterfall, and an impressive telescope. Goldendale Observatory State Park has one of the Unites State’s largest telescopes opened to the public. It provides viewing of not only the moon, planets, and stars but also the sun. Yes, the sun. There’s a Lunt H-Alpha Solar telescope there. Hourly guided tours of the observatory are usually available until 2 hours before closing.
Ruth & I have many park favorites. Among them are Palouse Falls, Fort Worden, and Deception Pass. Palouse is in a very remote area but worth the effort to get there. Fort Worden is near our favorite town, Port Townsend. The two photos above were taken there. Deception Pass is at the north end of Whidbey Island. A famous bridge crosses over the pass. The photo below was taken near it. The one at the bottom is of Palouse. We hope to revisit another favorite, Cape Disappointment, before the 2016-17 winter ends to experience it the way Lewis and Clark did before moving across the Columbia River and establishing Fort Clatsop in Oregon. There’s a fantastic L & C Interpretive Center and a lighthouse at Cape Disappointment.
The 2 most popular Washington State Parks are probably Mount Saint Helens and Peace Arch. The former is just off I-5, exit 49, at Silver Lake. It has an excellent interpretive center with lots of info about the 1980 eruption. There used to be 2 visitor center’s fairly close to the crater, but one of them closed. The one remaining is the Johnston Ridge Observatory, which is more than 50 miles from the Interstate. Operated by the USDA Forest Service, it closes every year in October. Peace Arch, which is also on I-5 at the U.S. Canada border, is especially popular when there’s a long wait. People like to romp in its well-groomed park and read the brief inscriptions on the 1921 arch that commemorate more than 100 years of 2-nation harmony.
The one we haven’t visited yet that is high on our list is Sacajawea. It’s near the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers and has an interpretive center.